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There are just too many things I wanted to share about Pustaka Bookaroo Festival of Children’s Literature that ended its second edition in Kuching recently. The festival which aims to bring children and books together, culminated in a 2-day fiesta of storytelling, crafts, doodling and activities on 16-17 April.

Here are some highlights from my Pustaka Bookaroo experience.

I checked in at Permai Rainforest Resort and found out that I was to share a chalet with a stranger.  I had arranged to share a room with Heidi, the madam who wrote The Door Under the Stairs series of chapter books that I illustrated. But there were two rooms in the chalet and someone called Valentina Trivedi from India had already checked in earlier to the second room.  Valentina turned out to be great! Valentina is a funny, friendly and gracious storyteller from New Delhi with a passion for educating and bringing kids up right. Now Heidi and I will be plotting for ways to find funding for a visit to a new found friend from India.


Moments of Self Importance
Actually, there were several…walking into Pusaka Negeri Sarawak on the first day and seeing my name on a card at the author signing table, walking into the Author’s lounge area and getting pinned with a fancy ribbon with my name on it,  being asked to autograph books that people were actually buying, and having all those helpful and eager volunteers from the colleges (SEGI I think) escorting me to the designated venues and addressing me as “Miss” very respectfully. I honestly felt like a VIP!


My Sessions as a Speaker
This was actually my first big “gig” and I couldn’t help feeling a little anxious especially when I saw the lineup of amazing writers, illustrators, storytellers from India, Singapore, Malaysia and Australia.  I worked the sessions around two of my books Atuk’s Amazing Sarong and Menagerie – Fun with Animal Groups. Luckily, I didn’t have to play to an empty room as kids actually turned up for the sessions. In the end, I think they had a good time.  I had a silly song, a silly hat and plenty of sarong action – what could have possibly gone wrong with that?

session speaker

Satisfied Customer


The photo says it all.

Delicious Meal
We were served really tasty BBQ lamb chops at the dinner hosted by Pustaka. The cendol was also very good – soft yet chewy and full of flavours.  The cake deserves an honourable mention.


Awesome Venue
Pustaka Negeri Sarawak was the perfect venue for the festival.  With a spacious green park right in front and a quiet small lake at the back, the high ceilings, glass doors and windows and a grand glass staircase all made for a very pleasant festival location indeed.  I was also impressed with the spacious layout of the library and the many comfy looking tables and chairs available.


Amazing Organizers
Kudos to the Pustaka and Bookaroo team for a brilliant organization of the whole festival. It seemed to me that everything ran like clockwork and the volunteers were fantastic.  The happy smiles on the kids and the flustered but appreciative parents said it all.  And I felt really well taken care of. They even helped us squeeze in a trip to Kuching town and back in time for our dinner date.


New Friends and Old
I had a blast meeting all the generous, friendly and like-minded people who shared their knowledge, experiences and their love for stories and reading and also the chance to interact and get to know better the friends from Malaysia and Pustaka Negeri Sarawak.


The above post is an edited version of the original post bt Lim Sisters.

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At SJK Chung Hua No 1 Tom McLaughlin was greeted by approximately 50 children. He started the session by asking the children to use their imagination and draw a purple man with one horn and one eye who could fly. He encouraged them to make a 3 page comic book on the character.


Colourful comics

At the end of the session, Tom gave his comic ‘The Borneo Boy’ to all students.

The principal and children of Little Learner Kindergarten gave a warm welcome to Grace Jie Jie (Grace Wong) and Lulu Jie Jie(Mah Xiang Ru). Lulu Jie Jie is a PhD in molecular biology but is passionate about paper craft and storytelling. Grace Jie Jie is an early childhood lecturer who loves books and storytelling.

Lulu Jie Jie started the session with some music and taught the children some movements to warm them up. After this Grace Jie Jie narrated a story about gorilla that was looking for friends.


Stand up and dance

Lulu Jie Jie told a story about a child who wanted to eliminate his enemy. His father told him about a magic pie that would make his enemy disappear. All he needed was to play with his enemy one full day without fighting. Lulu Jie Jie ended the session with some more music and dance.

Grace Rong Rong captivated both children and their parents at China House, The Old Court House. She told them two stories, both about fishes.

The first story was about a fish motif that goes missing from a boy’s shirt. The fishes flew away and the little boy tries to bring them back on his shirt through various ways. He succeeds after he writes a letter to all the five fishes.


The second story was about a small fish that stole a hat from a bigger fish and how the hat was recovered from the small fish.

Grace also had a craft session and showed the children how to make a beautiful fish sun catcher. The children proudly showed off their craft at the end of the session.

Alan Tan is a man of many talents. He is not only a primary school teacher, but also a radio announcer. And he loves to tell stories.

A bunch of 70 enthusiastic kids greeted Alan at SJK St. Paul. After the initial introduction Alan started the session with some songs and games.

The story he shared with the children was about a lion that had 1000 teeth. But he lost all of them as a boy fed him lots of candy.


Dancing with Alan

Alan also narrated another story about a Monster which was actually a dog. The dog-turned-monster had the ability of eating all the abusive words its master said at home while quarreling and scolding. The more he ate the bigger he became. In the end, the family members learned how to talk nicely and softly at home.

Alan made his session interesting with songs and acts and the children enjoyed the session a lot.

Today was a special day. Storyteller Rituparna Ghosh had a beautiful theme where she handpicked stories about brave girls. The rainy morning with a windy feel added to the ambience. For the younger group of children, about 6-7 years at the Jaypee Public School, the author weaved an original tale about Mini who loves to paint. However, what sets her apart is the way she experiences the world of colours. Mini is only 6 years old, a very happy person and is even encouraged to become a painter when she grows up. She cannot see and that is why Mini uses her other sensory experiences like the sound, smell, touch and taste to feel what she creates. One moment of the story which helps the listeners understand Mini’s delight in learning about the colors she uses is when her mother tries to console her.  Mini’s mother makes her taste ‘tomato’, ‘tulsi leaves’, smell ‘coffee’, touch the ‘bark of the tree’ or ‘the garden earth’ and makes her hear the ‘sound of the raindrops’. All this allows her to also associate each object with a particular color.

Bic March

Do you know the taste of colours?

We see in the end how Mini is able to guess what color of expression her sister is wearing from the tone of her voice. She laughs out saying ‘Didi, you must be all red with anger because bhaiya has put green color on your face. I know you do not like the color green which is colour of Tulsi leaves’. The story makes one believe that if one has the courage to smile through difficulties, the journey definitely becomes a lot easier. Children enjoyed thoroughly because Rituparna made sure that each expression was animated and each episode was well conveyed. When the children were asked to associate one color with and activity of their choice, the results were varied. One child associated the color Red with playing, another one found the same color appropriate to express his emotion when he is cycling. One associated the color blue with swimming; one found the color of dancing to be rainbow and another one associated the color orange with Toys. Overall, children did try to imagine how they could enter the world of colors using the other sensory experiences.

The second story was for a slightly older age group. There were students from classes III, IV and V who were transported to the Taliban inflicted world of 12 year old Malala who vowed to fight for education come what may. Rituparna did a wonderful session where she introduced the highlights of the entire biography in just an hour. She approached the part about the political tensions between Afghanistan and the United States of America and the role of Pakistan. She spoke about the genesis of Taliban group and how they gained control over certain parts of Pakistan, how they entered Swat and generally what it was like to be born as a girl in Pashtun community, the community to which Malala belonged. Malala, named after Malalai, whose words of encouragement made Pakistan win the war against the British in the 1880’s truly lived up to her name. It took massive determination, passion and courage to put forth a question like ‘Who is the Taliban to take away my basic right to education?’ Slowly, the influence of Radio Mullah from the Taliban group started to spread terror in Pakistan. Girls were forced to stop going to school. Few motivated students like Malala and a few others had to go to school in the hiding from the back gate.

Rituparna also narrated briefly the story of Malala’s father who was the source of her support and belief system to begin with, his small school and his endeavors. Children were in awe after hearing the story. Towards the end, they were asked to write very short letters addressed to Malala and the response was indeed marvelous. Just to give an idea, I end with what one of the boys wrote- ‘Malala makes me feel that girls and boys should be respected equally’.

Australian artist Michael Camileri and Bookaroo in the City visited Bihar to add more color to it. Their adventure in the city started with 44 children in the Parivartan, an Integrated Rural Development Initiative campus in Narendrapur, Siwan district. He started the session by asking the students what they liked to draw and they happily showcased their work. He then introduced them to doodling and they all put their imagination together to create a city of their dreams. A giant chart paper came alive with doodles of a flying mansion, colorful creatures from the wildest of imaginations. The best part about the session was that it gave each student a chance to put their imagination to play. The final piece of art has a little bit of each of them.


Doodling is fun

The next day, Michael and Bookaroo visited Bhatkan village. He painted one of the walls in the village with the portrait of the girl who lives there. The village dwellers were overwhelmed by the gesture. In his next session with the students of Parivartan, Michael showed them how comic books are created. He gave them situation and asked them to draw their own versions of the episode. The results were surprising and funny.

On his final day in Bihar, Camileri painted a wall in Shaheed Umakant Senior Secondary School in Siwan. He divided the students into groups of three; each group got a sheet of paper which was further divided into three, one for each member of the group. Each student was told to make one third of the body, either the face or the legs or the middle. The condition was that they had to hide their drawings from each other. When everyone was done, Michael put the three pieces together and put all the drawing on display for everyone to see. The result was hilarious but very creative.

The Bookaroo in the City Session organized in Government Blind Boys Secondary school with the first woman dastango  of modern times Fouzia and her team was a melodious journey. The children, about 30in total, were ecstatic and so was our author. Fouzia started with the story of a cow, her friend crow, and their adventures.  As the team Guitarist Saad started playing in sync with the story, the children laughed, clapped, and sang along with the team. After the story telling all kids applauded loudly and requested another song. Our author and her team granted their wish and taught them a beautiful song about life.

Of cow, crow and some music

Of cow, crow and some music

All children sang together beautifully, the moment was heart melting. They shared their desire to learn music and were reluctant to let us leave. But Author and her team promised to visit them again and we bid our byes.

Flying Monkeys in Gurgaon!


Hanuman! and How Hanuman Crossed the Ocean, the first two parts of a trilogy, are the latest books in the Amma, Tell Me About series. The author Bhakti Mathur began writing these books about Indian mythology and festivals for her own young children. The desire to encourage a love of Indian myths, legends and culture in the next generation is obvious in the warmth of her reading and story telling and her interaction with the children. The children from Pathways School, Balliawas were enthralled as Hanuman, with forgotten powers restored, leapt across the ocean, the first superman! He charmed Mount Mainaka, out witted the sea serpent Surasa and killed the dragon Simhika before defeating Lankini with a single blow. Many of the children knew so much about this tale and were keen to join in, shouting out the names and what happened next but they were equally happy to listen as the story unfolded and they were delighted when there was time for another book. I think the fabulous illustrations by Maushree Somani enhance Bhakti’s retelling beautifully. The children asked many questions afterwards about both the stories and the writing of them. They were very reluctant to let Bhakti go.

Wendy KnightIMG_2097

Dino Mania in Cambridge Junior School, Noida!

IMG_2064 Two hundred and fifty children roared together and it seemed that the room was filled with dinosaurs. The team from Dorling Kindersley had put together a wonderful session of facts, film, and creativity using both modern technology and paper, pencil and modelling clay. Using the Dino Mania website, showing film excerpts, asking questions and rewarding clever answers, they created a quick fire Q&A session that had the children reaching for the ceiling, eager to show off their knowledge. Children know a lot about dinosaurs! IMG_2027 There is always something new to discover though, as the palaeontologists will tell us. Fossil bones can be put back together to recreate different dinosaurs, fossil eggs show dinosaur family life, discoveries of many bones together show that dinosaurs died together. Some children drew favourite dinosaurs, real and imagined, others modelled them and another group played on the iPads, building skeletons out of the different bones with a cool app. Finally, photos were taken with our friendly dinosaur above and an excited bunch of children headed reluctantly for their classrooms.

Wendy Knight

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