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The journey from The Waterfront Hotel to Lodge International School became that much more exciting when a thunderstorm began, almost bringing traffic to a total halt.

Multi-award winning writer and illustrator, Vasanti Unka arrived at the school, quietly tucked away in the middle of a huddle of houses in Tabuan Desa. With her husband Raj helping hers, they quickly got to preparing for her session with some forty Year 4-6 students, to share Vasanti’s newest book, Stripes! No, Spots!

The session started off on an enchanting note as Vasanti, who is here thanks to the support of Creative New Zealand, launched into a Maori song that went like this: “Mahunga, Pakihiwi, Puku, Hope, Wae Wae…Taringa, Whatu, Ihu, Waha”, and an introduction of New Zealand before diving into her storybook. True to the story, the children took sides to pick stripes or spots, and before long, the hall resounded with roars similar to that of those heard only in the jungle.

As Vasanti finished her reading, the students quickly understood that the main value shared in the story is that everyone is different, yet beautiful in his or her own way, and that there is no need to fight over that. The children were thrilled to end the session by making their own tiger and leopard masks, and decorating them with more than just stripes and spots.

As they said their farewells, Vasanti told them how much she loved their responsiveness throughout the session, and that she hoped to come back for another adventure soon!

By Cheryl Melia


With the support of the New Zealand High Commission, Bookaroo set sail on an experiential journey of one of the biggest tribes in New Zealand. The session with Robert Sullivan at Birla Vidya Niketan saw children belonging to the age bracket of 13-15 years come together to learn about Maori Myths and legends. The author, a Maori himself, began his fables with the image of the Maori Canoe, the Waka. He showed how various narrative strands flow through poetry. The first poetry he shared was about the loss of his childhood car. He proceeded to read out folk tales about a trickster and how he tried to negotiate with nature- sun, waves, etc. Robert Sullivan told the kids that his writings interject certain typical Maori expressions to flesh out the ‘Maoriness’.

Stories from New Zealand

Stories from New Zealand

The children were also made to witness the coming alive of these stories in the form of graphic novels. Within a span of about 45 minutes, children were exposed to poetry books, story books, graphic novels. However, poetry touched the children most and many of them had lots of questions about what poetry meant to author, his preferred style of writing and his inspiration.

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