Towards the end of the year, a number of lists start appearing so we thought we would do one too. Oyez!Books is focused on publishing Malaysian children's books and our bookstore sells a variety of children's books from other publishers as well. Our criteria for selection in this list is not only that the books sell well but also that they sell consistently, in some cases not only in Malaysia but also in other countries and have been translated into other languages as well. In other words, they have stood the test of time. A few books are newer but are included because they have that 'something' that appeals as all wonderful books have. So if you love and collect Malaysian children's books, especially picture books, do add these to your collection.
The Toddler Series by Yusof Gajah
1. Where is My Red Ball
2. Let's Build a House
3. At the Foot of the Hill
5. Elephant Teapot
These five little books are works of genius by Yusof Gajah that small children can play and read repeatedly. They are simple yet will certainly encourage a child's creativity as there are endless ways to look at each page. Some of you may recognise two of the books as part of the McDonald's Happy Meal pack a few years ago - Di Kaki Bukit and Mari Kita Membina Sebuah Rumah.
The Dina Series by Emila Yusof
The Dina series currently consists of three titles:
1. My Mother's Garden,
2. My Mother's Kitchen and
3. My Father's Farm.
Dina the little Malaysian girl enjoys playing, watching and helping her parents at home and outdoors. Children will feel the pleasure of recognising things such as the hibiscus or spices or the angry goose. The last few pages of each book gives more things that children can learn in English and Bahasa Malaysia.
The fourth book, Dina's Art Class will be published in Q1 of 2019 and is bound to delight both parents and children. The fifth book which Emila is still working on will be really special as it's dedicated to our beautiful country but we won't say too much now.
9. Legendary Princesses of Malaysia by Raman and Emila Yusof
We are deluged by stories of princesses from the west so it's really wonderful to introduce ten notable women characters from Malaysia that have become legends in local stories and imagination. We have princesses who live in the sea (Ulek Mayang); warrior princesses who are also great rulers (Cik Siti Wan Kembang and Saadong); a princess with her own mind (Puteri Gunung Ledang) and many more. While some have felt that the images look 'Disney', it is what works for this book as they are recognisable for children and a tribute to Emila's talent of converting possibly out-of-date images to appeal to today's children.
10. Dill the Little Elephant by Hans Volker Wolf, Ming and Yusof Gajah
The story of Dill the tiny elephant who was inadvertently left behind by its parents and its journey to look for them was based on a German folktale with adaptation by Hans Volker Wolf. One of the few longer books with detailed illustrations by Yusof Gajah, this one is a must have.
15. Puteri Tioman the Green Turtle by Rossiti Aishah Rashidi and Farah Ashiela Samsuri
Puteri Tioman never fails to wow readers, not only because of the realistic and rich illustrations but also because they carry an important message and is informative. This is one in a series of environmental books by Rossiti but Puteri Tioman has remain a favourite with many.
If we have 21 books, we would include Siti the Elephant by Rossiti with illustrations by Farah Ashiela too.
The Wild Treehouse series by Gwen Hew and Evi Shelvia
1. The Wild Treehouse of Borneo
2. By the River of Borneo
In The Wild Treehouse of Boreno, the simple story of an indigenous boy who helped his animal friends to build a home is given a special touch by Evi Shelvia's illustrations. The book introduces the animals in the forest as well as an appreciation of indigenous life.
The second book, By the River of Borneo is another winner. It revisits the beauty of the rainforest and celebrates the wildlife of Sabah, as well as the culture of the Kadazan-Dusun people.
18. Atuk's Amazing Sarong by Lim Lay Har and Lim Lay Koon
Authors Lay Har and Lay Koon have made quite a name for themselves by their ability to see the humour and charm of the everyday of Malaysian life and giving us books to treasure. Is a sarong just a sarong? Not so for Adik who finds many imaginative ways to use Atuk's sarong and Atuk gamely joins in.
19. Puteri Gunung Ledang by Emila Yusof
We feel we really must add this book because of the way Emila Yusof has interpreted an oft-told story in her own way with lyrical text and illustrations we have never seen before. Judge for yourself and yes, we will be producing an English version in 2019!
20. Men from the River / Lelaki dari Sungai by Basari Mat Yasit
This book is the newest in the list but is another that we feel we simply must add for a Malaysian children's book collection. The unique illustrations based on pua kumbu motifs and engaging story of why crocodiles attack humans is both chilling and fascinating.