Oyez! bestselling chapter books are the Door Under the Stairs series by Heidi Shamsuddin with illustrations by Lim Lay Koon. There are now four books in the series:
1. The Mystery of the Missing National Anthem
2. The Case of the Talented Trio
3. The Case of the Football Champion
4. The Case of the House at No.74
After discovering a door under the stairs near the school science laboratory, three young friends were transported into the past and met iconic Malaysian figures such as Tunku Abdul Rahman, the first prime minister of Malaysia; the multitalented P. Ramlee who was a singer, actor, musician, film producer and director; Mokhtar Dahari the famed footballer who brought Malaysian football to a dizzying height; and Sybil Kathigasu, the World War II heroine who braved torture and hardship in order to be true to her sense of humanity and right.
By now we have been introduced to the three friends: Emil who is brainy and thoughtful, Hanna who is a plucky and spirited girl, and Jo who is not too brave but pulls his weight in the group and whose antics make him an endearing if sometimes unlikely, hero.
Heidi, a natural storyteller, has created a series that we hope many Malaysian children will enjoy reading. We are happy to report that the National Library and several state libraries have purchased copies of the books. The books have also been exported to Singapore.
If we can enjoy reading about children drinking ginger pop and eating canned tongues in Enid Blyton's books, I believe it's possible children from other cultures will be fascinated by nasi lemak. Apart from that, school bullies, 'evil' teachers and the bonds of friendship are things that all children from whatever culture understand.
Another chapter book, Master & Apprentice was written by Lim Lay Har with illustrations by Lim Lay Koon. The book won the first Calistro Award for its original Malaysian story. This a highly entertaining read which takes us to small town life and introduces an elderly man, Kow Kee who makes the best kuih lapis in town. There are many lovely illustrations in this book and they are certainly nostalgic.
The accompanying illustrations are truly delightful and children living in Malaysia will certainly be able to identify with both the stories and the illustrations.. A state librarian recently commended the book and noted that we need more such books.
2. Rainforest Hike and other stories by Cecilia Leong has several stories of the experiences of a little girl, whether it's making bedak sejuk with the nenek next door or making acar and tang yuan with granny and enjoying ice balls after a boat trip to an island. These are all our stories which we can experience. This book has also been exported to Singapore.
3. The Nanobots and other stories by Golda Mowe is a collection of science fiction stories for children. We have shared this book with school children from east Malaysia and Klang Valley and it never fails to fascinate them. Science is fascinating and the impact of science and what humans can do - for good or bad - is a constant dilemma. What is fiction today may become a fact tomorrow and of course that is part of the fascination. Can we have a zoo of genetically modified creatures? Should we? And in the distant future, assuming all is destroyed, will humans resort to age-old beliefs in gods and superstitions?