Joyce Koh talks to Yu­sof Ga­jah, ac­claimed chil­dren’s book writer, il­lus­tra­tor and Malaysia’s fore­most naïve art (child-like art) artist

Time Out Malaysia Kids - - Culture -

How do you get your ideas for chil­dren’s ti­tles? page num­bers for ref­er­ence pur­poses, that is a funny book. Like an art book, a good pic­ture book has to be well de­signed and has a good se­quence.

Did you read a lot as a kid? No, I day­dreamed a lot. We don’t have what we have to­day. Dur­ing my time back then, it takes a lot of ef­fort to go to the li­brary. That time, I made my own scrapbook, cut­ting and past­ing ar­ti­cles from the Straits Times and Asian Mag­a­zine.

Have you worked with pub­lish­ers who dic­tate what you write? There’s no point in go­ing to pub­lish­ers who are not in­ter­ested in pub­lish­ing chil­dren’s books. They think there’s no money. They think par­ents will not buy the books, be­cause there are very lit­tle words in pic­ture books. Theyy think it is not worth it.

But you can’t think like that. It’s like a dress. Or a present. Par­ents canan spend lots of money y to buy birth­day cakes, presents or throw a birth­day party for the kid, but they think a pic­ture book is ex­pen­sive. A cake around RM50-RM60, is that not ex­pen­sive? But birth­day par­ties are tem­po­rary. Giv­ing a child a book is an in­vest­ment for their life­time. Ev­ery time you read it, it will change. At dif­fer­ent ages, they will see dif­fer­ent things.

Do you have any favourite book­stores in KL? I go to some in Pe­tal­ing Street. There is one Chi­nese book­store that’s very old. Although I don’t un­der­stand Chi­nese, I like to look at the il­lus­tra­tions. Those are very good.

How do you think we can get more peo­ple to read? There used to be a gov­ern­ment cam­paign called ‘The Read­ing Pro­gramme’. How­ever, the gov­ern­ment has spent more money on the event launch than on books. They should in­stead use the money for grants to in­spire peo­ple to read and write.

I met the di­rec­tor gen­eral of our ed­u­ca­tion min­istry at the

Visit Oyez!Books (www.oyez­book­ for more in­for­ma­tion about where to buy Yu­sof Ga­jah’s work.

Au­gust - Oc­to­ber 2015 chil­dren’s book fair in Bologna. We started talk­ing, I worked with him, and now we have con­ducted ed­u­ca­tional work­shops for more than 3,000 teach­ers to write and il­lus­trate.

What do you think of the chil­dren’s book scene in KL com­pared to Sin­ga­pore? Hmm. Com­pared to Sin­ga­pore, we have so much lo­cal con­tent. From North Malaysia to East Malaysia, there are so many cul­tures. Sin­ga­pore is a small city, so the con­text is dif­fer­ent. As an in­ter­na­tional jury, what we need now is some­one who can write in their own style about lo­cal cont con­tent.

W We are spend­ing mor more money on tou tourism cam­paigns, but we for­get about ou our sto­ries. For Ma Malaysia tourism fa fairs over­seas, th the tourism board b brings food, arts a and crafts, and c car­i­ca­ture artists to d draw the visi­tors. But they do not bring il­lus­tra­tors. Sto­ries and il­lus­tra­tions are al­sol a g greatt way to pro­mote the coun­try.

What do you think of happy end­ings in books? I don’t use the words ‘happy end­ing’. I think, in chil­dren’s books, there must be an an­swer. I have a book ti­tled ‘The Red Ball’. There is a ques­tion, or a puz­zle, and at the end, the mys­tery is solved. I write more chil­dren and tod­dler books. We have to start them early to love read­ing.

What are some up-and-com­ing writ­ers we should know about? Jainal Amamb­ing and Awang Fadi­lah. Jainal is from Sabah. They are both my stu­dents. Very cre­ative. They have won ma­jor awards in Ja­pan and Korea too.

You have won so many awards and ex­hib­ited in so many coun­tries. What do you con­sider your great­est achieve­ment? My great­est achieve­ment is to see many new writ­ers and il­lus­tra­tors in Malaysia, es­pe­cially when they make it to in­ter­na­tional level. Through them, we will have more and more sto­ries.

Ea­ton’s Books and Toys

Third floor, Cen­tre Point Shop­ping Mall, Kota Kinabalu (08 823 7855). Home to a de­cent se­lec­tion of books, games, sta­tionery and puzzles, Ea­ton’s is worth check­ing out for the sake of the kids. Daily, 10am-10pm.



Ground and first floor, Wisma Anza, Jalan Haji Taha, Kuch­ing (08 242 9157/www. my-book­ Still op­er­at­ing af­ter more than 20 years, MyBook­store of­fers a wide range of ti­tles for both kids and grownups. Mon-Sat, 9am-7.30pm; Sun, 9am-3pm.

Var­i­ous lo­ca­tions


Var­i­ous lo­ca­tions na­tion­wide (www.borders. No one will mind if you while away an en­tire af­ter­noon at Borders; in fact, the em­ploy­ees en­cour­age brows­ing and read­ing. Most Borders out­lets house a Star­bucks café for pick-me-ups.

MPH Book­stores

Var­i­ous lo­ca­tions na­tion­wide (1 300 888 674/www.mphon­ Boast­ing mul­ti­ple out­lets through­out the coun­try, MPH car­ries read­ing ma­te­rial for kids of all ages from tod­dlers to teens. In or­der to sup­port the new gen­er­a­tion of writ­ers, the MPH Group or­gan­ises writ­ing con­tests for youth. En­rol your child in the MPH Kidz Club to en­joy a ten per­cent dis­count off chil­dren’s books plus a 15 per­cent dis­count at the book­store café. Cer­tain MPH branches hold sto­ry­telling ses­sions and kids’ ac­tiv­i­ties ev­ery week­end.

POP­U­LAR Book­store

Var­i­ous lo­ca­tions na­tion­wide (www.pop­u­lar. Be­stowed the ti­tle of the largest lo­cal book­store chain by the Malaysian Book of Records, POP­U­LAR has more than 70 out­lets tak­ing up 700,000 sq ft of re­tail space in to­tal. The trilin­gual book­store is fre­quented for its cheap school sup­plies, school text­books and re­vi­sion books, mag­a­zines and ex­ten­sive CD sec­tion.

Times Book­store

Var­i­ous lo­ca­tions na­tion­wide (www. times­book­ Pop­u­lated by stu­dents shop­ping for school sup­plies and sta­tionery, Times Book­store of­fers great mem­ber­ship perks. Sign up and en­joy a 20 per­cent off welcome voucher, 25 per­cent off se­lected re­leases plus fur­ther deals on your birth­day.

POP­U­LAR Book­store

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