By DAPHNE LEE
From Tots to Teens, StarMag
I HAVE just spent a pleasurable couple of weeks reading five collections of folktales, three of them locally published works.
At a recent colloquim on children's literature, held at University Malaya, several speakers lamented the fact that Malaysian children are unfamiliar with local folktales and legends, Instead, fairytales like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty are often named as favourites -- and Disney's sanitised, saccharine versions at that!
I had a Eurocentric upbringing, in terms of literature, and I remember my father reading to me tales by Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm. There was a book that I particularly loved -- small and fat, with dark crimson clothbound covers, miniscule font, and no pictures. I remember especially loving the story of Snow White and Rose Red, and so it must have been a Grimm collection. I can remember how the book felt in my hands, and how it smelt deliciously dusty.
Although I recall being introduced to Sang Kanchil when I started school, I don't remember what form the stories took - whether I was told about the mousedeer or if I read about him in a book.
Their look, feel and smell are a big
part of my memories of a great many books I read and loved as a child.
This is why I think it's important that publishers of local children's
literature pay attention to the way a book is packaged.
The text is important of course, but so are the illustrations. Why include pictures at all unless they are of the best quality and best suited for the stories they are illustrating? The three local collections I recently enjoyed comprise well-written versions of local and Asian folktales, but the illustrations could be a lot better.