As I mentioned in the itinerary, it was much harder to find good and applicable books about Malaysia than it was about Kenya. But after some creative searching, we've got five (and two bonus books). Unfortunately for those of you who don't live in the region, they might be hard to track down. But you can always suggest them to your local library - maybe they're looking to expand their multicultural collection!
This month, The Whirl Girl joined me at the library and also picked out some non-fiction books on animals that live in Malaysia. She liked that process, though next time I will be more organized so I can grab my books quickly. She didn't have a lot of patience for my browsing.
Sasha Visits Kuala Lampur
written by Shamini Flint, illustrated by Alpana Ahuja
This is one in the "Sasha" series, which is published here in Singapore. Sasha visits places all over our part of the world and shares her travels with a young audience. In this book, she visits sites and markets in Kuala Lampur. I liked it because it shows urban Malaysia, in addition to the jungle stories and folktales that we're reading.
The Beaded Slippers
written by Adeline Foo, illustrated by Lee Kowling
This is another book by a Singaporean author. It offers insight into Peranakan culture, a culture that was formed when various foreign traders who came through the region for the last couple of centuries married local women. I had never heard of the term before coming here, but they are a prominent part of Malaysian and Singaporean heritage. This book tells the story of a little girl who discovers her grandmother's history and wedding traditions.
Little Sibu: An Orangutan Tale
written by Sally Grindley, illustrated by John Butler
This tells the story of how orangutans grow up and become independent from their mothers. The Whirl Girl has been very interested in orangutans lately - and we're going to an orangutan reserve in Borneo. I'm curious to see how she finds the tale of separation. I'm also reading a book about orangutans for my grown-up book.
My Mother's Garden
written and illustrated by Emila Yusof
This is a sweet, simple story about a girl playing with the flowers and butterflies in her mother's garden. It is written and illustrated by a Malaysian author, and while the text doesn't specify its Malaysian setting, the illustrations are evocative of the region. The end has an appendix with the names (in English and Malay) of the plants featured in the drawings.
written by Nancy Smiler Levinson, illustrated by Diane Dawson Hearn
Since we will be going to Borneo and into the jungle (well, jungle lite), I wanted to read a book about the rainforest. There is a good list of options on The Artful Parent, one of my favorite blogs. Most of them are more Amazon-focused, so I picked this one that features one page spread on the Bornean rainforest and some good general information on rainforests. It's a little more on the factual side than the story side, but the illustrations keep The Whirl Girl's attention. Though after the first reading, I think The Whirl Girl is more scared than excited to go to the jungle. "I don't want to see snakes. Or ants. Or lizards. Or crocodiles." I can't blame her, though, I feel pretty much the same way!
I also found a couple of books that are for an older audience than The Whirl Girl. They are more text and less pictures, but I will try to abbreviate and paraphrase them because they offer something different than we're getting in the other books. Two bonus books:
Malaysian Children's Favourite Stories
written by Kay Lyons, illustrated by Martin Loh
This book retells nine Malaysian folk tales, featuring princesses and Malaysian animals like tapirs, crocodiles, and the mousedeer.
written by Margaret H.L. Lim, illustrated by Su Jen Buchheim
This book was written by an author from Sarawak, the Borean state in Malaysia that we will be visiting. It is about a little girl who cares for animals in her native Sarawak and features animals like the orangutan, hornbill and a mouse deer. The story is a little disjointed but offers some insight into longhouse culture and the Sarawakian living environment. It has some nice illustrations at the beginning of the book.
And here's a book that I couldn't find here, but might be easier to find elsewhere:
The Adventures of Mouse Deer: Tales of Indonesia and Malaysia
written by Aaron Shepard, illustrated by Kim Gamble
This looks like a good option showing Malaysian folktales for younger kids.