Book(s) for all the right reasons

A children’s book that features a fictional duo who set about finding the treasure of Malaysian fruits

By SHIV DAS

Kids stuff! But then, it’s for kids, with parents encouraged to pay more than just cursory attention for a couple of reasons.

One, having them sit with their children to inculcate the reading habit, which can be a herculean task, given today’s digital distractions.

Two, there are simple recipes, which adults can try their hand at and discover culinary leanings they didn’t know were there.

Or, by that same token, try and awaken hidden talent in their children, or, at the very least, nurture family time in a way that could well produce a Master Chef Junior at some point. Who knows?

What lies behind all of the above? A children’s book, Hayley’s Fruitastic Malaysia, that features a fictional duo, Hayley and her best friend Zac, who set about finding the treasure of Malaysian fruits.

In their quest in a kampung setting, the two get to meet and have conversations with animals that help them find the various fruits. All very educational.

The author is our very own Mohana Gill, winner of international awards for her vegetarian and children’s books aimed at encouraging eating healthy.

Starting them young is her passion and mission that saw the book being launched at Pusat Kreatif Kanak-kanak Tuanku Bainon in Taman Tun Dr Ismail recently.

What better partner to have than the Food and Agricultural Marketing Authority (FAMA), out to promote local fruits in a big way.

Not just by talking, but rolling out an array of popular local fruits at the event — mangoes, pineapples, bananas, watermelon, guavas, papayas, jackfruit, starfruit, rambutan, durian, mangosteen, dragon fruit and even coconut.

FAMA chairman Ishak Ismail, in launching the book, said it fitted well with FAMA’s endeavour to encourage the eating of local fruits.

Yes, AgroBazaar Online, a marketing platform launched in 2015, was a means to this end and the book is now an important supplement to the campaign.

At around 66kg per capita, local consumption of fruits was half that of countries such as the UK. Mmmmm…room for improvement there.

Last year, FAMA had organised 16 campaigns in primary and secondary schools, reaching out to 10,000 children. Of late, there was a drive to get Malaysians to eat homegrown Harumanis mangoes via social media, namely Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The book, with its added attraction of recipes for imaginative preparation of fruits, brings creativity and fun into the mix for children.

Mango tarts, guava puffs, starfruit smoothie, dragon fruit salad, mangosteen sorbet and papaya with berry sauce are some of the recipes in the book budding chefs (no age limit) can try their hand at.

Introduction of the author was by Ahmad Redza Ahmad Khairuddin, president of the Malaysian chapter of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), which has Gill as an active committee member.

He spelt out her international success that has seen her winning the Gourmand Cook Book Award, Nautilus Book Award aimed at better books for a better world and Book Excellence Award, a Global Celebration of Literary Excellence, Toronto, Canada.

In 2017, she was the winner of the Anugerah Buku Negara. Malaysia as an affiliate of IBBY, a 79-strong body, gives her a platform for promoting healthy living among children internationally.

“Her books are fun, colourful and informative, suitable for families when it comes to reading and family activities. Hayley can be seen as Malaysia’s gift to the world in helping to unite and nurture happy, healthy children through food,” extolled Ahmad Redza.

Puspanita DBKL (The Kuala Lumpur City Hall) chairman Datin Rabithah Zakariah, also took to the podium to say that Gill’s books could fit into extracurricular activities and help nurture the reading habit among children in schools.

Gill, in her address, said two of her greatest passions in life are children and food, and her books provide the connection between
the two. Her simple, appetising recipes are there for parents and children to come together for joyful culinary endeavours.

She also saw an enduring (endearing?) relationship developing with FAMA for a shared vision in promo- ting Malaysian fruits, locally and abroad.

The work she was doing enables her to leave her little footprint on earth and Hayley would be her legacy.

The recipes in the book came alive at the event in a spread prepared and creatively presented by Chef Eleena from Culinary Brilliance and guests got to savour them in the end for a big thumbs up.

The book is printed, published and distributed by MPH and is priced at RM22.90.