Bookaroo Literature Festival, Sarawak 2015

When I was invited by Jo Williams from the Bookaroo Trust India team to join its literature festival in Sarawak as a speaker, I was skeptical. I have never speak in public and never want to speak in public because I have doubt about myself; I feel that I am not good/expert enough to talk. So I told Jo, I had to pass the offer as I am not much into speaking.

But Jo, she did not gave up on me. She told me that I just have to do things in my capacity of an illustrator. I just need to draw with the kids, tell them what to draw on the doodle wall and that’s it. I quickly agreed and off I went to Sarawak to join the fest that was held on 28th – 29th March, 2015 at Pustaka Negeri Sarawak.

My first session went off in the morning with hundreds of kids turning up to join the doodle session. I started off with some doodles on the six feet wide wall of paper and they came and fill it within an hour! Some even took the effort to colour the doodles. It was such joy to see it happening before my eyes.

Kids colouring doodles

But on the next day, the rain was pouring so heavily and kids did not make it to my 2nd session. But that was okay as I had the volunteers to help me fill the doodle wall. It was fun to see enthusiasm on the face of’ bigger kids’ when they were told they can draw too.

The crowd started to come in after lunch when the rain stopped and thank God that the library was a full house again like the day before.

Anyway, let me tell you a bit about Bookaroo and what they do.

Bookaroo, the first children’s literature festival in India, was founded by children’s book activists; Swati Roy, Venkatesh M. Swamy and Jo Williams, in 2008, with a mission to bring children and books together in a borderless world. After organising several book festivals in Delhi, Srinagar, and Pune, it has now expanded to it’s first international venue: Kuching.

Pustaka Bookaroo or Bookaroo Literature Festival in Kuching kicked off on March 23 where speakers visited 18 schools in and around Kuching where they gave talks, did storytelling and few other fun activities. The highlight of the festival was held in Pustaka Negeri Sarawak where it brought two days (28-29 March) of exciting activities with storytellers, authors, illustrators and performers.

Those attended were Ng Kok Keong, Golda Mowe, Sarah Mounsey, Jade Fang, Stephanie Wong, Tanya Batt, Ary Nilandari, Dewi Tri Kusumah, Sophie Dewayani, Anushka Ravishankar, Ameen Ul Haque, Heidi Munan, Jantan Umbat, Jean Voon, Rosemarie Somaiah, Vashti Liong and Wendy Cooling.

bookarooteamParticipants with Bookaroo team; Swati (front left), Venkatesh (3rd row right, blue shirt) and Jo Williams (2nd top left, clad in orange shawl).

jadeJade Fang during her session: The Cat’s Whiskers. Jade Fang is an illustrator from Malaysia who currently lives in Singapore.

Seen interested in making the art was Wendy Knight (wearing Indian kurti), who was a volunteer at the festival. Wendy has been living in India for the past 3 years.


Ameen Ul Haque, also known as the Storywallahs, sang and played harmonica while telling stories.

stephStephanie Wong in her Monkey Faces workshop. Stephanie is an illustrator from Singapore who illustrated the famous Diary of Amos Lee book written by Adeline Foo.

tanyaTanya Batt in her Spooky Stories session. Tanya is an author and storyteller who hails from New Zealand.

I took the time to sit and listen to her story of a boy Pondika Cherika, who got eaten by a monster. The kids, their parents and I loved her and her story!

Pustaka Bookaroo will come back next year in Sarawak and I will be sure to join in the fun again.

Before I left the library for the airport, Jo said, “you know what, every time I go out, I will think of you because I mounted your illustrated postcards on my front door,” Jo ended the conversation while hugging me and telling me that she will send me the invite to the next Bookaroo edition in India.


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