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M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

My Photo
Location: Morgan Hill, California, United States

Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia). He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia." Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill. This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

A Wonderful Depiction of a Mother-Daughter Bonding

A Wonderful Depiction Of A Mother-Daughter Bonding
M. Bakri Musa

Book Review: Rosana Sullivan’s Mommy Sayang, Pixar Animation Studios Artist Showcase Series
Disney Press, New York & Los Angeles, April 2019.
ISBN: 978-1-368-01590-5 / LCCN: 2018033419
Hardcover; 48 pages; $11.72
Age level 4-7 (Preschool and Kindergarten)

Mommy Sayang: Pixar Animation Studios Artist Showcase

Storytelling fills our basic need for intergenerational, in particular, mother-child bonding. It has been practiced since ancient times. However few of us, mothers included, are born raconteurs; hence the enduring fairy tales and booming sales of children’s books.

In 2014 Walt Disney Animation Studio and Pixar Animation Studios teamed up with Disney Worldwide Publishing to launch a series of children’s books by their artists and storytellers. Thus was born the Pixar Animation Studios Artist Showcase series.

            That was also a way to recognize and provide an avenue to showcase the talents of their artists. Otherwise the only public recognition they received would be the ever-too-brief mention in the lines of credit rolling fast up the screen at the end of a movie.

            Most children’s books, being produced in the West, are heavy on themes and scenes familiar only to their Western urban readers. Even when those books venture to the countryside as with the Peter Rabbit series, the farm scenes would be heavily sanitized.

            Rosana Sullivan’sMommy Sayang (Mommy, Dear!) is a refreshing exception. Hers is autobiographical, set in a Malay kampung. Her story arc is simple and readily comprehensible but nonetheless profound:  a child’s secure, comfortable world suddenly turned topsy-turvy with her dear mother becoming unwell. This sudden reversal of fortune is a universal theme; likewise a mother’s love for her child, and vice versa.

Mommy Sayangfollows the endless curiosities of a child, Aleeya, and her mother’s ever-patient and attentive responses to her endless whys. This maternal-love theme is reinforced throughout the book. After the panoramic kampung scene on the first page, complete with the adjacent rice field, cars parked on the front yards, houses on stilts with the women casually conversing on the steps, the obligatory mosque, and yes, even a water buffalo with a little boy holding the tether, is the sketch of two mother hens with their broods happily pecking on the spacious grounds. On the next page a mother cat nursing her kittens. Mother hens and cat look contended, like all mothers.

            Then there are the scenes of her mother cooking, serving dinner, and praying. There is the touching picture of her mother’s storytelling and kissing her at bed-time that sent Aleeya into extravagant dreams of flowers, all in vivid, vibrant colors. The illustrations reveal much about Malay culture, right down to the foods we eat. There was the ubiquitous durian on the table served next to a Caucasian-looking guest, and without him grimacing!

            Aleeya’s world was suddenly turned upside down when her mother became unwell. The whole household routine was disrupted. Unable to comprehend the sudden change, Aleeya acted out as her aunts and others tried to console her.

She found solace in those beautiful flowers in her yard as well as in her dreams. She picked one colorful hibiscus in full bloom and gave it to her mother. As with all Disney stories, with that simple gesture her mother felt better – the healing power of nature’s beauty and a child’s love. And Aleeya’s world was restored!

Rosana, American-born and of Malaysian descent, now resides in Oakland, California. Among the many films she has worked on are The Good DinosaurCoco, and Incredibles 2. She recently released her first short animation, Kitbull, written and directed by her, to critical reviews.

            Mommy Sayangis her first children’s book, suitable for 3-7 years old. It is delightfully written and even more beautifully illustrated. As you would expect from an outfit like Disney, the technical quality of this hardcover was flawless. This book would make a perfect Mother’s Day gift for a young mother. I am getting a few for my many grandnieces who are now mothers or soon-to-be. The book would also be an excellent and enjoyable way to introduce your child to a very different culture – that of the rural Malay.

            The focal points of the illustrations are clear and well depicted. Thus we could see the serene reflections on the subject’s face, as with the cat and her kittens. The background is uncluttered but nonetheless conveys the essence of a Malay kitchen and kampung.

This book is a universe beyond, in content and presentation, to the A Man, A PanEnglish reading text I had in primary school back during the colonial days of the early 1950s. If the Ministry of Education is looking for supplemental reading books in its effort to increase the English fluency of rural pupils, this is the one to get.

The only anachronism in the illustrations for me growing up in a kampung in the 1950s would be the gas stove and electric fans. We had neither in those days.

In Arabic, Aleeyah means exalted or sublime. Despite Malaysia’s obsession with matters Arabic, modern Malays tend to dispense with the “h” ending, as with “Maria” instead of “Mariah.” The Western influence is still pervasive.

            With Rosana’s gift for drawing and storytelling, Aleeya will soon be a well-known children’s character, adorable to kids and adults. Elsa, meet your competition!


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