I love books. Books have always been my comfort and have helped me get through some of life’s difficulties. My genre is all over the place, I can read historical fiction one minute, and switch to a data science book, and ending the day with a children’s book. I am also the kind of reader who leaves stacks of books all over the place, and read multiple books at the same time (just because I can).
Throughout the pandemic, my reading has significantly increased. I go out less and I try to read before I sleep. So far I’ve read 34 books and have had engaging and eye opening conversations with my friends for some of the books. I also started reading the Shadow and Bone trilogy, along with the Six of Crows duology and instantly fell in love with Leigh Bardugo, its author. I watched the Netflix series and had in depth conversations with my friends about the difference between the series and the book. This is also the reason why I love to read, you get unexpected friends. I made new friends just because I love to read, and isn’t that just an amazing way to connect with someone?
In this post, I am going to talk about three children’s books from one of my favourite Indonesian authors. Why children’s book? Because I truly believe that as adults we should once in a while check in with our inner child. Our inner child keeps us on our toes, keeps us curious and reminds us that life is just one huge playground. Anyone who knows me personally will tell you I am an intense and serious person most of the time, I acknowledge this and this is why every now and then I let myself dive into children’s books. They keep me in check and are a reminder to just relax.
Ini pasti hari Minggu. Karena aku mencium bau nasi goreng. Dibuat Mak. Ada tomat, ada telur dadar yang digulung lalu diiris tipis-tipis, ditaburkan di atas nasi.Na Willa – Reda Gaudiamo
I first heard of Reda Gaudiamo from a small bookshop called POST in Jakarta. I have never been there personally since I live in Yogyakarta but I love the idea of a small local bookshop with carefully selected books. In 2016 POST Press was born, a small independent publisher under POST and surprisingly their first title was a children’s book called Aku, Meps, dan Beps. I immediately ordered my copy and dived into the world of Reda Gaudiamo and Soca Sobhita.
This book is light, funny, and extremely relatable. Aku, Meps, dan Beps is about a family of three and written from the perspective of Soca, the kid. It is actually based on the lives of the two authors, who are mother and daughter. There is sincerity in the writing, it doesn’t try too hard and it uses simple words that makes me nostalgic of my own childhood. Soca loves to play and cook together with her Meps and Beps. She has animal friends like Ayam Kuning Kecil Sekali (literally translated to “Very Small Yellow Chicken”), Nyamuki, Nyamuka (mosquitos), Semuta, Semuti (ants), and others. The book even has simple recipes of their favourite food. When I read it, I felt like visiting an old friend’s house, filled with warmth and familiarity.
…Tapi aku tidak mau jadi tentara. Aku juga tidak mau jadi penyanyi. Mungkin jadi tukang kayu, bikin-bikin seperti Beps bagus juga. Dan kalau malam jadi ninja.Aku, Meps, dan Beps – Soca Sobhita dan Reda Gaudiamo
The book is based on Soca’s actual writing when she was small and so it is not surprising that the refreshing and honest child-like tone is felt throughout the book. The length of the book is merely 89 pages, easily read in less than an hour. The book is also beautifully illustrated by Cecilia Hidayat. Her illustrations truly complete the book.
In 2018, Gaudiamo published two new books under POST Press called Na Willa and Na Willa dan rumah dalam gang. Na Willa was actually first published in 2012, but I only knew of the book when it was published by POST. Like Aku, Meps, dan Beps the two Na Willa series have the same playful and fun tone. The focus of the story is also about a family of three who lives in a “gang” (aisle) and there, the family is surrounded by different characters. Na Willa has many friends in this gang as well at school and she gets up to a lot of mischiefs with them. In 2019 Na Willa got published by The Emma Press and translated into English, so if you want the English version you can check them out.
Jadi, pohon besar ini pohon cemara! Aduh tingginya bukan main! Aku tak bisa melihat ujungnya. Barangkali pohon ini sampai ke langit!Na Willa dan rumah dalam gang – Reda Gaudiamo
What I especially love about the books, especially in Na Willa, is that it is set before the digital era. Children play outside, run around, and have play dates. The grown ups ride Vespa and to ride a car is a massive privilege. There are no smartphones to entertain and eating ice cream while hanging out by the port is considered a luxury. There is diversity of characters in the book and while it is mostly lighthearted and cheerful, it also brings up hard topics like moving to another city, disability and also race. I think this is what sets this series apart from other children’s books.
Reading these books made me smile, and because they’re short, I can always read them again when I need a pick me up. I absolutely recommend them to you.