My two kids launched History of Malaysia – A Children’s Encyclopedia last week.

I got the idea from the book launch of What Your Teacher Didn’t Tell You by Farish A. Noor, whose excellent book (which I’m now reading) was launched by a 5-year-old girl.

Getting some dignitary to launch your book now seems so yesterday lah.

It was, of course, so appropriate: a children’s book launched by children. My two kids were so thrilled and, I’m sure, they’ll remember the ceremony for a long, long time.

There were also 15 high school students from the Sayfol International School to witness the launch. The school received 5 encyclopedias and everyone who came left with a free poster.

The launch was held at Wisma MAA, Jalan Dewan Bahasa, KL and the MAA staff did a great job organising the launch. I know most people launch their book as soon as it’s out but I couldn’t organise it on my last trip back to Malaysia and that was the reason for the delay of almost 12 months!

The highlight of the ceremony was the cake made by Nigel and Allan from Just Heavenly. It looked so wonderful and was really delicious too!

I had prepared a speech but at the last minute decided to chat about how little the general population know about history and how it’s taught in quite a boring way, where the focus is on learning names and dates. I also talked about how the encyclopedia came about. Why it took me 5 years to complete it and if I’d known of all the hard work it’d entail, I would never have started the project!

It was a really good launch and I’ll have happy memories of it. My one regret is that I spent so much time signing books and talking to the press that I had little time to enjoy the company of friends and strangers.

I still have lovely memories of the cake! 🙂

What a pity I had to cut the cake!

Anyway, in case you’re interested, here’s the speech which I DIDN’T give …

(Like wasting food, you shouldn’t waste your speech, right?)

“An author who speaks about his own books is almost as bad as a mother
who talks about her own children”, said Benjamin Disraeli, the famous
British PM. There are a couple of reasons why he chose those words.

One reason is that an author is being rather self-possessed when
discussing his books. It is really about talking about stuff which is
of huge interest to me, but not of much interest to anyone else. After
all, I doubt you would want to spend an hour listening to how well my
children are doing at school, their friends, their karate lessons, and
their musical accomplishments. What is of great interest to me, may
not be of great interest to you.

But there’s another reason Disraeli said that “an author who speaks
about his own books is almost as bad as a mother who talks about her
own children”. This is because an author’s books are very much like
his or her own children. They are very precious.

Similarly, an author cares deeply for what he has written; spent time
over it, nurtured it, loved it, sometimes even agonised over it. When
the book is finally published then it has, so to speak, left the
family nest and has made it out into the world by itself. It will be
read by strangers, some will be happy to read it, others not so, still
others may be indifferent. But what matters most is that the book is
out there to be read.

Similarly, our children when they leave the family home, will make
their own way in life. They will find a job, get married and have
their own kids. We will, of course, try to influence our offspring, to
keep them on what we think is the right path. But they are adults and
they must live their own lives. We hope they will lead good lives
though and will be a positive contribution to society.

That is why we need to give them our children a good education today.
I’m not talking just about good grades at school so that they can get
good jobs. I’m talking about an overall education, so that they leave
home as better informed individuals, as people who have a better
understanding and awareness. These are children who can make good
choices in life and will make a positive difference.

This brings me to reading. There is no better education outside of
school than reading. It can be of any subject of interest; it maybe in
science, business, design, computers or history. There is a huge world
of books out there, which so much interesting information. It is only
a matter of cultivating the reading habit in children and promoting a
love in books.

What about novels? Well, reading fiction is educational too, for good
readers will become good writers. This because as children become
exposed to writing and how it can be used, they will become more
comfortable using it. After all, you cannot become a good piano player
if you haven’t listened to piano music. Similarly, reading novels will
help children become good communicators. That business report you’re
working on will become much more persuasive if you write well.

So let me come back to that quote: “An author who speaks about his own
books is almost as bad as a mother who talks about her own children”.
I first used it back in 1997 at my first book launch. Little did I
know then, that I would be using it again 14 books later. But today,
the quote is much more relevant for I’m launching my 2nd children’s
book and my first encyclopedia.

I could spend the rest of the day telling you why it has taken me 5
years to create the book, including doing all the research, most
illustrations, sourcing of historical photos and the overall graphic
design. But that would be too boring. It would be like talking about
my children. Very interesting for me, not so interesting for you.

This now leads me to my 2 mystery “celebrities” who will be launching the book …