The Girl Who Loves to Dance

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What is it?

A picture book.

Who is it by?

Written by Arisha Akhir, illustrated by Serah Boey and published by MPH.

What is it about?

This is the second book in non-profit arts platform Kakiseni’s Hikayat series inspired by Malaysian arts. The first was Shadows about wayang kulit (shadow puppets).

The Girl Who Loves to Dance is about Nana who wants to join the joget club in school. Her friends try to persuade her to join ballet instead. Nana’s grandmother advises Nana, sharing her own story about how she stuck to her love for Mak Yong and eventually became the most famous Mak Yong dancer. This inspires Nana to pursue her love for joget instead of following her friends. Even though her friends give her the cold shoulder, Nana continues mastering the joget till she wins a dance competition in school.

What can children learn from it?

The purpose of this book is to teach children about Mak Yong. Kids will find out about its history, the costume and musical instruments. They will learn that Mak Yong, joget and other traditional dances are not as uncool as they might think. In addition, they will pick up the value of pursuing their dreams despite what others say.

What did I like about it?

I like that Kakiseni is attempting to introduce these traditional arts to the younger generation. I feel that there isn’t enough information in this book, but I guess considering this is a very young audience, you can’t have too many details. I would have liked a way for the kids to experience the dance, perhaps if the book had had tips for parents at the back of the book with some information on URLs they can go to for more information and maybe even video links.

I was not crazy about the big eyes and the style of the illustrations, but that’s a personal preference.

Where to get it?

At major bookstores, including MPH online. The price is RM19.90.

Should you get it?

Yes, I think it’s a great idea to introduce traditional arts to the kids. Search for a video of Mak Yong to show your kids too.