Book Review: Sayang Pantun, compiled by Azah Aziz

Compiled by Azah Aziz
Illustrator: Dzulkafli Buyong
Publisher: MPH Publishing, 96 pages

A LARGE colourful book caught my eye in a local bookstore last week. Sayang: Pantun & Seloka Kanak-Kanak is a collection of old Malay nursery rhymes and songs, compiled by Azah Aziz and illustrated by Dzulkafli Buyong.

I recognised many of the rhymes in this book (for example Timang Tinggi-tinggi, Oh Bangau! andGendang Gendut) from my childhood, , but I also noticed the exclusion of some of my favourites, like Waktu Fajar Saya Bangun, Bangun Pagi and Tek-tek Bunyi Hujan.

Still, reading the book was quite a nostalgic experience. Furthermore, the illustrations reminded me of a batik art calendar I was given when I was in primary school. The pictures in that calendar depicted farming and kampung scenes and absolutely fascinated me. I used to weave countless stories around those pictures and Dzulkafli’s batik-style drawings brought fond memories of the days when a tattered calendar could keep me amused for hours (and days) on end.

It’s good to see the old rhymes and songs in print. It’s only a matter of time before they are entirely forgotten if no steps are made to record them.

Nursery rhymes were a precious part of my childhood. I still remember practically every English nursery rhyme I learnt as a child, as well as one in Hakka that my mum used to recite to me at bedtime. I can speak only a few Hakka phrases, but that nursery rhyme’s distinctive rhythm and eight rhyming couplets helped me memorise it easily.

In fact, rhymes and rhythms are instrumental in helping children remember words, and research has linked difficulty in picking out rhyming words with difficulty in learning to read.

rhymesRhymes are thus much more than fun and literacy experts stress the importance of reciting poems and singing songs to children from an early age. Read this article to learn more about how nursery rhymes help develop children’s language skills.

If you’re looking for rhymes in English, but with a Malaysian setting, K Publishing has compiled 73 of them, by Adibah Amin (author of the popular newspaper column As I Was Passing), in Rhymes for Children.

Many of the rhymes were taken from workbooks and textbooks by Adibah. She wrote them to make learning English fun and I dare say that parents and teachers can use them to introduce words, concepts, as well as many aspects of Malaysian culture to children.

My favourite rhyme in the collection, Duku Delights, gives city kids a glimpse of the active, adventurous and carefree lives of children who live in leafy green kampungs.

It reminds me of my childhood, when my best friend and I used to climb trees and help ourselves to the fruit in our neighbours’ gardens.

Like SayangRhymes for Children celebrates the simple pleasures in life: playing, eating, spending time with family and friends.

Unlike Sayang, the drawings in Adibah’s book hardly do justice to her simple yet evocative depiction of Malaysian life as seen through the eyes of children. I would like to see some of Adibah’s poems compiled and published as a beautifully illustrated picture book. Any takers?

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