The month of May ended with a bang, literally speaking. Protests in the aftermath of the final official vote-count were expected, given the previous strident objections from followers of losing Prab owo Subianto, but the violence at the end was shockingly unexpected. Yet, for many Indonesians, it was just another hurdle in the long journey towards a more democratic society.
Life goes one. Featured in the local media recently has been the increasing interest in children’s books, which have been around long before Indonesia became a republic. It is a part of the publishing industry that continues to grow at a fast pace. According to the Indonesian Publishing Association or IKAPI, of 30 million books sold in 2013, 10 million were children’s books. Three years later, in 2016, children’s books comprised a whopping 34% of the total number of new titles released, followed by fiction at 28%, non-fiction at 20% and the rest at 18%. It is also encouraging to note that about 65% of those books contained local content, 34% were translations and only 1% were imported.
The topics of children’s books range from folk tales and mythology to depictions of contemporary life. Inevitably, with the openness brought about by the onset of the reform era two decades ago, children’s literature in Indonesia began to infuse foreign cultural influences in their narratives. Conversely, folk tales originating from the diverse cultures of Indonesia were soon discovered and adapted by foreign authors.
It was also only a matter of time before Indonesian children’s books made it to the global stage, commensurate with the country’s increasing participation in international book fairs. Reda Gaudiamo, for example, won accolades at the recent 2019 London Book Fair with her book Na Willa, published in 2012. It has now been translated into English and published by Britain’s Emma Press, under the title The Adventures of Na Willa.
To be sure there have been other similar successes and it is encouraging to note that as the quality of education slowly improves, more authors have taken to writing bi-lingual books. In fact, some prefer to do their own foreign language version of the Bahasa Indonesia originals, instead of hiring professional translators to do the job.
This year, Lontar has an array of new books for your reading pleasure, among them 14 books contained in the second and newest ByTheWay (BTW) series.
As we approach the end of Ramadhan, we wish everyone the very best for a Happy Idul Fitri.
Photo courtesy: National Book Committee Indonesia. (Indonesian Publishers exhibit at Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2019)