KUALA LUMPUR: Most kids spend their time playing or watching TV. But Karen Chew decided she had better things to do – like write and publish a book!
Titled, “What can an 8-year-old tell you?’, her book was launched on Nov 5 at Eslite Spectrum in Starhill here.
And that’s not all. She received recognition by the Malaysia Book of Records as the “Youngest Book Author” on Oct 16 – just two days before she turned 11.
She also received the title “The Youngest Non-Fiction Published Author in Malaysia” by Youth Achievement Records on Nov 5.
“Children grow up reading books written by adults. Could you imagine a world where children grow up reading books written by children?” Chew told FMT, adding that she wrote the book to fulfil her need to express herself.
Published by Kanyin Publications, the book includes her views on topics such as depression, addiction and her experience as a world schooler.
World schoolers, Chew described in her book, are those who travel around the world to learn, namely from other people and their cultures. A world schooler since 2016, she began studying at Dwi Emas International School last year.
She was only eight when she started writing her book. But her foray into writing began when she was only about three to four years old – first with a diary and later a blog.
“Afterwards, I compiled it into a book. When I first started flipping back through the diary, I did not actually even expect to write a book, much less get it published.”
She also pitched her book to the publisher all by herself!
“I wrote down some questions I wanted to ask them about the publishing process to see how I could improve the book so that it would better fit to the publishing standards. I also wrote down some key points that I wanted to highlight about the book.”
Remarkably, Chew also worked on all the illustrations in her book!
And to fill the hours in her day after her book was completed, she set up her own business selling handmade bears, which she calls “KaTY Bear” – short for her name Karen Chew Thong Yan.
“My dream is to go to Oxford. So, I’ve been using this to save up for my college funds so that I won’t have to repay student loans after I come out,” she said, adding that she hopes to become an archaeologist and anthropologist.
She started her bear business last year to remind herself about how far she had come in beating her fear. She recounted how she used to be afraid of going anywhere by herself – until her grandmother made her a bear to take along with her. “In the end, everyone has something that they’re scared of. If this could help me, then maybe it could help other people as well.”
Chew admitted that she also had some fears regarding her book. “Some of the stories I write are quite personal. And sometimes, I’m a bit scared of what people are thinking about what I have to say about it.”
At eight years old, she wrote: ‘I may not be fearless, but because I have fear, I can be brave’ – making her one courageous girl indeed!
Her mother, Yvonne Teh, 46, is immensely proud of her. “There is no better way to show her how much she can accomplish by not allowing age to limit her. That’s what we always tell our children.”
For Chew, she described the feeling of holding the first copy of her book in her hands as “surreal” and added that there are a lot of things that children can tell adults.
“It’s not that adults don’t understand what it’s like to be a kid. It’s just that they forgot. When you’re an adult, you think through all the possibilities and everything, so it’s safer but sometimes, you overthink.
“When you’re a kid, you think you know a lot, but then sometimes you take too many risks. So, children can tell adults a lot of things they’ve forgotten, but adults do have things they can tell children that we might not know yet.”
The book “What can an 8-year-old tell you?” is available here:
- Eslite Spectrum, Starhill
- MPH outlets
- KL Commercial Book
- Cite Book Garden
- Kinokuniya Singapore