When nine-year-old Keily Setiawan wrote a story about a rabbit as a first birthday gift for her brother, little did she know that her work would captivate the heart of Apple’s iTunes digital book readers.
Her first e-book Chen Chen Goes to Space was simultaneously released in 32 countries in Europe, the US and Australia on April 28, and ranks among the 200 top-rated free books in America and Australia.
“I got the inspiration to write this book from my brother Kenzo Setiawan because his Chinese zodiac is the rabbit. I meant it as a gift for his birthday on April 8,” said the grade four student at Sinarmas World Academy in Bumi Serpong Damai satellite city, South Tangerang.
The school, which facilitated the publication, held a press briefing
on the acclaimed work of its students on Friday. Besides Keily, grade-10 student Peter Ryandry and grade 11 Nahyeon Kim have also authored e-books.
Keily initially wrote the story in Mandarin and showed it to teacher Wang Meijin.
Impressed by her work, Meijin and Jane Ross, one of the IT teachers at the school, suggested the school publish it.
With approval from Keily’s parents, the school then registered her work with Apple in a hope that it could be distributed through its worldwide bookstores. But Apple did not immediately respond.
Upon learning that iTunes did not yet support publication in Mandarin, Keily solved the technical problems by adding an English version of the story which made it the first bilingual book published.
“We did nothing to help her with the book because she didn’t know about it until the school told us. We are grateful that the school could explore her talent and develop her creativity,” said Keily’s mother Linda Salim, adding that Keily could have got her writing talent from her grandfather, Lukman Setiawan, a co-founder of Tempo magazine.
Keily expressed happiness at finding out so many people could read her book free of charge.
“I hope that it will soon be available in Asia, especially Indonesia, so that all Indonesian children can read it, too,” she said.