The Jakarta Post
Hamid Basyaib's 'Love Letter from a Father' consists of 24 stories in full color. (JP/Ni Nyoman Wira)
Hamid Basyaib, the incumbent chief commissioner of state-owned publisher Balai Pustaka and former journalist, is known as a writer and editor of books on politics and religion.
However, as a surprise present for his daughter’s 10th birthday, Hamid veered away from subjects familiar to him by releasing an epistolary for children entitled Love Letters from a Father – 24 Cerita untuk Alma Sophia (24 Stories for Alma Sophia). Alma Sophia is the name of Hamid’s daughter.
The 128-page, full-colored book comprises different short stories. Some of them are based on existing tales, including Chinese short animation A Joy Story: Joy and Heron and Hans Christian Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes.
Hamid has also written stories with values that are simple and relevant to modern-day parents and children. In Mira dan Jeni Main Tebak-tebakan (Mira and Jeni Play Riddle), for example, Hamid encourages readers to understand problems in life before coming up with solutions. Meanwhile, Menghormati Pembantu Rumah Tangga (Respecting Domestic Helpers) reminds readers to always appreciate their housemaids.
Published by WahyuMedia, Love Letters from a Father portrays Hamid’s interactions with Alma, whom he describes as critical and curious. Aside from the moral values it presents, it uses terms that are relatable to children while staying grounded in logic.
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“This book is very personal and emotional to me,” said Hamid during the book's launch on Oct. 20 in Jakarta. “The idea came a year ago during Alma’s ninth birthday."
Hamid admitted that the writing process was challenging. He explained that, while he knew adults could understand the books that he wrote for them, for children it was a different story.
“I had to ask myself whether children could understand this or not, but it doesn’t mean I underestimated them,” Hamid said, adding that he chose letters as his writing format to build an intimate connection with his daughter.
“Children like to talk about big things, like environmental crises for instance, as long as the adults narrate it well. They don’t like to read something that is too easy or difficult.”
Hamid plans to write more children’s books and has four non-fiction children’s books in the works. “People said Alma was very lucky to have me as a father, but I told them, ‘I’m luckier to have a daughter like her’,” Hamid said.
The book is available for purchase at Gramedia stores for Rp 69,000 (US$4.61). (kes)