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[Interview] Lianne Ong: Author of Children’s Book ‘Maxilla’

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Lianne Ong is a freelance writer who often writes about parenting and education. Her most recent project saw the birth of her first book which is based on true events. Maxilla tells the story of a boy named Rueben who finds a caterpillar in school garden and decides to keep it as his pet.

Launched in the Klang Valley last December, Lianne’s heartwarming story is brought to life through illustrations by Fukuoka-based artist, Shing. While the book targets children between the ages of five and eight, it’s been said that younger children are enjoying the story just as well.

Thanks to MPH Bookstore, we spoke to Lianne recently about writing, future plans and what her kids really think of Maxilla:

Maxilla

Is Maxilla your first book to be published?
Yes, it is. It is also the illustrator’s first time illustrating for a children’s picture book.

What got you started on writing children’s books?
I am a freelance writer and I frequently write about parenting and education in the course of my work. Writing a children’s book was something I have always wanted to try. I hadn’t expected to get Maxilla published, to be honest, so it still is a nice surprise to see the book on sale at bookstores.

What inspired you to write the story Maxilla?
The story is based on events that happened when my family was living in the Bay Area, and Reuben, my son, who is the main character, was five-years-old at the time. Almost everything in the story is true. It occurred to me as a parent, when I was recording this in our family blog, that this was going to be an important event in my child’s life.

Tell us, what do your kids think of Maxilla?
Reuben is very excited about being featured in the book. It was an important memory for him and he remembers it well. He does like to correct me about things he thinks are “errors” though. For example, he thinks that Daddy doesn’t look like the Daddy in the book. As for my daughter, who is almost two, she loves hearing the story because it is about her big brother.

Do you happen to have any sort of background in Literature or Art?
Not really, they aren’t the subjects I studied… I think this story is more about recording my son’s journey and capturing a memory, and also about our own experience as parents. Initially, we weren’t quite sure what to do with a caterpillar-butterfly pet. It’s not a mother’s dream to have her son bring home a creepy crawly! But as the events unfolded, it became clear what had to be done, even though we knew we would meet resistance. Sometimes as a parent, you know the right answers but it’s necessary to hold back and let the child experience his own choices. Your job is to journey with them and give them support. If Reuben had made a different decision, would we have let him experience its consequences? Probably.

What are your plans after this? Are you planning on writing more children’s books?
I am… I have a few more ideas brewing, but have not had the time to pen it down yet.

Maxilla is published by MPH and retails for RM19.90. Available at MPH Bookstores, leading bookstores and online. Visit Maxilla’s Facebook page for the latest updates and exciting giveaways.

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