Thursday, May 24, 2007

Beloved Bald Boy Book

Noor took me down memory lane yesterday with her comment about a book in Bahasa Indonesia is called Sipitak she'd loved as a child in the sixties and then lost.

Strangely enough, it's a book I remember too, and I had also been wondering why I never see it in the bookshops anymore.

I was learning to read in Malay. Used to conquer an article or two in the Malay newspapers each day. But I wanted to move on to real books and where better to start than with good kids fiction which wouldn't be too difficult, but would entertain too? I'm not sure where I came across the book of stories about this little boy called Si Pitak, but it must have been in one of the shops in Kuala Kangsar.

I just loved the stories of this naughty bald-headed lad (the result of ring-worm, I seem to remember) who was always up to mischief in his village with his little gang of followers. As I wrote in the comments yesterday, I can still remember one of the stories about stealing shoes from outside the mosque on Friday. I seem to remember another about stealing fruit. The writing was both funny and charming, and the language simple enough to for me enjoy without resorting to the dictionary too often. (I never quite made the transition to reading adult novels in Malay!)

Noor says that she didn't know author or publisher so a little detective work was in order. I love a challenge, and the first place to start was abebooks.com, where there was just one copy of a book fitting the description. Once I had the author's name, I checked on Amazon. Apparently there were several books about Si Pitak written by Indonesian author Soekardi, and of these two were published by Fajar Bakti (the local publishing arm of Oxford University Press) and I think may have been translated into Bahasa Melayu*. All are now out of print.

A lot of really good books here just seem to disappear. Perhaps we could twist the arm of this publisher to bring back Si Pitak for the sake of today's kids?

And meanwhile, if anyone knows of a copy mouldering in a forgotten corner somewhere, maybe they could get in touch? (Noor - I think that this could be the Indonesian publisher, and maybe they would also be able to tell us something?)

The search is on for the bald boy and any information leading to his recovery is very much valued!

And as suggests:
Sharon, when you are out of topics to blog, perhaps you can write one about books we have loved. The comments wd be so interesting.
I kick this topic open to you. What books from your past have you loved and lost?

*The official languages of Indonesia and Malaysia are the same apart from vocabulary differences.

9 comments:

SecretHistory said...

A long time ago, when Klang was not infested with gangsters and thugs, when there were no hypermarkets such as Tesco or Giant, I found an interesting book in the Klang Public Library. The title was 'Round Trip' by Ann Jonas. It was a children's book with black and white illustrations.

It was about a boy making a trip to the city. You read from page 1 to the last. The boy and the street are coloured in black while the sky is in white signifying daytime. When you reach the last page, you turn the book upside down and now it is night-time and the boy goes home from the city. You read the book from last page to first.

Anonymous said...

Books I love don't get lost -- they'll alway be in my mind.

Amir said...

I used to read these comic books about a medieval, Indian, mystery-solver called Birbal. It was only when typing this that I realise he was based on areal person!. Some of the little stories in there were used in the P Ramlee film "Nujum Pak Belalang."

lil ms d said...

i would love a copy of this book!

btw have finished SF. that's it. no more beautiful wartime stories for me. my heart can't take it! thanks so much SB for getting me the book, but oohahahah cannot lah. i'll have to read something fun after this.

Anonymous said...

Sharon, I'm gobsmacked. Thank you. I feel like a child on her birthday.

Thank you for the links. I shall email the indon publisher, see what comes up.

Did you get that caricature from your copy of SiPitak? (Pitak means bald, says Mariatun our Javanese maid.)If memory serves, the books we had had sketches too.

If what you say is right, then in all likelihood the SiPitak stories I read as a child were those translated into Bahasa Melayu. If the stories were written in Javanese and not standard Bahasa Indonesia, then I don't think I could have understood.

I'm on a long hiatus, Sharon, and I guess an unoccupied mind sometimes do wander into the past. As far back as I can remember, I've always been able to read (this is not the same as saying I am smart) and there were always books in our house if there were nothing else.
My father was a reader and that habit must have passed on to us.

Read all the Blyton series, the children's classics like Lord Fauntleroy, The Railway Children but I also read adult's books. I read Lolita at age nine, not understanding a word of course. (I read this book again a few years ago. A sad story of tortured, obsessive love.)
From my father's collection, I came to know and love the Father Brown series, JB Priestly, Conan Doyle, Robert Graves, Maugham, many many more and, later, Spike Milligan, Vonnegut and the likes.

I am rambling and this is your blog. Read your posting on the 25 of the best and I don't know a single one. Guess that's because I'm forever at Payless looking up old books. Don't knock it, it can be a treasure trove. Last foray, came back with Jamaica Kinkcaid's sardonic missive on tourism (A Small Place).
And I end with the usual whine -- Books are so expensive.

Sharon, many thanks for your help and sharing your space.

Noor

bibliobibuli said...

secret history - was fascinated by your description of this book, which i hadn't heard of. i found it here. it looks magic!

anon - that's true too

amir - i'm nostalgic for the comic books i read too - especially the science fiction ones with titles like "uncanny tales". hadn't heard of the birbal stories and was fascinated

ms d - hope you find your more cheerful read!

noor - you're welcome! and i enjoyed your ramble. it's great that your dad was such a great reader and had some really good stuff lying around at home. you sound a true book addict!

bibliobibuli said...

noor- sorry forgot to say, this is not a pic of si pitak. i just googled up a picture of a bald boy. this one does fit quite well though the complexion is a bit white!

rewang said...

Hi Noor,
Thank you for bringing me back to my memory lane. I came across your site while googling for Si Pitak. Yes, I bought it when i was small and learned that book by heart and wish to show it to my kids. Hard to find books of those calibre nowadays. Even my Std 3-4 english reader elicit much hoo-haah from them due to the many short stories in them.

bibliobibuli said...

me not noo, me sharon. :-)

we should lobby for this book to be republished even if only for ourselves!