by Maria Mahat

As our children move from preschool to primary school, or as their literacy skills improve, we should offer them a variety of books to engage their interest.

It seems much easier to get hold of advance books in English such as early chapter books, but somehow, I couldn’t find Malay books that I can engage my sons with. Perhaps, I did not try hard enough or perhaps, there aren’t many early chapter books in Malay that can hook my kids.

The are a variety of early chapter books. Some early chapter books come with full-colour illustrations on one page while text on the other. This format provides a nice transition between picture books and chapter books. It feels similar to what little kids are used to seeing in picture books, but the vocabulary is slightly more advanced and the storylines are longer.

Some early chapter books have black and white illustrations instead. These types of books also help to slowly wean the child from picture books to early chapter books, from shorter text to longer text, with interesting plots and characters.

Here are some early chapter books that my sons enjoyed reading. I have two boys so my list looks gender-biased šŸ™‚ However, there is a huge variety of early chapter books with female characters too.




  1. Bilal Brilliant Bee by Michael Rosen

This book is so hilarious! But what strikes me most is the title of the book. It has a Muslim name in the title. When I flip the book, Bilal’s grandmother, Nanu wears the hijab. Without having to explain the ethnicity or the religion of the characters, this book is definitely inclusive. In a way, we have minority representation in an almost “normal” day to day life of a child who is facing The Test, with some help from a brilliant bee. As you can see, the first chapter has a spot illustration in black and white and there are only 33 words in that page.Ā  It provides a clear transition from picture books to early chapter books.


Yikes bikes

  1. Yikes! Bikes! by Abby Klein

First grader Freddy Thresher wants to beat the local bully in raising money for the animal shelter, but first he needs to learn to ride a two-wheeler.

My older son can attest to his early primary school years when he first rode a two-wheeler – he hit a lamp post. He was not hurt but the short lamp post fell off to the ground. He can relate to Freddy’s experience.

This is an adventure book – albeit in the neighbourhood – which is all the more welcome for our books to have a localised context. The content, characters, humour and vocabulary are perfect for transitioning to early chapter books. Now what if this type of book can be read in Malay and written by YOU?!


2.Ā Geronimo Stilton : The Super Chef Contest

Each Geronimo Stilton book is fast-paced, with lively full-colour art and a unique format kids 7-10 will love. But it’s not something we have to follow because it can be expensive to publish. But of course, it is not impossible. šŸ™‚

This is also an adventure book – an appetizing adventure with intriguing mice characters in a mice land working for a mice publication. It is highly imaginative and intriguing.



3. Diary ofĀ  A Soccer Star by Shamini Flint

Marcus is a Maths whiz who is not good at sport. His dad is a self-help author who thinks Marcus can achieve anything he sets his mind to, with hilarious results.

In illustrated diary format, Marcus’s gentle, satiric humour and comic drawings will have readers laughing out loud while learning a surprising amount about soccer – something that boys will love especially Malay boys but again, I may be biased. But if such books will help boys to read more, why not right?

Singapore-based Shamini Flint scores a goal with this book, and she has other sports series too!


4. Diary of A Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Before Wimpy Kid, my younger son’s reading diet was only the likes of Dr Seuss, Arthur, and Geronimo. How I got him to getĀ  hook with Wimpy Kid was to bring him to meet the author, Jeff Kinney, when he was in Singapore. And I would say, that meeting prove a hit!

The rest is history. Now, he loves to devour all Wimpy Kid’s books if we can find it in the library or if we have enough money to purchase new ones from theĀ  bookstore.

Though it is illustrated in black and white – comic style, the storylines for Wimpy Kids’ series are longer and the vocabulary are slightly more advance than Bilal’s Brilliant Bee.Ā Hence there is a range of early chapter books from the early stage independent readers to more advance independent readers.

Which type will you start writing today? I hope you are equally excited to read these books as I am equally excited to give you a sneak peek of the possibilities of early chapter books that we should and could publish in the Malay language.


Pen UP! (Malay)_updated_resize

Take part in our Pen UP! contest now to grow the list of Early Chapter Books in the Malay language for our Singaporean kids. Details of participation are availableĀ here.