Thursday, June 23, 2011

The 'Manga' Fruitcake Special: The Pictures That Paint a Literature Work

     I met Fen Fen for the first time yesterday, as a fellow adjudicator for the Sabah State Level Choral Speaking Competition for Primary Schools at Sandakan Hotel, Sandakan. After the event, she passed around some books to some teachers around her, me included. "Are you teaching Form 4?" I remembered her asking. I explained that I'm actually teaching in a primary school. She didn't push the subject much further when she learned that, but her book caught my attention. It looked vaguely familiar.

     "I think I saw it on Facebook," I quipped, and Fen Fen brightened up immediately. "Yes, I asked my husband to post it on Facebook for me," she said. Then I learned that Fen Fen is actually Perry Lim's wife (Perry Lim is a fellow member of Sabah English Language Teachers Group). I have seen the book being advertised by Perry Lim on the Sabah English Language Teachers group on Facebook. I remember being impressed by it, and by the teacher who has worked on it, and now there she was, right in front of me. I bought the book, Fen Fen sold it to me for RM5.

     I felt the urge to share Fen Fen's effort with everyone, because I think what she has done is greatly impressive. The KBSM syllabus for Form 4 Literature Component includes a short story by Frank Brennan entitled 'The Fruitcake Special'. It is actually one of the stories in Brennan's collection of short stories published under the title 'The Fruitcake Special and Other Stories' by Cambridge University Press. Fen Fen has retold the story, making it simpler, then worked together with one of her Form 4 students, Charlene Chee. Together, they have turned it into some sort like a comic/anime/manga book. The objectives of doing so, among others, are to help her Form 4 students understand the story better and to attract their interest in learning the literature.

     Charlene Chee, Fen Fen's student who has done all the illustrations in the book is clearly a very talented artist. She has drawn the characters and the scenes in the story in anime-style illustrations, making the book resemble one of those Japanese-manga comic books that are so popular among teenagers her age.Using her own fund, Fen Fen has printed and self-published the book.

     So, teachers, when you stumble upon the book anywhere, please do not mistaken it as a cook book. Hehe. It is not a recipe book for baking fruitcakes. ;-) If you happen to be teaching English Form Four, I hope you would take sometime to browse through the book, and see if it is suitable as a resource for your literature class. If it is, then I hope you would support Fen Fen and buy the book. I strongly believe that efforts such as these should be supported and encouraged. So teachers, let's all support each other! ;-)

The book cover
Tok Fen Fen and Charlene Chee

Tok Fen Fen has been teaching in secondary schools for 11 years. She had always wanted to be a teacher and she finally realised her dream when she graduated from the University of Kent, England. She is a very visually-orientated person and tries to translate that into her teaching. She lives in Kota Kinabalu with her husband and daughter. She can be contacted at
 Charlene Chee is currently a Form 4 student. She enjoys drawing and cosplaying and also has an interest in kodona fashion. She lives with both her grandparents, parents and brother at home. She aspires, one day, to be able to pursue her ambition of becoming an illustrator. More of her works can be seen at

A snapshot of the content

     For ordering details, pricing and etc, please contact Fen Fen at, or you may also send a message to Perry Lim through his Facebook here: Perry Lim's Facebook.


  1. I totally agree with you on this one. A tool like this will definitely break the monotony of a classroom routine and help students break through to the meat of a story. When I read this book, I was pulled most irresistibly into the story by the well-planned panels of each stage of the tale and the skilled illustration of characters. The artist is most adept at conveying emotions with just a squiggle or a stroke. Having left the school environment just before the introduction of this book, I had no previous knowledge of the story. But after ten minutes of this book, the story is now etched into my brain :) Kudos to both Tok Fen Fen and Charlene Chee!

  2. My brother once purchased a very special illustrated Bible (I can't recall the publisher). It is unabridged, unlike the children's version of the Bible, this one uses the actual verses. The only difference is that all the dialogues and scenes are translated into drawings. It looks a lot like comic books and is very interesting indeed. A friend of ours, who is a comic addict, managed to finish reading it in just a few hours. I remember him saying that that was the first time he ever finished reading the entire Bible, and also the first time that he actually understood to the fullest many of the Bible stories that he was unable to understand before due to the 'strange' language. Especially for visually-oriented people who are not very much into reading, tools like these have been proven to be most helpful. ;-)

  3. Oh I would very much like to find that bible :)

    I'm very much into the use of tools (as opposed to just 2D words on a page) in my teaching. Even if it's just colourful paper and scissors. While I love reading myself, 8 years of teaching in a boys' school taught me that not everyone likes to wade through a river of words just to understand a story or a concept.

  4. I'll try to look it up from the Internet and share the link with you. Very interesting, I'm sure you would want to purchase it yourself after taking a look at it. ;-)

    And I agree with you, not everyone likes to 'wade through a river of words'. Hehe. My students are very visual themselves. My cabinet is bursting with accumulated visual aids after years of teaching in primary schools. ;-)

  5. This is new to me. Will get a book from Fen or Perry. Good to share with my colleagues who teach English in school.

  6. Chegu Carol, you should! Hehe. Especially if you're teaching Form 4 or Form 5.

    But even if you don't, it's still a good read, and it makes a nice collection too. ;-)

  7. I'm many gd views.....tis can help all trs even for teachers like me who r teachg MUET........

  8. I agree, Anon, it would help. It would encourage the students to read more. Kids nowadays no longer read, that's the problem. Hehe. ;-)


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