You may have wondered why I chose a monkey as my main character in "The Blessed Bananas."
I still remember the night my dad came home from work and brought my sister and me our very first stuffed animal. He used to work in the city from morning to night. As immigrants, my family worked long hours to make ends meet. My younger sister and I were oblivious as kids to the reality of our financial situation. We didn't notice the lack of toys, books, new clothes or even food. What we had always seemed enough and what we were meant to have.
So one night, he brought home this adorable little stuffed monkey. We were ecstatic to have a new toy. (He had bought it from a secondhand shop, but it was new to us). I'll never forget that night, and the joy we felt as little girls for a new playmate.
When we moved into our new home from our tiny apartment, we had outgrown playing with the monkey. My dad felt he was still "a part of the family" and placed the monkey onto an artificial tree in the corner of our family room.
I grew up seeing that monkey everyday. It seems so silly to care so much about a stuffed toy, but he was so much more than that. He was a symbol of hard work, progress, patience, love, joy, innocence, togetherness, family and humbleness.
It was only natural then for me to choose Rico to be a monkey - a character that learns to share his riches, his joys and his home.
I know my late father, may Allah have mercy on his soul, would have definitely approved of Rico being a monkey. He always told us to never forget where we came from: from humble beginnings.
I hope your kids enjoy the book and now these fun coloring sheets to go with them.
A special thanks to my amazing illustrator Melani Putri for helping me bring these characters to life.
Please know that when you welcome these simple characters into your home, you're also welcoming a piece of my childhood. I pray they bring you lots of joy like they have for me. Stay blessed.