Pictured above: Author Jamila Khambalia with her son Burhanuddin
“What do you want to be when you grow up, Jamila?” the kindergarten teacher asked.
“An author,” she replied, without hesitation.
Jamila Khambalia is a tax accountant and mother of two. She has always had a love of the English language, and enjoyed creative writing as a child. Despite ultimately choosing a very different career path, her passion to be an author continued to burn at the back of her mind.
During the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown, Jamila’s enthusiasm for playing with words was reignited while helping her children with their English lessons. She finally put pen to paper to complete her debut book, entitled ‘The Elephant and the Bee,’ that she self-published in September 2021.
Jamila’s book is a picture story aimed at children aged between five and eight years old, and is about an elephant who remains unconvinced that a brave little bee wants to be his friend. He decides to put the bee’s friendship to the test but is met with unexpected consequences.
Jamila’s inspiration for the book was sparked by an article she read advocating the use of beehive fences as a natural elephant deterrent in African farmlands (elephants are terrified by bees), together with discussions with her children on the real issues of stereotyping and bullying. ‘The Elephant and the Bee’ explores themes of stereotypes, trust, friendship, and courage, while highlighting that our fears are sometimes unfounded and that rivals and diverse beings can indeed become friends.
Over the years, Jamila has learned a lot about writing and publishing. She wrote several versions of her story before she dared to read it to her first audience and harshest critics – her children! While she originally wanted to write in rhyme, she realised how difficult it can be to get this right without sacrificing the story. She also learned that there are many talented illustrators and it is hard to choose what will be the right style for a particular story.
The whole process of writing and self-publishing her book took Jamila about 18 months. The publishing world is extremely competitive but Jamila has thoroughly enjoyed following her passion.
It has been “a breath of fresh air from tax returns,” she says.
She is excited about planning her next book, and hopes that – this World Book Day – her story of ‘The Elephant and the Bee’ will be enjoyed by many children in the UK and beyond.