Big Brother Mouse relaxes with a book - just as Khamla sometimes does

Khamla Panyasouk

The mouse in charge

Khamla describes how he wrote our first alphabet book Khamla was born in 1983 near the village of Khone Kham, about 50 km from Luang Prabang. He started school when he was eight, and was the first in his family to learn to read. (As part of the school registration process, he coined the family's surname. Even today, many villagers only have first names.)

When he was 12, Khamla's family decided he was so bright and studied so hard that he should move to Luang Prabang, where he could become a novice monk and get a better education at the temple school. He made the journey by boat, since there was no road at the time. It was a six-hour trip and he didn't see his family again for nine months.

"At first I was very unhappy and homesick, and sometimes I cried," he recalls, but soon he grew to enjoy novice life, and he now describes that period as the happiest time of his life.

One memory from those years is that tourists were appearing in Luang Prabang. Many carried books and read whenever they had spare time. "Why would they do that when they're on vacation?" wondered Khamla, whose only experience with books had been a few textbooks in school. He had no concept that reading could be enjoyable. He wouldn't learn the answer to his question for several more years.

Khamla at a wat (Buddhist temple). He spent his teenage years as a novice monk At age 19 he returned to lay life. After a year back in his village he went to Teacher Training College for three years, and wrote one of our first books, Frog, Alligator, Buffalo. He worked with Sasha to lay the groundwork for Big Brother Mouse from 2004-2006, greatly impressing Sasha with his quick mind, his eagerness to solve problems, and his growing appreciation for words. "When we visited a bookstore together in Chiang Mai," recalls Sasha, "he couldn't get over how many books there were. It was the first time I've ever been in a bookstore with somebody when I was the first one ready to leave."

When it came time to create an entity to act as publisher, the best option available was to set it up as a business. (This is further explained on our FAQS page.) Sasha proposed that Khamla be the owner, and he readily accepted. He graduated in June 2006, got his business license the same month, and his publishing license soon after.

Khamla with his wife Kham and their daughter NeriKhamla's work was recognized by Bill Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative in Hong Kong and in 2012, he was one of 25 finalists worldwide for the prestigious Grinnell College Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize. And whenever he has a little spare time from these responsibilities, he's reading a book. Or, these days, reading a book to his daughter.