Many legitimate complaints have been aired about the poor quality of Arabic children’s book writing. Too many books are moral-heavy and fun-poor; most texts don’t use repetition or rhyme; the illustrations often look as though, well, they were done by children. Efforts are being made to improve children’s literature (Kalimat, BQFP, Dar el Shorouk), but said efforts are still in their nascent stages. And the debate over fos’ha vs. 3meya continues.
Last night*, I bought a raft of new Arabic books for my boys, with a focus on my two-year-old. Two have quickly drifted to the top of the pile.
Fizo Y3raf…Y3raf (Fizo Knows…Knows)
I can only imagine that Walid Taher was once a naughty boy, as Fizo is terrible. He rushes into the kitchen and insists on helping his mother with a cake—he tells her that he knows, he knows—and promptly breaks an egg his hand. (Ma heza ya Fizo?!) He rushes in to see his brother Mazen, takes over his keyboard—he knows, he knows—and makes a horrible racket. (Ma heza ya Fizo?!) He tells his sister Farida that they’ll play a new ball game—he knows, he knows!—and she’s happy until he kicks the ball into her eye. (Ma heza ya Fizo?!)
The naughty fun ends when Fizo goes to help his father repair a lamp—he knows, he knows!—and gets quite an electric shock. His family comes running, and he seems to learn (a little) from their scolding, telling them: I know, I know!
Excellent use of repetition, nice blend of 3meya and fos’ha, charming illustrations. Both boys laughed. The two-year-old’s review: “Fizo peeese!”
Suggested read-to-me level: 2-6
Best targeted at: Children who find naughtiness entertaining (which is most of them)
Publisher: Dar el Shorouk
Hal Lil Kanghar Aydan Um?
The Arabic translation doesn’t flow quite as well as it does in the English, where there’s a lovely internal rhyme in the title (Does a Kangaroo Have a Mother Too?)
The text also reads much more stiffly than the text of Fizo Y3ref…Y3ref. But Eric Carle’s illustrations are so vivid—and the repetition sufficiently spellbinding—that the drawbacks are forgivable. At least, they’re forgiven by the two-year-old. And he definitely prefers this to the translation of Eric Carle’s Brown Bear, which is unwieldy in translation.
Suggested read-to-me level: 0-4
Best targeted at: Toddlers who like animals
Publisher: Dar el Balsam
*This was originally posted a while back on Arabic Literature (in English). You know, a while ago.