An ArabLit reader in Tallahassee, Fla. recently asked me for Arabic kids-book suggestions. I’ve tried to come up with a few options; please post your ideas below.
*If you live in a place like Dearborn, Mich. or Burbank, Calif., you should expect your local library to carry Arabic-language children’s books. In fact, it’s a reasonable expectation that any library system should carry some Arabic-language books. Consult with your outreach librarian about where to find Arabic books, or how your system can order some. (If they want suggestions, I am happy to give them contacts.)
*The International Children’s Digital Library has a number of Arabic books (online! free!) and regularly acquires new ones. Just now, in Arabic, they have 28. My sons like the بكار titles; we haven’t been through them all.
*The عالم سمسم website has a section for قصص where there are currently five stories. فلفل و الجزره and نمنم مشغول جدا are for the youngest readers, while the others are targeted at a slightly older picture-book audience. They all have the option of a read-along voice, in a somewhat Egyptian-y accent (really, you cannot expect an Egyptian to say jeem). However, the words she’s saying are not highlighted.
*Kalimat offers a one-page browse on several of their books, with cute voices.
*Read حبيبة بترسم دهب , which is posted on this site. Have a literary bent? Write, illustrate, and share your own children’s books online!
$ SHIPPING FROM WITHIN U.S.
*Syraj.Com offers free shipping on U.S.A. orders over $50. They have a few books from Kalimat, many attractive-looking Dar Tala titles that I haven’t read, as well as Arabic children’s CDs and educational toys. I want the sandpaper letters.
*UPDATE: Amazon.Com offers a strong array of Arabic books if you can find them. Kalimat has many of their books here (a search on award-winning Lebanese author Fatima Sharafeddine’s name can bring you good results), and you can find many of the Bloomsbury-Qatar books if you know where to look. Since it can be rather to wade through Amazon.Com, I’ll point you to some of our favorite BQFP titles:
- The translation of Eliza and the Moonchild, or عزيزة و غلام القمر
- The must-have الغرفول, a translation of the well-loved Gruffalo.
- The translation of The Selfish Crocodile, التمساح الاناني , which I must admit I don’t very much like (the translation is fine; it’s the story I find a little boring), but my seven-year-old does.
- The translation of Red Rockets and Rainbow Jelly, الصواريخ الحمراء و جيلي القوس قزم , which is delightfully illustrated and the two-year-old favors.
- Also, I haven’t read it, but I have heard good things about the translation of Randa Abdel Jarrar’s YA novel When the Streets Had a Name.
I also found that Amazon does sell the award-winning ديك الجبل (via Syraj, although I didn’t see it on Syraj’s site?) as well as Fatima Sharafeddine’s جدتي و القمر , and probably a number of other treasures, if you look hard enough.
$ FRIENDS AND FAMILY
Ask friends and family who have easier access to Arabic children’s books to pick you up some and send them along in the next care package. Who do you know who’ll be coming in from abroad? I stuffed my suitcase with Arabic books last time I visited the U.S.
$$ SHIPPING FROM OUTSIDE THE U.S.
*Araboh.Com seems to ship to the U.S. A cursory glance at the 0-3 lit is a turn-off, but they do seem to be the only place offering the new BQFP books, such as a translation of The Selfish Crocodile. They also have a number of the Scholastic translations, which tend to be good although not (to my children) knockouts. I prefer books originally written in Arabic, but translations are…okay.
*Another option is to join the Kalimat book club. The membership to Kalimat Book Club is open to children of all ages with an annual membership fee of Dhs.350 AED for 0 – 6 year olds and Dhs.400 for 6 – 9 year olds with free shipping within the UAE. I’m not sure how much shipping would be to the U.S., but Kalimat is worth it.
$$$ GET ON A PLANE
*I know you’ve always wanted to visit Cairo! You can buy lots of Arabic-language books for children here. It could be children’s-book tourism! Take a stop by Al-Balsam, and then swing around to the different Shorouks and Diwans, visit Alef, Kotob Khan, Adam, and more. Oh, while you’re at it, take a train up and visit the children’s area of the Alexandria library. Lovely.
*Or, better yet, pick a book fair, such as the Sharjah fair coming up at the end of October/beginning of November. Browse the booths and pick out the best of the best.