What: Adly Rizkallah’s النقطة السوداء
Why you should buy it: For the pictures.
Last month, Egyptian painter, writer, and children’s book illustrator Adli Rizkallah passed away. Nonetheless, one of his recent books, عصفور بلاد الشمال, made it onto the Anna Lindh list of 101 notable Arabic children’s books for 2010, and many of his books and illustrations populate local bookstores.
In fact, I had asked my husband—who works around the corner from a bookstore—to pick up Walid Taher’s النقطة السوداء, shortlisted for the 2010 Etisalat Prize for Arabic Children’s Literature. He couldn’t find it, and, rather than come home empty-handed, he brought me Adly Rikzallah’s النقطة السوداء.
Note: My husband made up for it last night by coming home with five copies of Walid Taher’s النقطة السوداء. I do apologize to other Kotob Khan shoppers, but honestly, only one is for us. Anyhow! I haven’t read it yet, but my husband read it to the boys at bedtime last night, and he says “it’s really awesome” and my seven-year-old adds “I loved it.” Ooh, I can’t wait!
But back to our previously scheduled review. While the boys and I found the paintings of Adly Rizkallah’s book charming (I even saw the older one stroking the picture of the owl), I was a little startled by the text of the first page, which begins:
بكت ألفتأه تمر بدموع غزيرة. كانت تبكي و تقول : ساذهب إلا النار، ساذهب إلا النار
This seemed a bit strong for me, but of course we read on:
قالت: لقد وجدت في كتابي نقطة سوداء ، و قالت المعلمة: من سيجد في كتابه نقطة سوداء فسيزهب إلا النار
I hope my sons’ teachers never say anything of the sort, even if one of them (God forbid) scribbles madly in a textbook. But, in any case, the artist-father has a lovely rebuttal. He gets out a book and, on each page, paints a beautiful picture (of an orange tree, a palm, birds, fish, and more).
And with each drawing, he tells her:
الله جميل يحب الجمال
The girl grows up, and whenever she has troubles, she always has this book of her father’s to remind her:
الله جميل يحب الجمال
So I still don’t really like this business of النار for children, even though my older son took it in a calm way, and the younger didn’t repeat it, instead focusing on الله جميل يحب الجمال. In any case, the beautiful paintings, and the repetition of God is beautiful and loves beauty do have their appeal.