Well, the books are not for our youngest readers. My two-and-a-half-year-old likes the pictures, but can’t really identify with the (older) characters. Indeed, Samah Idris began writing these books at the end of the 1990s, when his children were old enough to nag him about how most Arabic children’s books were unappealing and ugly.
Some of the books in the كوسى series are labeled as appropriate for children 5-8; others for 6-10. Broadly, we could say they’re interesting to the older picture-book set and younger middle-grade readers.
The books are not (yet) available in Cairo.
However, insha’allah, Al-Balsam will have them soon; they are certainly available in Lebanon, in the UAE, and I believe in Jordan. And you must be able to get them on neelwafurat?
قصة و كوسى could be called the “first” book in the series, as children should read this one to appreciate the little zucchinis hiding around the others, such as in the charming تحت السرير.
قصة و كوسى is a simple, humorous book, with engaging collage-like art by Yasmine Nashabe Taan, which combines photos and illustrations. The story begins with a boy who’ll get a bowl of ice cream if he finishes his ألكوسى بأللبن, but those zucchini just seem to keep multiplying on his plate.
Idris uses colloquial Lebanese Arabic, as well as English- and French-import terms, but told The Daily Star that what he’s writing in is a modern form of classical Arabic. He said:
I wanted to treat Arabic as a living language, not as a mummy that has been living in an incubator for ages. That is why I used Turkish words like bouza and Persian ones, as well as English and French, because that is how we speak and that is how we show that Arabic is a living language capable of integrating new words and expressions.
I far prefer it to the Arabic translation of Eat Your Peas: for one thing, the child’s mother doesn’t offer to buy him Africa in قصة و كوسى. Maybe it’s me, but I don’t like British people offering to buy their children Africa. For another…well, he really eats his كوسى. And it ends on a much more amusing note.
This series has been inspirational to many working in the Arabic children’s-book business, and with good reason. It uses fresh, lively language and fresh, lively illustrations to really engage the 5-10-year-old set in reading Arabic. Even the ones who’ve never eaten ألكوسى بأللبن.
Thanks to everyone (and there have been several) who recommended these books to me!