Read Kutub Kids: First, tell me a little about your process for designing the “Adam” series of books. Also: Will there be more?
Shaima al-Bishtawi: [When] I decided to make my first story “لا أريد أن أنام”, I looked for online illustrators to draw up my story. Laura Scaron from Uruguay was chosen from 88 illustrators introduced their profiles worldwide to participate.
First, me and (Laura) drew the Characters combining my ideas and vision with her drawings. We got four main characters (Adam, Mother, Hoopoe, and Elephant). As soon as we are done with the characters, we did our first story, but my ambition was greater.
I have decided to make a series of stories for the same characters; it was accomplished in a small period of time, due to finalizing basic elements, style and characters of the stories.
After finishing the series , it took me one year of hard work searching for a publisher, contacting several publishers worldwide, some apologized, others ignored, and some approved outside my constraints to be published for non-Arabs. Until I got the initiative of Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi-CEO and Founder of Kalimat Publishing House to publish my series.
RKK: Will there be more?
SB: I hope so, the next series will be more complicated by having different ideas and gathering more characters, but I didn’t get any offer yet!
What I am concerned about those days is to empower Adam’s character. The question is: shall I use Adam in another book series, or shall I grant him the choice to enter other media?
RKK: How did you first decide to get involved in children’s literacy and writing books for kids?
SB: Every night, I used to tell my son (Saleh) a story before going to bed. I recorded those stories on my mobile phone, [and] I got the idea of writing him those stories. I searched for a stories that help him to learn the phrases and use sentences for the age of two years. I didn’t find [them], so I decided to be a pioneer in this field.
RKK: What has been the most rewarding thing about the process?
SB: That I’m granting something for my kids.
RKK: Any advice for other would-be Arabic children’s book authors?
SB: Do your work by yourself, apply global standards, and be brave.
RKK: Now tell me about the iPhone application for teaching the alphabet. Do you have screenshots or photographs? How would you explain it to someone who’d never seen it?
SB: The application joins between learning and entertainment. It teaches the child the main alphabets—each Arabic alphabet is represented by a character. It enables the child to make sentences consisting of two words….
ثريا one of the characters.
RKK: What made you decide to go “digital”?
SB: Arabic Language is not served digitally, you can easily reach wider people easily, I hope to acheive [a] pioneer role in serving Arabic language digitally for children.
RKK: Do you have other future projects that you’re thinking about?
*Visual Identity project for 3-6 years students (for schools )
*Social Network for Children and Parents. (visual base)
*New series written for mobile devices. (iPhone – iPad – mobile )
*Avatars illustrated for the first two projects
What—outside of what you’ve been working on—do you think are the most exciting developments in Arabic children’s literature and literacy education? What makes you excited about the field?
When you have a quick look at Arabic publications, you can easily notice that it was grown and evolved significantly in the fields of content, illustration, and printing quality. [Although] sometimes a publication’s content doesn’t grow as other elements did.
I found that this field meets my ambition, as an open field for creativity to create everything that helps the growth of our children and builds their future.
The Arab child deserves a lot.