1) The opening of Al-Balsam Books. This summer, Cairo welcomed its first child-focused bookshop, located at 128 Nile St. in Dokki. Cairo thus joined other Arab cities with kids’ bookstores, including Amman (Hakawati) and Dubai (Buzoor).
What’s so great about child-centric bookstores? There are concrete things—readings, events, a larger range of books—but there are also the intangibles, such as children feeling that they have a “space” dedicated just for their literacy.
2) More kids’ book events in non-kid places. Meanwhile, even all-ages bookstores and book fairs stepped up their commitment to children’s literacy: Shorouk had a strong program of events at several of its Cairo locations; Magrudy’s co-sponsored—with Buzoor—a number of training workshops for teachers; Bloomsbury-Qatar organized the first annual Children’s Literature Festival under the tent of the Doha International Book Fair.
3) The launch of Bloomsbury-Qatar. While BQFP has been criticized elsewhere for its slow start with grown-up titles, the children’s side has been strong, bringing out a number of excellent Arabic books, including شيء آخر, the delightful translation of Kathryn Cave and Chris Riddell’s Something Else. Indeed, if they had done nothing besides the translation of الغرفول, my sons and I would be happy.
4) Etisalat Prize: Year 2. This year, the prize got more publicity and put out both a longlist and a shortlist. These lists helped build excitement and helped parents to find excellent new children’s books.
Some glitches remain in the prize administration and publicity, but the award certainly has taken steps forward. And who could be unhappy with accolades for Walid Taher’s delightful النقطة السوداء?
Bloomsbury-Qatar brought out a translation of Randa Jarrar’s When the Streets Had a Name; Nahdet Masr’s أوراق قديمة made the Anna Lindh “honor list”; Fatima Sharafeddine’s wonderful فاتن, published by Kalimat, won the Best Book Prize at the Beirut International Book Fair; Samah Idris released his third YA novel, فلافل النازحين, at the fair. The book was published by Dar al-Adab.
7) Kalimat’s and Al-Salwa’s digital extensions and innovations. At the Sharjah International Book Fair in October, UAE-based Kalimat was showing off their first iBook while, across the way, fair-goers could check out the CD that accompanies Al-Salwa’s بيت للأرنب الصغير.
Neither is meant to supplant the reading of words and the turning of pages, but to extend and enhance a child’s Arabic-reading experience.
8 ) The launch of the Buzoor Community. Although still in its infancy, Buzoor’s “community” website has the possibility of bringing together a diverse group of publishers, authors, illustrators, parents, teachers, librarians and anyone else who will join us in saying أحب العربي!
9) Great illustrators. The work of Daniel Georges (Asala), Lujaina Al Assile (Kalimat), and others you can find on the Kotoob website really make children’s lit more enticing. After all, interpreting images is also a kind of literacy.
10) Great new books. The great new Arabic books that my sons and I discovered in 2010 are too numerous to name. A few of the best include the قصة و كوسى series by Samah Idris, the آدم و أصدقاء books by Shaimaa al-Bishtawi, بيت للأرنب الصغير by Taghreed Najjar, Walid’s النقطة السوداء, and Rania Hussein Amin’s فرحانة وسر جمالها. Cheers to all these authors and many more.
Thanks to everyone who made this a great year for Arabic children’s literature. We look forward to an even better 2011!