Since the boys and I weren’t familiar with this series, a store employee helped us dig them out of the stacks and I sat with several of the titles in my lap. But as we sat there, the translator looked at them again and said, “Well, maybe they’re better for a girl.”
There is a commonly held believe that “boys will only read books about boys, but girls will read books about either.” Indeed, a recent study found a “huge” gender imbalance in children’s literature. English-language children’s books are apparently dominated by male characters.
I don’t think this is true of the new wave of Arabic-language children’s books from publishers like Dar Elias, Kalimat, Shorouk, Al-Salwa, Asala, and Al-Balsam, almost all of which are run by women. Yes, we have our Fizos and Felfels, but we also have Farhana, Yasmina, Khokha, Jood, Faten, and many more center-stage female characters.
I also don’t beleive that “boys will only read books about boys,” so I bought all of the أنا لونا books in the store. And yes, both of the older boys enjoyed them (it’s hard to say about the two-month-old’s reaction). When we finished أنا لونا و لا أخاف شيئا, the three-year-old gave it his biggest compliment: “Read it again.”
Surely, at some point, Arabic children’s literature will become a little more market-focused. But I hope girls will keep the place they’ve claimed on center stage.