Farhana as an App?

I am being left hopelessly in the dust as I lack an iPad or iPhone, or other device on which to experience digital children’s books: 

I saw the following about Egypt’s Sascha Books:

The company also hopes to bring other publishing houses, like Dar al Shurou [Dar al Shorouk?] and Elias Publishing House in Lebanon, on board, to convert their series of children books, Farhana [by Rania Hussein Amin, I assume!], into interactive books on Sacha Books. They’re primarily targeting the Saudi Arabian market, with the Arabic books, and yet will also offer English and French to reach a broader regional and global market. Read more.

Others with digital/interactive books are, of course, Al Salwa and Al HudHud.

Meanwhile, I am exploring different Arabic curricula for my four-year-old, mostly of the old-fashioned paper variety. But certainly I see the appeal of helping children learn to read with digital and interactive applications.

Thanks to Rupert for sending along the link to this story.

Posted in e-books | 4 Comments

Read This Blog Instead

Kel Shahr Kteib (http://www.kelshahrkteib.blogspot.com/) is a new bilingual blog, in Arabic and English, about Arabic children’s literature, written by Susanne Abou Ghaida. 

Abou Ghaida writes: “I also hope that in your own exploration of the world of Arabic children’s book, the reviews in this blog will arouse your curiosity about the books mentioned, that you will read them if you haven’t already done so, and I will have somebody new to talk with.”

It includes both interviews and reviews.

So go on, join!

Posted in reviews | 4 Comments

Two Arabic-writing Authors Nominated for 2013 Astrid Lindgren Award

Also in Frankfurt this week, the chair of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award jury announced that 207 candidates from 67 countries had been nominated for the 2013 award. This includes many old favorites, such as the author/illustrator Eric Carle, as well as 61 first-time nominees:

Both organizations and individuals (living writers, illustrators, and oral storytellers) can be nominated for the award, which at 5 million SEK is the world’s largest for children’s and YA authors. The recipient — or recipients — will be announced next March 26.

The Arab nominees are:

Egyptian publisher Nahdet Misr (http://www.nahdetmisr.com/)

Palestinian author Mahmoud Shukair (http://www.mahmoudshukair.com/web1/)

Lebanese author Nadine Touma (http://www.goethe.de/ins/lb/bei/prj/wsk/aut/tou/enindex.htm)

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Congratulations to Etisalat Prize-shortlisted Authors, Illustrators, and Publishers!

It’s been embarrassingly long since I’ve updated this blog — and the longer one goes without updating a blog the harder it gets to come back to it — but I couldn’t stay silent today.

I am first tremendously proud of the authors on the 2012 shortlist for the Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature. There is not nearly the fanfare for this award that there is, for instance, for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, although of course award-winning children’s book authors are (at least) as deserving of applause.

I am second so happy that this award is doing itself justice by celebrating excellent authors and strong books. Congratulations to everyone, and thank you for carrying the torch for good children’s literature.

The shortlist was announced today at the Frankfurt Book Fair:

Posted in Etisalat Prize for Arabic Children's Literature | 5 Comments

For Reluctant Readers, 6-9: “الغاز الرمال” and “أأين حمادة؟”

Thus far: The best of the bunch.

I have found that, for my eldest son, who has fallen deeply and passionately in love with English books (for many reasons: the way Arabic is taught, etc. etc.), the easiest way to make him re-engage with Arabic is a بحث للعثور book.

The first one he read and re-read and preferred over all other books was a السنافر search-and-find (with a bit of a story line) from Nahdet Masr.

But his favorite — and the best of the bunch, that I’ve found — is “الغاز الرمال” by هلأ بنت خالد, published by Dar Jerboa Children’s Publishers.

One of the great things about Halla’s book is that it can be read and re-read, experienced and re-experienced by the three- (nearly-four) year-old as well as the eight-year-old. But the السنافر also appeals to them both. Where “الغاز الرمال” is so much more successful is that it’s desert setting creates an appealing adventure and is educational in a way that engages children’s senses and doesn’t feel “schoolish.”

Thanks to Zeyna al-Jabri of Buzoor for the tip!

So who is this Hamada? (Yes, I just chose the name because of the Nancy Ajram video.) This book doesn’t exist, but I imagined a series somewhat similar to “Where’s Waldo?” But with an Arab character who (in the Egypt) can be found in a crowd in Tahrir, on a beach in Alexandria, among those giant pillars in Luxor, and so on.  And then Hamada would travel to Lebanon, the Emirates, Syria, Morocco, Saudi, and so on.

Apparently, there isn’t an Arabic “Where’s Wally?” Which is good. We don’t need him. We need Waleed.

Posted in reluctant readers | 2 Comments

‘Every Country, Every Culture Needs Its Own Children’s Literature’

Today, Gulf News quoted Shaikha Budoor Bint Sultan Al Qasimi as saying that local YA lit is fighting for its existence due to the lack of Emirati authors who are willing to write in this challenging field.

Budoor was involved in the workshops that resulted in the “New Books for Emirati Teens” event on Thursday at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

At the event, Emirati YA novelist Noura Noman (center right) and German children’s-book writer Kirsten Boie (center left) spoke about exciting developments in the world of Emirati children’s literature.

Although Boie read from her German-language book, Alhambra, and Noura Noman read from its Arabic translation, Boie mostly talked not about her own work, but about new work being written by Emirati children’s book authors. Boie had, for the past several days, been leading a workshop for emerging and established Emirati writers.

“I think every country, every culture needs its own children’s literature,” Boie said. She was very happy with the workshop, and said, “If the result is that there are more Emirati writers for Emirati kids, that will be great.”

Some of these works should probably be translated, Boie said, because, “Children are very open-minded, and they love to read about what’s going on in the world.”

Speaking to Gulf NewsShaykha Budoor said, “Young adults are a difficult age group to write for because of the constraints that exist in our community. Some of the things that interest them may not conform to our traditions or values so that limits the types of books that can be written by Emiratis for them.”

Noura Noman, who was working on a story where protagonists travel through the Emirates and there’s a task they need to fulfill in each Emirate, also spoke about how children’s book writers need to play with language. She noted how Dr. Latifa Al Najjar visited their workshop to talk about the Arabic language.

Dr. Al Najjar told the group that, in dialogue, that sometimes 3ameya will suit the story. Noman said, in brief, “Cheer up, rejoice, we can use 3ameya [colloquial Emirati Arabic] sometimes. And there was an ovation after this.”

Another issue was the idea that all children’s books need to be “educational” or “improving” in a heavy-handed way.

“The biggest criticism I always receive is that my books are not educational,” 17-year-old author Sarah Khalifa Al Gafli told Gulf News. “I believe that Arabic books made for young adults and children are very serious and too preachy, which is why they are not interested in reading them.”

Al Gafli added: “I want people to know that Emirati writers can write books like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games if they get the proper support… there is an audience for those kinds of books in the Emirates because many of her friends and the people she knows are fans of books from this genre.”

Posted in UAE | 3 Comments

Calling All Private Schools in Cairo: Join This Reading Initiative for Kids

The Maadi-based bookstore Kalila & Dimna is launching a new initiative,  مسابقة المصري الصغير للقراءة و الابداع. 

The following came from Kalila w Dimna co-founder Nermeen Magdi:

  • This competition, which spans across Cairo’s private schools, aims at entering a new phase of the children reading culture, where children would be more exposed to our local production of Arabic children literature which would in turn boost writers and artists creativity.
  • Moreover we hope that the competition would be a starting point for children to appreciate their mother language, which is an integral part of their identity and the only window into learning their heritage
  • In this competition, children from grade 1 to grade 8 will choose from preselected, Arabic fiction titles and will be asked to either write a summary of the story or draw their impression of the story.
  • Titles chosen, all of which are recent publications, are diverse in ideas, writers and illustrators to cater to the different tastes and interests of children. Some of which are award winning.
  • A panel of experts in child education, children writers and artists will be judging the contributions of Cairo’s children
  • Competition will be crowned at the end with a grand event where guest figures and judges will hand out prizes and awards for winning contributions.
For more information about the contest & the books:
Posted in competition, Egypt, reluctant readers | Leave a comment