4 Books: Syrian Kid Lit New or Forthcoming in Translation

There are only a handful of children’s books translated from Arabic to English, and — despite the many talented Syrian authors and illustrators — an exceptionally tiny number of Syrian children’s books in English:

But four are showing up this fall or are forthcoming in 2019.

1. Tomorrowby Nadine Kaadan, illustrated and translated by the author

“غدا” (Tomorrow), by accomplished Syrian author-illustrator Nadine Kaadan, came out this month from Lantana. It’s Kaadan’s second work in English, following her The Jasmine Sneeze in 2016.

In TomorrowNadine‘s brilliantly imaginative drawings tread a careful line: they help children imagine how war might affect a little boy like Yazan without overwhelming them. Best of all, the book manages to give Yazan an honest happy ending. Even in the most terrible of times, art still creates joy.

2. The Storyteller of Damascus, Rafik Schami, translated by Hiltrud Schulz along with publisher Michel Moushabeck.

From the publisher:

An authentic taste of the old Damascene tradition of storytelling that will inspire childrens imagination. An old storyteller roams through the old quarter of Damascus. For only one piaster, he offers to show the children the wonders of the world. The children look through the peepholes of his magic box, which he carries on his back from one neighborhood to the next. There they see and hear the love story of Sami, the shepherd boy, and the beautiful Leyla. But over time, the story changes pictures inside the wonder box become old and start to fade away, replaced by cutouts from recent advertisements. A stunningly-illustrated children’s book filled with love, intrigue, courage, loyalty, and the sounds and smells of old Damascus.

3 & 4 The Tale of the Dot and Nour Escapes from Her Story, by Gulnar Hajo, translated by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp.

From Ahmedzai Kemp:

Two picture books for Darf Publishing, both illustrated by the amazing Gulnar Hajo, Syrian author and illustrator, and co-founder with Samer Kadri of Bright Fingers Publishing House and Pages Bookshop – the first Arabic-language bookshop in Istanbul and Amsterdam.

I was delighted when I found that Nour’s story has already been translated into Catalan by Valèria Macías Pagès, published in a beautiful eidtion by Mosaics Llibres. Of course, I couldn’t resist getting a copy to compare how it’s been translated, as there are some tricky bits. For example, there’s an idiom that doesn’t translate directly into English, and yet it’s illustrated so I have to include it somehow!

Ahmedzai Kemp added on Twitter that, “The English title isn’t definite yet but I’ve proposed NOUR ESCAPES FROM HER STORY for my translation of Gulnar Hajo and Abir Ali’s thought-provoking picture book, a reflection on whether a character in a book can escape from it and seek refuge in a happier story.”

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