— Bronze and Sunflower. By Cao Wenxuan. Illus. by Meilo So. Tr. by Helen Wang. 2017. Candlewick Press. $16.99 (9780763688165). When Sunflower’s father dies in a freak weather accident, she is taken in by a poor family across the river. China’s Cultural Revolution provides the backdrop for Sunflower and her adopted brother Bronze as they grow up in the impoverished but happy village.
— The Murderer’s Ape. By Jakob Wegelius. Illus. by Jakob Wegelius. Tr. by Peter Graves. 2017. Penguin Random House/Delacorte. $17.99 (9781101931752). Despite being a gorilla, Sally Jones is an excellent typist and she uses her typewriter to tell the adventure of her attempts to exonerate best friend and sailor Henry Koskela, who was wrongfully imprisoned for murder after the two of them were caught in the middle of a smuggling operation.
— Wonderful Feels Like This. By Sara Lövestam. Tr. by Laura A. Wideburg. 2017. Macmillan/Flatiron. $17.99 (9781250095237). Steffi, bullied at school, finds solace in jazz music and in a new friendship with a retired man and former jazz musician who coaches her through learning a new instrument and tells her about his own teenage years as a musician in Sweden during WWII.
Congratulations to all translators and their authors!
Kirkus Reviews yesterday announced the six finalists for the fourth annual Kirkus Prize in the categories of “Fiction,” “Nonfiction,” and “Young Readers’ Literature.” An amazing three of the six shortlisted books in the Young Readers section are translations.
The translations are bolded!
Walk With Me by Jairo Buitrago, illustrated by Rafael Yockteng and translated by Elisa Amado (Groundwood)
Me Tall, You Small by Lilli L’Arronge and translated by Madeleine Stratford (Owlkids)
Bronze and Sunflower by Cao Wenxuan, translated by Helen Wang, and illustrated by Meilo So (Candlewick)
It All Comes Down to This by Karen English (Clarion)
The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline (DCB)
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Balzer + Bray)
This year, there were 31 translated titles nominated for the young readers’ award. They were:
by Cao Wenxuan, illustrated by Roger Mello, translated by Chloe Garcia Roberts
DICTIONARY OF WITCHES
by Grégoire Solotareff, illustrated by Grégoire Solotareff, translated byClaudine Mersereau
CASTLE IN THE STARS: THE SPACE RACE OF 1869
by Alex Alice, illustrated by Alex Alice, translated by Anne Smith, Owen Smith
ON A MAGICAL DO-NOTHING DAY
by Beatrice Alemagna, illustrated by Beatrice Alemagna, translated by Jill Davis
NIPÊHON / I WAIT
by Caitlin Dale Nicholson, Leona Morin-Neilson, illustrated by Caitlin Dale Nicholson, translated by Leona Morin-Neilson
KISIMI TAIMAIPPAKTUT ANGIRRARIJARANI / ONLY IN MY HOMETOWN
by Angnakuluk Friesen, illustrated by Ippiksaut Friesen, translated byJean Kusugak
POPPIES OF IRAQ
by Brigitte Findakly, Lewis Trondheim, illustrated by Lewis Trondheim,Brigitte Findakly, translated by Helge Dascher
MY DOG MOUSE
by Eva Lindström, illustrated by Eva Lindström, translated by Julia Marshall
AND SO IT GOES
by Paloma Valdivia, illustrated by Paloma Valdivia, translated by Susan Ouriou
CHIRRI & CHIRRA, IN THE TALL GRASS
by Kaya Doi, illustrated by Kaya Doi, translated by Yuki Kaneko
I WILL LOVE YOU FOREVER
by Tatsuya Miyanishi, illustrated by Tatsuya Miyanishi, translated byMariko Shii Gharbi
MARTÍ’S SONG FOR FREEDOM / MARTÍ Y SUS VERSOS POR LA LIBERTAD
by Emma Otheguy, illustrated by Beatriz Vidal, translated by Adriana Domínguez
THE GRAY HOUSE
by Mariam Petrosyan, translated by Yuri Machkasov
THE LONELY MAILMAN
by Susanna Isern, illustrated by Daniel Montero Galán, translated by Jon Brokenbrow
ALONG THE RIVER
by Vanina Starkoff, illustrated by Vanina Starkoff, translated by Jane Springer
YOU CAN’T BE TOO CAREFUL!
by Roger Mello, illustrated by Roger Mello, translated by Daniel Hahn
YOURS SINCERELY, GIRAFFE
by Megumi Iwasa, illustrated by Jun Takabatake
A HOUSE WITHOUT MIRRORS
by Mårten Sandén, illustrated by Moa Schulman, translated by Karin Altenberg
BRONZE AND SUNFLOWER
by Cao Wenxuan, translated by Helen Wang, illustrated by Meilo So
WALK WITH ME
by Jairo Buitrago, illustrated by Rafael Yockteng, translated by Elisa Amado
by Claude Ponti, illustrated by Claude Ponti, translated by Alyson Waters
WONDERFUL FEELS LIKE THIS
by Sara Lövestam, translated by Laura A. Wideburg
EXPRESS DELIVERY FROM DINOSAUR WORLD
by Yanan Dong, illustrated by Yanan Dong, translated by Helen Wang
MY PICTURES AFTER THE STORM
by Éric Veillé, illustrated by Éric Veillé, translated by Daniel Hahn
UNDER THE UMBRELLA
by Catherine Buquet, illustrated by Marion Arbona, translated by Erin Woods
THE MURDERER’S APE
by Jakob Wegelius, illustrated by Jakob Wegelius, translated by Peter Graves
PAUL & ANTOINETTE
by Kerascoët, illustrated by Kerascoët, translated by Claudia Zoe Bedrick
STEPPING STONES: A REFUGEE FAMILY’S JOURNEY
by Margriet Ruurs, illustrated by Nizar Ali Badr, translated by Falah Raheem
BRIDGES: AN INTRODUCTION TO TEN GREAT BRIDGES AND THEIR DESIGNERS
by Didier Cornille, illustrated by Didier Cornille, translated by Yolanda Stern Broad
SOMOS COMO LAS NUBES / WE ARE LIKE THE CLOUDS
by Jorge Argueta, illustrated by Alfonso Ruano, translated by Elisa Amado
LITTLE NIGHT CAT
by Sonja Danowski, illustrated by Sonja Danowski, translated by David Henry Wilson
Growing up, I knew very little about Yiddish literature with the exception of The Wise Men of Chelm. My elementary school librarian read us the tales of the people so wise they tried to repopulate a river with canned herring. In middle school, I played Dorothy in the Solomon Schechter production of the Wizard of Chelm, befriending rabbis in need of a hat and jacket. By the time I began studying Yiddish in graduate school, I still didn’t know many Yiddish writers and stories until I began teaching myself.
During my second year teaching in a Reform day school in Miami, I was looking for a Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) book to read to elementary school students when I stumbled upon three retellings of I.L Peretz’s Even Higher. Each adaptation left me with a growing sense of warmth. The story is about the Nemirov rabbi who disappears during Slichos, the special prayers recited at dawn around the time of Rosh Hashanah. The townspeople believe their dear Nemirov Rabbi has ascended into the heavens to provide comfort to the sinners in the coming new year. One man–a Litvak– is suspicious, “Not even Moses rose into the heavens!” The Litvak follows the rabbi with the intention of proving the Rabbi’s disciples wrong. Instead, the Litvak finds the rabbi dressed as a peasant secretly helping a poor, elderly woman light her fireplace. From that point on, whenever the townspeople said their rabbi ascended into the heavens, the Litvak says, “even higher.” Human acts of kindness are divine. We are all capable of changing our world and making it more beautiful.
Even Higher is based on Hasidic folklore like many of I.L Peretz’s stories. Although Peretz (1852-1915) was not raised in Hasidic traditions, he had attended Hasidic religious services. I.L Peretz, often called one of the founding fathers of Modern Yiddish literature, was born Yitskhok Leybush Peretz to a mostly-observant Jewish family in Zamosc, a culturally diverse and multilingual city in Poland. From a young age, Peretz was exposed and drawn to several Jewish ideologies. Zamosc was the second largest center in Europe for maskilim, Jewish proponents of the Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment) yearning to acculturate into their non-Jewish European surroundings. Zamosc was also home to Hasidim and Misnagdim. The Misnagdim, not unlike the skeptical Litvak in Even Higher, rejected Hasidic enthusiasm and spirituality. Traditionally, Litvaks were portrayed as “cold and calculating” in literature (YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe.) As Barbara Cohen calls them in her retelling of Even Higher, Litvaks have to see something to believe it. Literary critic, Irving Howe, writes Even Higher would have been known in Hasidic circles, but the skeptical Litvak was Peretz’s creation, resembling Peretz’s own attitudes on Hasidism as an outsider. Although not observant, Peretz had a special appreciation for Hasidic imagery, exuberance and the strength of their cohesive community.
Barbara Cohen, beloved author of the Passover story The Carp in the Bathtub and Molly’s Pilgrim, retells Even Higher in picture book form and translation as if Peretz himself published the second edition for readers eighty years after original publication. Cohen modestly writes, “I did not adapt the story because I thought I could improve upon the efforts of a master like Peretz. That would be impossible. I adapted it in the hope of making it more accessible than the original to contemporary American children of all creeds.”
Richard Ungar, author and illustrator, replaces the character of the Litvak with three curious boys in his adaptation of Even Higher. The story is especially appealing, resembling a school-age mystery adventure where readers collect clues as to who is the woodcutter and where is he going. Ungar also expands on the story’s Tzedakah lesson. The rabbi declares, “One kind of giving to the poor is to give after you have been asked. A higher kind is to give before you have been asked. And an even higher kind of giving is when the identity of the giver is not known to the person receiving the gift.” Ungar plays with Peretz’s language, explicitly stating the “even higher” types of charities. Peretz and his Yiddish readers would have been familiar with the rabbi’s sermon from Maimonides’ Ladder of Tzedakah that regards anonymous giving as the third highest form of Tzedakah.
The most recent adaptation was written by the celebrated children’s author Eric Kimmel, most well-known for his folklore retellings. Kimmel veers off from Peretz’s original work, stating, “I let her [the old woman] dance in memory of the time when my grandmother, at eighty-five, pulled me out of a kitchen chair and tried to teach me to dance the Krakowska Wesele.” Kimmel also incorporates a Ukrainian drinking song sung before Rosh Hashanah every year. Although observant readers might have been offended by the mixed dancing sequence and elimination of Slichos for a drinking song, the crucial message remains, “The miracle is that there are no miracles. We don’t need them. Ordinary kindness and compassion are enough to save the world.”
Petra Dünges is one of a handful of European specialists in Arabic children’s literature and the translator of the first children’s book from Arabic to appear in the German language. Children’s books by authors and illustrators such as Walid Taher, Ihab Shakir, and Samira Shafik have appeared in her translation from the German publishing house Edition Orient. She presents books of Arab authors and illustrators, which would be interesting to children outside of the Middle East and North Africa at her website, www.petra-duenges.de/.
International publishers may ask her for preliminary translations of these books into German, for short descriptions, and for contact to the publishers of the Arabic originals.
The list of four:
(Author: Rania Zaghir, illustrator David Habchy, publisher: Al-Khayyat Al-Saghir, Beirut)
A picture book full of fantasy about the unrequited love between the shy Haltabees, an alien from the distant star Zoranees who has landed on earth, and the girl Lamees, who rejects the kind feelings of Haltabees, preferring the company of silly buffaloes instead. This sad but charming story is told in poetic language and with modern mixed-media illustrations with a Lebanese flair. For children and youth. Both author and illustrator come from Lebanon. A witty picture book by the same author with illustrations by Racelle Ishak has already appeared at Edition Orient, where it is now available in bilingual versions in 20 languages.
The Oppressed Princess
(Author: Ragy Enayat, illustrator: Helmi el-Touni, publisher: Dar al-Shorouk, Cairo)
A multi-layered tale about a courageous princess who opposes her uncle, a tyrannical king. The beautiful modern illustrations are inspired by traditional oriental art. The book can be read as a suspenseful story for older children but also as a political tale for adults about peaceful resistance against an overpowering despot. Both author and illustrator come from Egypt.
A poor man in Baghdad keeps dreaming of a treasure in Cairo which will make him rich some day. When he arrives in Cairo to search for his fortune, he is first beaten up by police, then thrown into prison and finally interrogated by a police officer. The police officer tells him about his own recurring dream of a treasure in Baghdad, declares the poor man to be crazy as he followed an empty dream, and sends him back to Baghdad. In the end, the poor man finds his luck, when he returns home. This story goes back to the Thousand and One Nights and beyond. It is retold for our modern times in a picture book with innovative and expressive illustrations. For the youth and for adults, for dreamers and for realists alike. The author comes from Lebanon, the illustrator from Syria.
This funny picture book with lively illustrations is a part of a series about adventures in the daily life of a little boy in Beirut. The protagonist is persuaded by his mother to eat up his disliked vegetables with the promise that he will get ice cream afterwards. Even though he eats lots of zucchini, his plate always stays full. And the phone keeps ringing all the time. What is going on? Both author and illustrator come from Lebanon.
Organizers announced yesterday that 16 titles had been longlisted for the first-ever Warwick Prize for Women in Translation, a prize that aims to “address the gender imbalance in translated literature and to increase the number of international women’s voices accessible by a British and Irish readership.”
The 2017 competition received a total of 58 eligible entries, and the longlisted works include 11 of prose fiction, two poetry collections, one work of literary non-fiction, and two children’s books!
Most of the books, unsurprisingly, were translated from European languages — German, Polish and Dutch were the most represented — with two others, translated from Russian and Japanese.
The two books for young readers on the longlist are both from Pushkin’s excellent new children’s book imprint. They are:
The Song of Seven by Tonke Dragt, translated from Dutch by Laura Watkinson (Pushkin Children’s Books, 2016)
Clementine Loves Red by Krystyna Boglar, translated from Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones and Zosia Krasodomska-Jones (Pushkin Children’s Books, 2016)
September is World Kid Lit Month, a time to notice if global stories are reaching kids in the form of translations. Translator is now a member category in SCBWI, and two translator members are Helen Wang, winner of the 2017 Marsh Award and translator of 2016 Andersen Award laureate Cao Wenxuan from Chinese—and Cathy Hirano, translator of two Batchelder Award winners, and of 2014 Andersen laureate Nahoko Uehashi from Japanese.
The Andersen Award, conferred in alternate years on one writer and one illustrator, is a prestigious prize sometimes dubbed the Nobel prize for children’s literature.
It is an honor to have the translators of the two most recent Andersen winners in SCBWI. Here, Helen Wang asks Cathy Hirano about her life, career and latest publication.
Helen: Cathy, it’s a pleasure to meet you on Skype. Please tell me your life story!
Cathy: I was born and raised in Canada, and lived there until I was twenty, when I went to Japan. It wasn’t really about going to Japan; it was more about how I was going to live my life. When I was twelve, I ran into the teachings of Baha’u’llah, a 19th century Persian teacher. His words resonated with me, in particular, “The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.” I decided that one day, when I was grown up, I would travel the world.
Helen: What happened when you were twenty that took you to Japan?
Cathy: I realized I was grown up! Instead of going to university (I didn’t want to study at the time), I had learned carpentry. But it wasn’t a good time to be a carpenter, let alone a woman-carpenter, because there were no jobs. My Japanese-Canadian friend wrote to me from France, saying her parents were moving back to Japan, and although she looked Japanese, she didn’t feel Japanese, and was scared to go. Would I go with her?
So I went to Japan, and stayed with her parents. My plan was to stay for a year, master Japanese, then go traveling, and master the language of every country I went to! But after six months in Japan, I realized that one year would not be enough to learn Japanese. By this time, I also wanted to study what makes Japanese and Canadian people so different. We feel the same emotions, things like love, sorrow and joy, in response to similar circumstances, and yet we express them so differently. So I went to university in Japan, and studied cultural anthropology.
Helen: Then did you go straight into translation?
Cathy: Not exactly. I went back to Canada, but felt I didn’t really belong there, that I wasn’t meant to be there. So I came back to Japan, and found a job translating for a Japanese construction company. They were doing international development work, and I was there for three years, translating project reports into English. I learned on the job, and my experience as a carpenter came in useful.
Helen: And you’ve been in Japan ever since?
Cathy: I’ve been in Japan for 39 years. I don’t feel particularly Canadian, and I will never be Japanese. Mostly I feel human. When you live with two cultures, it forces you to confront and let go of many assumptions. You belong to the world not to one culture. That’s probably why I enjoy translating.
Helen: I imagine you translate from home, mostly on your own.
Cathy: Yes, while I was working for the construction company, I got married, and when our first child was on the way, we decided to move out of the big city to a smaller one (the Japanese would call it a “rural” city) in southern Japan. When we moved here, I began translating freelance while raising the kids.
Helen: How did you start translating children’s books?
Cathy: A friend who worked for a Japanese publisher asked if I’d read some Japanese children’s books and give an opinion on them. I enjoyed that so much that when she asked me if I’d try translating, I said, “Yes!” It was just as well I enjoyed it, as there wasn’t any money in it.
Learning Japanese had expanded my ability to think and perceive things in different ways. I found working on children’s books an enriching experience. And through translation, I was in a position to give children another way of seeing the world.
Helen: When I myself started translating again after a long hiatus about seven years ago, it was a revelation to discover a friendly and supportive community of literary translators. I wonder if you have the same experience?
Cathy: Actually, until a few years ago, I didn’t know of any such community, and, living out in the “country”, I hardly ever met other J-E translators, let alone anyone involved in children’s and YA lit. Then, a few years ago, Avery Udagawa and Sako Ikegami of SCBWI Japan came to visit me, and invited me to a translators’ workshop. Thanks to Avery, Sako, author Holly Thompson and others, there is now a thriving kidlit translation community in Japan—the SCBWI Japan Translation Group.
For the translators, it’s wonderful to feel part of a community, to know there are others like you, where you can ask questions of all kinds and receive practical advice about contracts and copyright, things that before I had never thought to pay attention to. SCBWI Japan has organized workshops with translators, discussing and critiquing samples, introducing useful tools and so on.
Helen: I’ve noticed how dynamic the SCBWI Japan translators are!
Cathy: It’s a very inclusive group. There is a strong desire to provide opportunities for developing skills, for sharing knowledge, and for providing much needed moral support. There is so little out there for many of us. But they also see it as a platform to increase awareness of the role and importance of kidlit translation among people of related professions, including writers, publishers and agents. If we want quality translators and quality translations, we need to raise awareness of what translators do so that they can be recognized and compensated appropriately.
In recent years, dedicated SCBWI members have also introduced Translator as a third member category, along with Writer and Illustrator, and lobbied to have content for translators included SCBWI-wide.
Helen: Your most recent book is Yours Sincerely, Giraffe by Megumi Iwasa, illustrated by Jun Takabatake. Can you tell us a bit about it?
Cathy: It’s about a giraffe who writes to a penguin, and then decides to visit him dressed up as a penguin. But he doesn’t know what a penguin looks like, and he gets it wrong. But everyone has a good laugh about it, and everything works out fine in the end. It’s a lovely, warm, humorous book.
Helen: I heard there’s an interesting story behind the story?
Cathy: Yes, there is. Megumi was not a writer, but one day she dreamed that she published a book called “The Giraffe that Pretended to be a Penguin”. When she told her husband, he asked what the story was about, but she didn’t know! So she jotted her ideas down in a notebook and put it away, waiting until the time felt right.
After her two sons were born, she kept thinking of the story, but the timing still didn’t seem right. She tried drawing the story, but that didn’t work either. One day her husband bought a copy of A Picture Book of Fathers by Jun Takabatake. She loved his work. After that, whenever she thought of her story, she saw it with Jun’s illustrations!
One night, Megumi decided to read the giraffe story-so-far to her sons. By then, her youngest son was eight. “What happens next?” they asked, “tell us tomorrow.” This, she felt, was a sign that the timing was right and she completed the story.
Sometime later, she attended a storytelling event at her son’s school. And who should she meet there but the illustrator Jun Takabatake! He just happened to be visiting and had tagged along with the storyteller who was his friend. Megumi told Jun about her story. A few months later, he sent her an invitation to his solo exhibition in Tokyo, near where she lived. She went with her whole family, and Jun asked what had happened to her story. They exchanged a couple of letters, after which Jun asked if he could show the unfinished book to a publisher, and if the publisher was interested, if he could do the illustrations. And so the book came about. Megumi had never intended to be a writer, but a series of little miracles had made her one.
Helen: It’s funny how some things come into our lives, and stay with us, sometimes latent for years.
Cathy: Yes! And the story doesn’t end there! The Japanese edition was published in 2001. The publisher, Kaiseisha in Tokyo, and Yurika Yoshida at The Japan Foreign Rights Centre (JFC) worked together to promote it at book fairs. Somewhere along the way, someone also provided an English translation, but still no publishers expressed interest. One year, at the Bologna Book Fair, Yurika was yet again telling Julia Marshall at Gecko Press how humorous the book was, when Julia remarked that she had read the English, but didn’t find it that funny. Julia wondered why Yurika was so persistent in promoting the book.
Realizing that the humour was not getting through, Yurika and Julia decided to ask me what I thought. I found the Japanese very funny, in an understated way. The humour is in the situation, rather than in the storytelling. It warms the heart and makes the reader chuckle, rather than drawing out big belly laughs.
Humour, however, is one of the hardest things to translate. I decided to try my hand at it to see if I could get it across. Fortunately, it seems to have worked! Looking back over how the Japanese and English editions of this book came into being, I think that this story was meant to be, but it liked to take its own good time being born.
Helen: What is it that draws you to translating children’s books?
Cathy: There’s an innocence, a kindness, in some Japanese children’s books that I find inspiring. When I first came to Japan, it was understood that children were children; young children in particular were allowed to just be, whereas I came from a background where children were expected to behave almost like little adults.
I also think that books like Yours Sincerely, Giraffe speak to our common humanity. It isn’t being cool or sophisticated that brightens our lives—it’s things like the warm bonds of family and friendship and little acts of kindness that we do for or receive from others. Books like Giraffe also encourage us to enjoy and celebrate our differences, rather than fearing them.
I have received so much from being in Japan, and translating is a chance to give back. I hope to share through my work all the gifts I have received, to open a door for someone and let them see with a new perspective.
Helen Wang is the Marsh Award-winning translator of Bronze and Sunflower by 2016 Andersen laureate Cao Wenxuan.
It’s worth thinking about reasons why. First, English-language children’s publishing is, in general, linguistically insular. There aren’t a lot of translations of French or Spanish children’s books, either. Yet one can certainly expect a small but steady stream of titles from European and East Asian languages.
In part, this small-but-steady stream is because of established translators and established relationships. Tiny Owl is watching what’s new in Iranian children’s literature; Balestier Press is on top of new Chinese YA; North South has their eyes out for great European children’s literature. They know which translators are reading kid lit, and who’s got great taste.
If there is a publisher with a keen eye out for Arabic children’s literature, it’s unclear who they are. Moreover, there haven’t been — to the best of my knowledge — translators dedicated to finding their way around the world of Arabic children’s literature.
There have been a few books to make it across. House of Anansi published Fatima Sharafeddine’s Faten as The Servant in 2013. Sharafeddine translated the title herself. Orion published an adapted version of Maitha al-Khayyat’s Tareeqti al-Khasa, or My Own Special Way, as translated by Sharafeddine and “retold by Vivian French,” whose name gets the biggest billing on the cover. Illustrator Maya Fidawi doesn’t make the jacket.
Also, Neem Tree Press recently published Ahlam Bsharat’s Ismee al-Harakee Farasha as Code Name: Butterfly, translated by Nancy Roberts, a wonderful novel for young people that’s bursting with the questions of life, especially life in Palestine.
If the “what we need to know about them” genre of Arabic literature was the leading edge of the translation surge of the last two decades, then it’s possible we haven’t thought our children need to know about “them.” (Except, perhaps, a funny story about a girl who decides to wear hijab.)
There are award-winning children’s books — for instance al-Noqta al-Sooda’(The Black Dot) — although Andy Smart notes that Walid Taher’s Etisalat Prize-winning book is the wrong length for an Anglophone children’s book. Or Ehem.. Ehem.. Marrerni Men Fadlek (Ahem.. Ahem.. Let me Pass Please), also illustrated by Walid Taher. It’s hard to believe there’s anyone who doesn’t need more art by Maya Fidawi in their life:
Why translate the new flowering Arabic children’s literature into English?
Because the stories are fun, the illustrations are wild, the characters are heartwarming. Since the headline promised a list of eight new Palestinian children’s books that can and should be translated into English, without further ado:
رحلات عجيبة في البلاد الغريبة
Wondrous Explorations in Strange Nations
This Etisalat Prize for Arabic Fiction-winning novel (2014) takes us into wild adventures when a life is revealed to a university professor invited to attend a conference in Morocco, where she is handed an old manuscript on the life of “Qamar,” who is some combination of Sindbad, Ibn Battuta, Pippi Longstocking, and a figure from Palestinian folktales. Qamar travels dangerous waters and faces enslavement, danger, and hardships, but she also meets friends, loves, and sets out to travel strange lands once again.
This exciting book about one Palestinian girl seeking to stop the collapse of the boundary between djinn and human worlds, and save the universe, is a Harry Potteresque fantasy (she’s an orphan, she didn’t realize she had powers) set in the very real world of Palestine under occupation, where just getting across town can take more courage than meeting a djinn.
This is the first book in a trilogy, and readers are left biting their fingertips, wondering what will happen next.
This is a fabulous and fantastic story about Bulqash’s visit to an island full of wild rabbits that takes place on a certain day each year — the day of the first spring flower. Since it happens each year, they all wait longingly for the day, just as a child might wait for Christmas. It’s a story about longing, about play, and about what a source of amazement life can be, in its aspects both mundane and unique. Yara Bamieh plays masterfully with words and pictures, and the fact that Bulqash won the Etisalat Award for Best Production is no surprise.
بركة الأسئلة الزرقاء
مايا أبو الحيات وحسان مناصرة
A Blue Pool’s Questions
Maya Abu Alhayyat and Hassan Manasrah
Who is this strange man who goes around, alone and humming? Flowers grow out of his coat sleeve and everything he reads in books turn into questions that fall on the town. Together, these questions form a blue pond.
This book is almost like a philosophical meditation on man’s search for happiness. It hasn’t been easy for me to grasp, but every time I read it, I think more and more both about the text itself and about the amazing illustrations. The book is a work of art in itself and attracts really imaginative musings, both for children and for adults. This book won the Etisalat Prize for Best Illustrations.
فلفول في بيت الغول
مايا أبو الحيات واناستاسيا قرواني
Falful in the Troll’s House
Maya Abu Al-Hayyat and Anastasia Qarwani
Falful is a little mouse who lives with al-Ghul — the troll — and his three troll siblings: Maltoub, who’s afraid of the dark, Banurah, who’s always chewing gum, and Sansur, who’s always roaring with anger, causing havoc, and terrifying poor Falful. Should he be quiet as a mouse, as Maltub suggests, or should he yell back, as Banurah says? In the end, Falful asks al-Ghul for help, and the story ends just as well as any magic story can.
نصائح غير مهمة للقارئ الصغير
أنس أبو رحمة ولبنى طه
Unnecessary Advice for the Young Reader
Anas Aburahma and Lubna Taha
Although unnecessary, this advice can be just as amazing! Consider the following:
Do not read when you are hungry.
Do not read when you smell freshly baked bread.
Invite your favorite character to dinner with your family.
Don’t ask to become friends with your favorite author on Facebook.
Choose any book, but especially the one that you find in your grandfather’s room, or out on the street.
Don’t tell anyone what book you’re reading until you’ve read it.
Read to your dog!
If I had to pick one piece of favorite advice from all this, it would be the advice to google a photo of one of my favorite writers, memorize the picture, and draw it. The book includes a drawing of Mohieddin El Labbad (1940-2010), a great Egyptian illustrator, of whose illustrations I am inordinately fond.
ميس داغر وضحى الخطيب
The Gypsy Witch
Mays Dagher and Daha Al Khateb
This story begins with children talking about a frightening woman who must certainly be a witch, and everyone is frightened! She has large magic eyes, a nose as long as an elephant’s trunk, and teeth as sharp as a wolf’s. She surely eats kids, too! But fantasies rarely match reality, and these children’s fantasies turn out to be no more than imagination. One of the girls tells us she enjoyed the woman’s company on a bus, and although she first fearfully turned down an apple and an orange from the woman, she could not resist strawberries!
“Thank you,” she said. “Just one.” But it wasn’t long before together they had gobbled up all the strawberries, and the apple and orange besides, and the girl realized there was nothing to be afraid of! Moreover, it turned out they both had frightening fantasies of each other, and each had been just as scared!
قصر الأميرة بهرج
أحلام بشارات وريما الكوسا
The Palace of Princess Buhruj
Ahlam Bsharat and Rima Kusa
For the sake of a single bloom, the earth grew greenery… So begins this dreamlike story of a garden, a princess’s beauty, and how the love of a prince falls, as rain falls to the earth, as trees flourish, as the stars glimmer. The prince is looking for Princess Buhruj, and he struggles through the mist that settles over the mountains and builds a palace to capture the princess’s attention, a palace with windows that reflect the sun and moon. When spring arrives, everything is ready for the arrival of a princess.