Inspirations for Children’s Books in Saudi Arabia: Part 5: In our children’s Hands!

by Nojood ALsudairi, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Happy Eid after a long fasting month!

In our previous four blog posts, we shared some of the children’s books that our students at King Abdulaziz University wrote, illustrated and designed. While working on their books, they were influenced by a variety of children’s books from Arabic countries and chose several to write about in each blog. Their books are going to be published by KAU’s publishing house. In this post we focus on other books that we published during the past three years.

Our first book that was published is Alifon Laisat fi Baqarah Bal fi Insan (A is Not Found in Cow, but in Human), written and illustrated by a group of 45 students. The idea began with the owner of a small publishing house suggesting collaboration between the Childhood Studies Department and Kadi w Ramadi publishing house. Thuraya Batarji, the young owner of Kadi w Ramadi, showed us a book she bought from Hong Kong called ABC Hong Kong’s Biggest Alphabet Book (ISBN9789889932626). This book was created by “lots and lots of good people supporting the child development center.”

We loved the book and wished there was a similar book in Arabic, and so we decided to work on it. Students of the children’s books course in the first semester of 2008 were enthusiastic about the idea but soon we found out that enthusiasm was not enough for a job to be done appropriately. The following semester we decided to work on the book with a bigger group of students under the guidance of Mrs. Batarji. She brought us her page designs and students started working on the pages in groups of 3 to 5. They used different techniques of drawing and coloring as shown by Mrs. Batarji. Alifon Laisat fi Baqarah Bal fi Insan was published in 2008.

Our second book emerged from a 13-year-old girl who visited Kadi w Ramadi publishing house and asked why there wasn’t a book of virtue for children (Ketab fada’il lilatfal). Mrs. Batarji told me about that question and I remembered the Children’s Book of Virtue, (1995) by William J. Bennett and Michael Hague. After many discussions my students decided to collect folktales from different sources around us (our families, friends, books and web pages), group them into virtues, and write and illustrate them in small groups of 3-5. There were some administrative issues, so we decided to publish it through KAU’s publishing house.

This time students of the Islamic Arts Department joined our class. Each group chose three folktales of a virtue to rewrite and illustrate. Three T. A.s from the Islamic Arts Department helped with the chapter dividers and the cover page illustrations and Huda Flimban worked on the design of the book, Ketabu-lfada’il lilatfal (The Book of Virtue for Children). It was published in 2011.

The third book was written and illustrated by students of the first semester of 2008. The idea of the book was using the format of a child’s diary to highlight national identity. The book was the best project of that semester but the writing and illustrations were not publication material. We decided to rewrite and illustrate the book after getting students’ permission (Alaa Niazi, Bushra Althaqfi, Budoor Alghamdi, Haneen Nashar, Manal Alghamdi nd Ghada Aburukbah). I rewrote the book and Nisreen Bakheet, the Islamic Arts Department’s T. A. who worked with us on Ketabu-lfada’l lilatfal, reillustrated the book and Doaa Hammadi designed it. It was published on September 23, 2011, the Saudi national day.

The process of writing, illustrating, designing and publishing children’s books is rewarding (the gain is, of course, not a financial one). When we try to find our plots we look deeper into our children’s needs. Illustrating the books is a challenge for non experts as it makes them try out something they never dared to attempt and at the same time illustrating encourages us to “look” in new ways. We test the books with the children around us to see their reactions and sometimes we make major revisions because children liked or did not like something. With each book we learn about children and about books. With each publication we build a bridge between the university and the community.

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4 thoughts on “Inspirations for Children’s Books in Saudi Arabia: Part 5: In our children’s Hands!

  1. Mishael Alsudairy says:

    The best finale to a wonderful blog 🙂 I was very looking forward to today’s post and I just love it, because you talked about books which I already read so I could relate, in the previous posts you just made me more anxious to get my grips on your upcoming publications.. I wish I could redo my bachelors so I’d be a student of yours and actually do something I’m passionate about..

  2. Nahla Gahwaji says:

    Happy Eid for everybody wishing you Dr Nujoud and our beloved students happy and successful wonderful days
    Waiting for more creative ideas and thoughts. From the land of wonderful stories for all children from different generations and cultures (Germany) happy Eid 4ever

  3. Nadia Taibah says:

    Happy Eid everybody with happy end of this wonderful series of blogs . Best wishes for you Dr. Nujood and I know you will keep inspiring your students to come up with wonderful ideas that are effected and needed. I love today’s post because each one of the books has special memory.

    For more great work to come

  4. Hala Mirza says:

    I did not get the chance earlier to comment on these blogs… but now I am glad that I can do!
    It is no wonder to have such great outcomes from classes with Dr.Nojood as I was lucky to be taught by her and I know how inspiring she is.
    Later I got the chance to observe and have a close look at her classes of children’s literature course and at her students while they were working under her super vision. What you only can notice is the intimacy in the relationship between her and her students. This relationship plus the knowledge and great way of teaching is what gives the students the motivation to be creative (more than what they already are) and to have the freedom to suggest ideas that they never thought they could do.
    Who thought that one department at the university can publish 3-4 books per semester? This is an outstanding achievement considering these books the outcomes of students efforts only with Dr.Nojood directing them in every step.. And when I talk about efforts I mean huge efforts, these girls spent hours and days and weeks thinking about every tiny detail in these books, and they tried different versions of everything (text font, colors, papers, illustrations, the text itself, etc..) to make it look the best possible way the can.
    At the end, again it is not a surprise to see the success of all these books, because we know and we believe that Allah (god) will always prize those who work hard.. and Dr.nojood and her students worked the hardest!! Congratulation on publishing these books, and waiting for more to come.

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