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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