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.” Continue reading

Inspirations for Children’s Books in Saudi Arabia: Part 4: A Part of a Whole

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

The plot of our fourth book, Rammula (Little Grain of Sand), started with an idea of a child looking at a part and judging the whole according to his/her own perception of the part. After many discussions the idea changed to a focus on how the small details that we usually ignore can cause major events. For example, a small nail is the reason for studying a large art work hanging on a wall. The group decided to read some more picture books to develop their idea.

Annuqtatu Assawdaa (The Black Dot) by Waleed Tahir (Egyptian), (2009, Dar Ashorooq, Egeptian) is about a big black dot appearing suddenly on the playground of a neighborhood to disturb children’s play. The children first accept its presence, but then they decide to demolish it with hard work and patience. The group liked the way the writer presented his idea in a simple way. The ending of this particular book inspired them to write about a little piece of grit. They liked the simplicity of the illustrations as well. (See review of this book). Continue reading

Inspirations for Children’s Books in Saudi Arabia: Part 3, Thobe Recycling

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

University students meet in small groups to write and illustrate picture books in my children’s literature class in Saudi Arabia. The best of those books are published and distributed through the publishing house of KAU (King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah). Each week, this blog focuses on one of the group’s experiences of producing a picture book and shares the books that inspired the group.

The idea of the book by Effat Basudan, Arwa Alghamdi, Reham Alotaibi, Shuroog Alshehri, and Nisreen Basalim was originally to focus on the feelings of objects. They decided on a t-shirt to be the main character of their book. They discussed many plots such as the feelings of t-shirts when getting dirty, washed, and worn many times. The group agreed that a t-shirt does not reflect the Saudi culture so they changed the character to a thobe (Saudi men’s white dress) and the ideas they discussed eventually led them to write about recycling. Continue reading

Inspirations for Children’s Books in Saudi Arabia: Part 2, Misho and His Laughter

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

Happy Ramadan.

Students in my children’s literature course in Saudi Arabia work in small groups to write and illustrate their own picture books, some of which are now being published for broader distribution in my country. Each week, the processes of one group are highlighted in this blog along with children’s books from the Arabic world that they found useful in their writing process. One group of students chose the character of the picture book they were working on before deciding on the plot. While watching a YouTube clip of six-year-old Mishaal (M1SH000 as the name appears in YouTube), who was making fun of Saudi children’s books, Tasneem Alqahtani, the group’s illustrator, was inspired by his spirit and comments. She tried sending him good picture books from Saudi but he refused to give her an address telling her that he is in the process of writing his own children’s books now.

The group chose the character of Misho (a nickname for Mishaal) as the basis for their book’s main character. After filling up the character card that we use for all our books, Tasneem drew the main character:

The group had no idea where their plot would go, so they decided to keep on reading children’s books, hoping that an idea would emerge from their readings. Continue reading

Inspirations for Children’s Books in Saudi Arabia: Part 1, Objects and Feelings

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

The focus of this month’s blog is our work in writing and illustrating books for children in Saudi Arabia and on children’s books available from the Arab world. We want to share our process of developing picture books within a children’s literature course to be published for a wider audience. We believe that children’s literature courses and universities can play a role in helping countries develop books for children that reflect their language and culture. Continue reading

The Dreamer, Part IV: The Political Nature of Writing

by Carmen M. Martínez-Roldán, University of Texas, Austin

Is fire born of words? Or are words born of fire?

In this 4th and last blog about The Dreamer I invite a reflection on the political dimension of writing. In the novel, Muñoz Ryan describes three incidents that help the reader gain insights into Pablo Neruda’s view of his vocation as a writer.

When the newspaper office was set on fire, Continue reading

Reader Response: Sketch-to-Stretch with The Dreamer

by Carmen M. Martínez-Roldán, University of Texas, Austin

Here are my graduate students’ responses to The Dreamer in sketch format. Each of these sketches is unique and they represent a range of meanings and interpretations reminding us of how we as readers bring to reading our own experiences and histories (Probst, 1990; Rosenblatt, 1976) as readers and individuals.

As it is reflected in the responses to the first two blogs and in these sketches, the Father figure in the story impacted my students’ reading in different ways. Continue reading

Reader Response: The Dreamer Part II

by Carmen M. Martínez-Roldán, University of Texas, Austin

This week we aim to have an online discussion of The Dreamer. A small group of students from Teachers College participating in a course on Latino literature, will share their responses to the novel. Please, join our discussion. One of my favorite scenes was the interchange of gifts between Neftalí and an unknown child through the hole in the fence of the backyard. Continue reading

Reader Response: The Dreamer

by Carmen M. Martínez-Roldán, University of Texas, Austin

During the month of July we want to invite readers to respond to the 2011 Pura Belpré Award winner, The Dreamer (2010), written by Pam Muñoz Ryan and illustrated by Peter Sis. Based on events of Pablo Neruda’s childhood and inspired by his poetry, Pam Muñoz created a fictionalized account that offers adolescent readers the opportunity to meet one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century: Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971.

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Responding To Literature as A Community: Transactions with When You Reach Me

By Andrea García, Hofstra University

Happy summer to the kids of New York City.
Read for joy.
Write for yourselves.

Rebecca Stead ( )

It is officially summer! As the school year comes to an end, and teachers pack up their classrooms, I have selected to focus my last blog entry for the month of June on sharing examples of a multimodal response project created by teachers to the 2010 Newberry award-winning book When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. This book was one of the choices I made available to teachers in my Children’s Literature course this past spring, and since it is a book that invites us to consider the possibility of time travel, why not use Stead’s work as inspiration as we imagine what we will do, what we will read, and what we will write this summer.
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