White Ravens: Arabic

10 books      

Jordan (Arabic) - 2000 - 247
Naǧǧār, Taġrīd 'Ārif an (text)
'Ābd-as-sāhib, Lamyā' (illus.)
al-ǵ ūl
(The man-eater)
'Ammān: as-Salwā, 1998. 23 p.
(Ahsan Sadīq)
(In Arabic letters)
Stranger - Stereotypes - Prejudice - Fear - Xenophobia
Hasan encounters a monster called »Gul« (»maneater «) that is feared by the whole village. When Hasan tries to speak with him, he learns that Gul himself is afraid of the boy and, in fact, of all people who have two eyes instead of one and who - worst of all - like to eat »Guls.« Thus he discovers that people and this strange creature share the same fears and prejudices although they only know each other by hearsay. In the end the »monster« becomes Hasan's friend and helps the village inhabitants with their work.This argument against fear of the unknown and maintaining prejudices about being different is accompanied by easily understandable color illustrations. (5+) ☆

Egypt (Arabic) - 2003 - 241
Šarūnī, Ya‘qūb aš- (text)
Tūni, Hilmī at- (illus.)
Aǧmal al-hikāyāt aš-ša‘bīya
(The best traditional fairytales)
Al- Qāhira : Dār aš-Šurūq, 2001. 84 p.
ISBN 977-09-0696-4
This anthology features six traditional fairytales adapted for younger and older children. Of special interest for non-Arab readers are not only the imaginative, suspenseful stories but also the fact that one repeatedly comes across elements familiar from fairytales of other cultures – take, for example, the fairytale Hadaya Fayruz, in which a sorceress grants a childless couple their wish for a baby and in which the king’s son, changed into a dog by a bad spell is saved by the love of a young woman who accepts to marry him. The large-format book is illustrated by many colourful, decorative pictures, which present a highly successful blend of Arabian traditions and modern graphic art. (10+)

Lebanon (Arabic) - 2004 - 244
Mahīdlī, Nabīha (text)
Aṣīl, Luǧaina al- (illus.)
Gassān ya‘rif māhuwa ahlā makān
(Gassan knows the most beautiful place)
Beirut : Dar al-Hādā’iq, 2002. [16] p.
(Maktabatī al-ūlā ; 4)
Child – Grandmother – Nature – Security – Home
This picture book deals with two essential (and sometimes conflicting) experiences of children: the desire to explore the world and the reassuring feeling of being at home somewhere. Gassan lives in his grandmother’s house. One morning, he sets off to search for »the most beautiful place« of the village. During his ‘expedition’, he passes a mountain, a garden full of animals, a valley, and a river. Each time, he is convinced that exactly this place is the loveliest of them all – until he returns home again, hugs his grandmother, and says: »All the places in the village are beautiful, but my favourite place is here with you!« The Syrian artist has illustrated the text with tender and cheerful drawings. (4+)

Palestine (Arabic) - 2004 - 245
Muhammad, Zakariyā (text)
‘Abūšī, Samih (illus.)
Nammūlah : hikāya ša ‘bīya bi-tasruf
(Little anty)
Rām-Allāh : Mu´assasa Tāmar lit-ta ‘lim al-Muǧtama‘ī, 2003. [24] p.
Folk tale – Desire to have a child – Ant – Metamorphosis
This Oriental folk tale, different versions of which are popular in Arab countries and Iran, plays with a motif that is reminiscent of Hans Christian Andersen’s folk tale Thumbelina and the Grimm Brothers’ Tom Thumb. A woman is desperately longing to have a child, even if it were only as small as an ant. Her heart’s desire is fulfilled. She indeed gives birth to an ant. Although tiny, the ‘daughter’ helps her mother with household chores and, as promised, the woman loves her tenderly. In the end, her love and affection are rewarded: When the mother washes her ant-daughter with oil, she turns into a real girl. The colourful illustrations are created in a simple and folkloristic style that perfectly matches that of the folk tale. (5+)

Egypt (Arabic) - 2005 - 244
Tāhir, Walīd (illus.)
Al- Aġbiyā’
(The idiots)
Al-Qāhira : Dar-aš-Šurūq, 2003. [24] p.
ISBN 977-09-0961-0
Envy – Greed – Argument – War
Two people, a fisherman and a farmer, live peacefully side by side. Yet suddenly, each of them craves for his neighbour’s possessions even though they both get by well enough with what they have. They start stealing, fight each other fiercely, and this eventually leads to war, destruction, and death. In the end, one thing is clear: The world could be much more peaceful if it wasn’t for the humans. The pictures, created by the well-known Egyptian illustrator Walīd Tāhir, clearly stand out among other children’s books from his country. With its energetic, expressive, wild pictures in strong suggestive colours, this parable without words shows in a simple yet powerful way how much suffering people can cause out of envy and greed. (5+) ☆

Lebanon (Arabic) - 2005 - 245
Rizqallāh’, ‘Adlī (text/illus.)
Hikāyat šagartān
(The tale of the two trees)
Bairūt : Asāla, 2004. [28] p.
ISBN 9953-445-83-4
Religion – Islam – Christianity – Peace – Tolerance
Lebanon is a country where different ethnic groups, religions, and cultures coexist. The scars of the civil war that the country had to endure for 16 years before it finally ended in 1991 are slowly healing. This picture book is a plea for Christian and Muslim people to live together in peace. A mosque and a church are standing side by side, yet they are completely separate. In front of each building, a tree is growing. Thanks to the sun’s powerful rays, the two treetops grow towards each other until their boughs intertwine. Small children will easily understand the symbolism of this simple tale. (5+) ☆

Egypt (Arabic) - 2006 - 243
Šākir, ‘Īhāb (text/illus.)
Hikayat al-Malak Bkjjjr
(King Bīr’s story)
al- Qāhira : Nahdat Misir, 2004. 24 p.
ISBN 977-14-2911-6
King Child – Arbitrariness – Responsibility
A ten-year-old prince is suddenly made king and has to rule his country. Unable to cope with his new role, the boy abuses his power by creating new orders and laws as he pleases. Thus, for example, he decrees that all houses be painted orange, that people be only allowed to wear clothes of a certain colour, and that donkeys be made to wear pointed hats. Only when a little girl utters the wish that the young king may grow up immediately and act accordingly and this wish comes true – does the situation of the king’s frightened subjects change for the better. This story, accompanied by colour illustrations in an Oriental style, discusses the wise and responsible way of using one’s power and the value of individual freedom and a person’s rights in an original and easily understandable way. (7+)

Egypt (Arabic) - 2006 - 244
Šārūnī, Ya‘qūb aš- (text)
Misrī, Hānī al- (illus.)
Ahlām Hasan
(Hassan’s dream)
al- Qāhira : Dār Ilyās al-Asrīya Lit-Tibā‘a wa-n’ Našr, 2004. [48] p.
(Mağmū‘at Šahrzād)
ISBN 977-304-096-8
Human being Metamorphosis – Curse – Love
In countless fairy tales all over the world, human beings are turned into animals. This well-known motif of metamorphosis is often part of a love story, as indeed it is in this narrative, which is inspired by an ancient tale from the Arabic culture. Searching for a device for turning copper into gold, a young man arrives at a remote village cursed by a magic spell. There, he falls in love with a woman with wings and feathers. After he has freed her from the curse, further complications arise, until eventually he decides in favour of his wife and love instead of gold or wealth. The atmospheric illustrations consist of a mixture of water colour and pencil drawings finished on computer. They are reminiscent of illustrations from ancient Arabian folk tale collections. (9+)

Lebanon (Arabic) - 2007 - 243
Muḥīdilī, Nabīha (text)
Zahr-ad-Dīn, Ḥassān (illus.)
Mādā yurīdu Yāsīr an yaqūlu?
(What is Yasser trying to say?)
[Bairut] : Dār al-Ḥadā’ik, 2006. [20] p.
ISBN 9953-464-00-6
Child – Emotions – Fury – Anger – Crying
Little Yasser is quite a cry-baby. Even minor things easily upset him, and tears are his only means to express his worries and fears, his wishes and anger. When his parents leave him at home alone or whenever he screws things up or breaks something, words simply seem to fail him. Taking the boy’s story as an example, this picture book encourages children to think about themselves and about how they deal with their own feelings. The lively colour illustrations accompanying the simple text emphasise the characters’ gestures and facial expressions. Thus, the child’s adventures and his emotional world are commented on in an amusing and ironical way. (5+)

Lebanon (Arabic) - 2007 - 244
Tūmā, Nadīn R. L. (text)
Maḥmūd, Arīǧ (illus.)
Hal hadihi ṣūra šamsīya?
(Is this a passport photo?)
Bairūt : Dār Qunbuz, 2005. [56] p. + CD
ISBN 9953-465-01-0
Perception – Curiosity – Question
This book asks a number of unusual questions, such as »Are leaves the trees’ noses?« or »Why doesn’t a ladder connect the earth and the sky?« At first glance, these questions may seem bizarre, yet they are actually just an invitation to explore the world with open eyes and a lot of curiosity. Readers will have to find the answers themselves, assisted by imaginative, vivid black-and-white drawings aesthetically reminiscent of comic strips and animated films. On many of the double pages, pictures are arranged next to each other similar to cartoon sequences. In addition to the questions and pictures, the book also includes an audio CD with atmospheric, mysterious electronic sounds underlining this picture book’s playful nature. (8+)