Germany’s Arabic Children’s Literature Festival
The Arabic Childrens Literature Festival held recently in Munich presented a selection of recommended children’s books in Arabic. When little Karim lies in bed at night he sees strange shapes in the dark, damp stains on the ceiling. Characters that take him along on adventures in another world. But one evening, the shapes have gone – his father has painted over the stains. Karim is sad, but then he turns to pen and paper to write down the experiences of his imaginary friends.
“The Creatures on the Ceiling” (Kanat saqf al-ghurfa) by Nabiha Mheidly has sold 12,000 copies, making it one of the most popular Arabic children’s books. It has been chosen as one of 40 recommended titles for young readers up to the age of ten.
Munich’s International Youth Library recently (11/12 April) presented their selection at the Arabic Children’s Literature Festival, held at the city’s Gasteig cultural centre. The catalogue is the first outcome of a three-year project (2017-2020) aiming to call attention to Arabic-language books for children and young adults.
As well as evaluating the books literary and educational value, the initiators hope to build networks with publishing houses, writers and editors in Arabic-language book markets.
So far, Arabic children’s books have been all but invisible in Germany. There are almost no translations into German and very few resources for Arab families in the country’s libraries. The only exceptions are a handful of bilingual children’s books published by Edition Orient and Baobab
The International Youth Library intends to close that gap. All the selected children’s books are outstanding in terms of language and content. They feature stories, fables and fairy tales from the Arabic narrative tradition, picture books and fictionalised historical stories about Ibn Battuta, Ibn Sina (Avicenna) or Sinbad the Sailor. The titles have all been published since 2015 and are beautifully illustrated.”We want to know what stories are told to children in the Arab world,” said Christiane Raabe, the director of the International Youth Library, at the launch event.