Doha’s International Book Fair: A Focus on Children’s Lit

Many around the region—and the world—are familiar with Qatar’s existing and planned art museums, sometimes framed as a prestige-hungry competition with the UAE, and sometimes, as last week in the NY Times, framed as a reshaping of national identity.

But, while book fairs in the UAE’s Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah have made international headlines, relatively little has been said about the Doha International Book Fair, underway now.

Surely that’s been with reason. The Doha International Book Fair is “the largest one in the country,” and there seem to be some interesting Turkish-literature events, with Turkey as the festival’s 2010 “guest of honor.” But the most interesting story
I’ve seen from the 10-day fair is one that tends more toward art than literature: The Peninsula reports that Ptolemy’s Geographia is on sale for 1.2 million Qatari riyals.

Other collectors’ items—a 1561 edition of a Giacomo Gastaldi map, rare volumes on Islamic art—are on sale from the Netherlands-based Antiquarriat Forum.

The Gulf Times coverage also focuses more on Qatari artist Yousef Ahmad, who has an art installation at the fair, than on, well, books.

Yet the 2010 launch of the major Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing project promises to change Qatar’s role in the region’s literary landscape as well. And, in that vein, 2010 is the first year of Doha’s International Children’s Book Fair.

Event organizers have invited major children’s book authors to Qatar: award-winning Arabic authors Walid Taher and Fatima Sharafeddine, illustrators Sirine Matta and Lujaina Al Assil, and UK authors Debi Gliori, Sally Grindley, Chris Riddell, and Paul Stewart. There will be a number of story-telling sessions and talks for children: for the earliest readers to those who’d be interested in Sharafeddine’s new YA novel, Faten.

Later today, I will be traveling to Qatar to follow the fair. ISA, I’ll be uncovering new children’s lit over at Read Kutub Kids, and seeing what’s to be seen on the grown-up side as well.

If you’re interested:

You can follow events on Twitter via the hashtag #DohaBookFair.

You can also follow Bloomsbury Qatar at @bqfp and award-winning children’s book author Sally Grindley at @foreverfirst as she posts about her experiences in Qatar.

And, as I said, I’ll be there.