The 2016 Sharjah International Book Fair opened this morning with a ceremony celebrating the fair’s 35th year, when it’s grown to an estimated 1.5M titles and 1,400 separate events:
The winners of the 2016 Etisalat Prize for Arabic Children’s Literature were also announced, with a return win for Egyptian artist Walid Taher, who previously took the prize with a book he wrote and illustrated, The Black Dot. This year, he took the “Children’s Book of the Year” prize with Ehem.. Ehem.. Marrerni Men Fadlek (Ahem.. Ahem.. Let me Pass Please) along with Nabiha Maheddle, who did the text.
The Young Adult Book of the Year went to veteran Egyptian children’s-book author Rania Hussein Amin, author of the popular Farhana series, for her Sorakh Khalf Al Abwab (Scream Behind the Doors).
Best Text also went to an Egyptian writer, Amal Farah, for her Areedo an Akoon Solhafat (I Want to Be a Turtle), illustrated by Osama Abu Al Ola.
Best Illustration went to Hassan Manasrah for Berkat Al Asela Al Zarqa’a (The Pool of Blue Questions) written by Maya Abu Alhayat, published by The Palestine Writing Workshop – Dalia Association, and Best Production also went to a Dalia Association book: Bolqosh, written and illustrated by Yara Bamieh.
This is a major prize: The “Children’s Book of the Year” is valued at 300,000 dirhams, to be distributed equally between the publisher, author and illustrators; the “Young Adult Book of the Year” is worth 200,000 dirhams, distributed equally between the author and publisher. The “Best Text,” “Best Illustration,” and “Best Production” categories are to be presented with 100,000 each.
New Reading Law: A Game-changer?
There was also discussion of the ambitious new 18-point Reading Law, unveiled October 31, and its potential to be a game-changer in the Emirates. The most complete overview of the law is available through the Emirates News Agency, although it is unclear whether “all” refers to all residents or all citizens.
It is an ambitious plan, with a taxation exemption for books, lauded by the International Publishers Association; guaranteed reading time set aside at work; book packages for newborns and toddlers; additional support for libraries, as well as books “out in the wild,” such as in cafes and malls; support for reading programs and libraries in prisons and hospitals; support for children with reading challenges; support for volunteer programs where volunteers read to the elderly and disabled; and more.
There is still some question about how it all comes together, but the buzz from publishers and fair-goers was positive and hopeful.
New Developments in Children’s Literature: Easy Readers
Salwa Books launched their new series of easy-reader chapter books — a stepping stone between picture books and novels — with two titles written by Taghreed Najjar, a two-time Etisalat Prize shortlistee, and illustrated by Maya Fidawi and Zeinab Faydee.
Both books have straightforward language, good plotting, and charming, child-centric illustrations and are appropriate for children who are reading independently, 7-11, but aren’t ready for novels.