Last month saw the release of what’s perhaps the first Arabic children’s book in English translation to arrive in 2017, Maya Abu-Alhayyat’s exciting and award-winning The Blue Pool of Questions, illustrated by Hassan Manasrah and translated by Hanan Awad:
This book, which won a 2016 Etisalat Prize and made ArabLit’s list of 8 New Must-translate Palestinian Books for Children, came out from the Oklahoma City-based Penny Candy Books and comes with its own website (www.bluepoolofquestions.com) and an activity guide for schools.
“The book,” as librarian Elisabet Risberg wrote on ArabLit, “is a work of art in itself and attracts really imaginative musings, both for children and for adults.”
Or, in the words of author Naomi Shihab Nye:
Maya Abu-Alhayyat’s haunting, evocative text and Hassan Manasrah’s exquisitely gorgeous art combine to make a book worth holding very close. Give it to all your friends, big and little. We meet a man who lives his whole life with questions, then simply dives into them. He reminds us of the people we love most. He is the sea and the sky. He is Palestine and the United States and anywhere else you ever loved that did not quite live up to Best Dreams of Justice and Fairness. Children, who carry the most wonderful questions of all, will not be confounded that this book actually does not ask a single one. It respects that you will have your own. Thank you, Debwania, for your gracious translation. I love this book with all my heart.
One hopes this — along with Ahlam Bsharat’s Code Name: Butterfly, trans. Nancy Roberts, and Fatima Sharafeddine’s Faten, trans. the author — are part of a vanguard of Arabic children’s literature soon to be seen in English.