The Etisalat Prize for Arabic Children’s Literature today released its five shortlists on a short video posted to Facebook:
The prize has six categories: Young Adult Book of the Year, Best Text, Best Illustrations, Best Production, and Digital Book App of the Year. There is also a “Children’s Book of the Year” award, a top prize worth 300,000 AED.
This year’s YA category includes several authors who frequent prize lists: It’s Jordanian author-publisher Taghreed Najjar’s third time on the Etisalat YA shortlist; Sonia Nimr won the prize in 2014 with Wondrous Explorations in Strange Nations; and Fatima Sharafeddine’s Ghady and Rawan was shortlisted in 2013. Her moving novel Faten, which centers around a teen who works for a Beirut family as their servant, has been translated into English as The Servant.
Rania Zbib Daher, also on the list, has previously won awards for her picture books, including the charming Dajaja Bak Beek.
This year, the YA shortlist:
Taghreed Najjar, ستشرف الشمس ولو بعد حين (The Sun Will Shine Some Day)
Fatima Sharafeddine, كابوتشينو (Cappuccino)
Sonia Nimr, طائر الرعد (Thunderbird)
Rania Zbib Daher, عندما تجمعنا الحياة (When Life Brings Us Together)
Ali Abdel Qader Hammadi قصص الأمثلة الإماراتية للكاتب (The Stories Behind Emirati Sayings)
Sharafeddine’s Cappuccino, a story written around domestic violence, has been previously reviewed on ArabLit. Nimr’s sweep-you-off-your-feet Thunderbird is first in a trilogy that follows Noor, an orphan who struggles to understand her special powers as she learns she must join forces with djinn and help save the world (and, as a complicating factor, must do so while she battles checkpoints and other difficulties inside Palestine).
The illustrations in Daher’s When Life Brings Us Together are unmistakably by Walid Taher, who previously won the Etisalat for his The Black Dot.
The other shortlists:
Among other notable books: Taghreed Najjar made two shortlists with one of the new chapter books for emerging readers, What Happened to My Brother Ramez. This charming book made both the “best production” and “best text” shortlists. The book, for ages 6-9, follows a young boy who is (at first) distraught when his big brother gets engaged. It’s illustrated by the brilliant Maya Fidawi, who also made the “Best Illustration” shortlist for her Sheep of the Seventh Day and she’s the illustrator of “Best Book” prize shortlisted Something in My Hand.
Three companies are vying for the “Best Digital Book App” prize, from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.
In a shift from some previous years, the five-person jury is being kept secret, according to a news release, “to ensure the integrity of the process of evaluating the submitted entries and the deliberations to decide the winners of the various categories.”
According to news accounts that didn’t mention any of the shortlisted books, “Most entries came from Egypt with 31 submissions, followed by Lebanon with 30 entries. The UAE submitted 28 entries, Jordan 16, Palestine 11, Iraq seven, Saudi Arabia five, Morocco four, Syria three, the US making its debut with three, Kuwait and Tunisia’s submissions totalled two, Oman with a single entry; and the UK and Cyprus — who are both participating for the first time — with one each.”