NOVEMBER 2, 2021 — For the first time, the Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature announced a winner in their all-new Comic Book category, at the opening of the Sharjah International Book Fair in the Emirates. It was 70 Kilometers, a comic for young readers written by Weeam Ahmed, illustrated by Ali AlZeeni, and published by the Egyptian house Alia Publishing and Distribution.
According to prize organizers, “Love, in the eyes of Weeam Ahmed, is a force. For every action, there is an equal & opposite reaction. This is what his story shows us, where different circumstances take our young hero on an unplanned journey to visit his friend, who, at the same time, is on a journey towards him. The story is full of pictures of postage stamps, bills of lading, signatures, different weights and many shipments that come and go from north to south, captured by the hands of the creator Ali Al-Zini.”
There was no Comics shortlist this year; judges chose only a winner.
In the other categories, however, winners — announced today in Sharjah — were chosen from among shortlists announced last month.
The winning book for the 2021 Young Adult category was Egyptian author Afaf Tobbala’s Small Escape, illustrated by Mariam Hani, published by Nahdet Misr.
According to prize organizers, “Difficult dilemmas and trying times fall under the responsibility of a young boy. Afaf Tobbala demonstrates family complications that place the reader in the heart of the story, allowing us to feel right alongside the main character. Spread across its pages, we find Mariam Hani’s powerful illustrations that keep the emotion of the story alive and with us as we move through the book.”
Tobbala, a prolific author of literature for young readers, also won the Etisalat Award’s “Best Children’s Book of the Year” prize in 2013 for her Rod of Racemes.
The winning book in the 2021 Chapter Book category, also a first this year, went to The Orange Ball, written by Tamara Qush’ha and illustrated by Yeganeh Yaghoobezhad. It was published by the Jordanian house Al Yasmine Publishing and Distribution.
Of this book, prize organizers said, “In an exploration of the different ways we see traditional life in a village versus contemporary and modern existence, Tamara Qush’ha perfectly embodies the mind of a young boy who reflects on this topic with his own, unique perspective. Its fun-loving character drawings by Yeganeh Yaghoobezhad allow us to see the world through a child’s eyes, marvellously capturing what we imagine when we read the text.”
The winning book for the 2021 Picture Book category was The Superhero, written by Emirati author Naseeba Alozaibi and illustrated by Hassan Manasrah, published by Dar Ashjar, of which organizers said: “In a lesson about life’s sudden twists and turns, Dr. Naseeba Alozaibi uses her fruitful language to tell us a deep and emotional lesson, that even superheroes can have downfalls that change our lives paths. Its beautifully detailed illustrations by Hassan Manasrah tell us a deep story about the main character, allowing us to experience his journey right alongside him.”
Finally, the winning book in the Early Reader category was ABZ, by an all-Lebanese team: author Samar Mahfouz Barraj, illustrator Sinan Hallak, and publisher Dar Al Saqi.
Prize organizers said that, “A lesson in the Arabic alphabet, Samar Mahfouz Biraj teaches us about our Alafs, Ba’s and Ya’s using the names of animals. A book that teaches the early reader aged 0-5 to master the art of the alphabet, it breaks down a topic that is essential for those learning to read. It is accompanied by its light-hearted illustrations by Sinan Hallak that are equally as essential and helpful as the written text.”
The prize will give out a total of 1.2 million UAED (around 280,000 Euro) to this year’s winners, with 180,000 dirhams allocated to each category, to be shared equally by the author, illustrator, and publisher, except in the YA category, which is shared only by the author and publisher.