NOVEMBER 2, 2022 — Today, the Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature — one of the biggest prizes for Arabic literature for young readers — announced the winners of their 2022 prize during the opening ceremony of the Sharjah International Book Fair. Prizes were given out in four categories: Young Adult, Chapter Book, Picture Book, and Early Reader. The prize in the fifth category, Comic Book, was withheld.
The winner in the Young Adult category was Palestinian author Anas Abu Rahma’s I’ll Start Now, Can You Hear Me?, which was illustrated by Lubna Taha and published by Dinason Books. Abu Rahma is perhaps best-known for his YA novel The Yellow Corn Inn and his picture books With All the Love in My Heart, I’m Soooo Hungry and A Story About Seen and Lam, which was a previous winner of the Etisalat Award.
According to prize organizers, in the book, “We follow Fatima, a young girl from a remote village who recently lost her mother. She and her mother always dreamed of her attending school, at a time when it was not easy for girls to travel to small schools in isolated villages. This novel explores how we can use loss to chase our dreams and tell our own stories. By drawing a parallel to the harsh reality we live in, the writer inspires children to dream big and keep trying to achieve their dreams regardless of obstacles”
The 2022 winner in the Chapter Book category is Whisper of the Trees, written by Fai Musa, illustrated by Fatima Madi and published by Dar Asfar. Organizers write that, “While Salma’s mother leaves to study abroad, she & her father travel to her grandmother’s house in Abha. There, she discovers her culture & heals from her emotional wounds by listening to the whispers of the trees.”
The 2022 winner in the Picture Book category is Kingdom of Antekh, written by Manar Hazzaa, illustrated by Basma Hosam and published by Al-Alia Publishing House. According to organizers, “The entertaining book follows the king of Antekh as he embarks on a culinary journey in search of an official dish for his kingdom. Will this lead to an exclusive meal for Antekh and what will it be named?”
The 2022 winner in the Early Reader category is How Do You Feel Today?, written by Masarra Touqan, illustrated by Haya Halaw and published by Kalila wa Dimna Publishing House. Organizers write that, “The beautiful story explores the wavering feelings of a little boy named Khaled during his daily life. However, he notices that the one emotion that never changes is his love for his parents and family.”
This year, organizers said, there were 276 submissions from 20 countries. The winners of each category are given AED 1.2 million to split between them. The prize, launched in 2009, “aims to provide an incentive for publishers, authors, and illustrators to publish Arabic children’s books and apps that are of the highest quality in both form and content.”