Reviewed by Ekram Abdelgawad
Written and illustrated by Malak Mattar
Published by Crocodile Books, an Imprint of Interlink Publishing Group
Translated from Arabic by Interlink staff
“Sitti, are we in a cage too?’ Malak asks her grandmother, reflecting on how their life in Gaza is like the life of her grandmother’s caged bird. Gaza is certainly much bigger than the birdcage, and it includes more than two million humans, but with the family under bombardment, Malak feels trapped. However, as Sitti is a wise grandmother, she tells little Malak that she can feel free in her dreams.
Sitti’s Bird begins with a happy Palestinian family dressed in cheerful colors, living an ordinary life in Gaza, despite a siege of more than sixteen years. Malak loves her life in Gaza, especially traveling to Gaza’s sea to go fishing, for family gatherings, to eat traditional Palestinian food, and to play with her school friends. Yet all that suddenly stops when airstrikes begin. Malak begins to feel caged when she and her family are confined to their home for 50 days because of the bombardment. The only outlet for her roiling emotions is paint and a brush. With them, she draws a whole new world free of fear, bombings, and cages.
This story draws on the reality of Gaza under siege, with symbols of hope woven in: Sitti as a symbol of ancestors, land, and history, and Sitti’s white bird is a symbol of freedom.
Ekram Abdelgawad holds a PhD in translation of children’s literature with first honors, English Department, Faculty of Arts, Sohag University, Egypt, 2018. She taught English as a foreign language to children in Egypt for 16 years. She was an English lecturer at King Khalid University, Saudi Arabia for five years and taught translation at Faculty of Languages and Translation, Pharos University in Alexandria, Egypt for more than two years. She is currently an independent researcher in translation of children’s literature and freelance translator of children’s literature (English/Arabic). Her fields of interest are translation of children’s literature, translation studies, translation theories, and Arabic language.