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Emirati women (from left) Fatma Ibrahim, Hamda Al Bastaki and Fatema Al Kamali display their new children's books as part of the fifth Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in Dubai. Visitors to the festival said there were not enough children's books in Arabic to inspire youngsters to love reading. Sarah Dea / The National
Emirati women (from left) Fatma Ibrahim, Hamda Al Bastaki and Fatema Al Kamali display their new children's books as part of the fifth Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in Dubai. Visitors to the festival said there were not enough children's books in Arabic to inspire youngsters to love reading. Sarah Dea / The National

UAE's first-time authors debut at literature festival

Emirati authors base children's stories on their own lives in an effort to boost Arabic-language offerings.

DUBAI // Three young Emirati women showcased their debut books at the annual literature festival yesterday.

The five-day event aims to spark a love of reading and writing in young people.

One first-time author, Hamda Al Bastaki, told how her children's book was inspired by her own girlhood hatred of bath time, with her mother having to drag her to the tub.

"At university, we were asked to write a children's book as part of our final project," Al Bastaki said. "I tried to come up with many story ideas. I thought of writing about my hatred of taking a bath at a young age because I know many children do not like cleaning."

The book, I Don't Want to Shower, written with Fatema Al Kamali, is about a young girl named Sara who dislikes showering. After a nightmare about bugs being in her bed, she realises that the key to sweet dreams is keeping clean.

"We made sure that our book contained fewer words and more expressive illustration," Al Kamali said. "We drew the characters so that the child thinks the author is a child of his age.

Fatma Ibrahim hopes her debut book will encourage children to eat healthily, especially her own four-year-old daughter, Mahra, who loves junk food.

Mahra's Magical Tree is about an Emirati girl who takes shelter under a palm tree while waiting for her friends.

The tree is magical and will grant her wishes, and she asks for bars of chocolates and lollipops, which lead to cavities and obesity.

Mahra feels sad about her condition and asks the tree to return her to her former self.

"I wanted to help my daughter and others to cut down their intake of fast food," said Ibrahim, a nursery teacher.

"The story is a mixture of fantasy and reality because children enjoys fantasies."

The festival was well-attended by authors, students and book lovers.

Hind Ahmed Jamal, a first-year media student at the Higher Colleges of Technology in Dubai, expressed concerns during a question and answer session at the "Picture Books into Print" panel.

"It is known that the Emirati community do not read much," said the mother of two. "Because we weren't brought up to loving books at a young age."

Ms Jamal said she visited many book stores in Dubai and they lacked children's books in Arabic.

"I found some books but they were poorly written and not attention-grabbing," she added. She said that since the UAE was one of the fastest developing countries in the world, it should also develop quickly in terms of literature.

Bashayer Al Moosawi, a second-year media student at the Higher Colleges of Technology in Dubai, was inspired by the authors.

"Our country is competing with other international countries, which makes me proud," she said. "Things are changing for the better, gradually. I am proud of these young Emirati authors."

The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is at the Intercontinental Dubai Festival City until Saturday.

aalhameli@thenational.ae

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