x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Dh1m for children's book prize winners

The inaugural Etisalat Prize for Arabic Children's Literature goes to a Lebanese entry.

Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed listens to pupils from the Victoria International School of Sharjah read at the opening of the Book Fair.
Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed listens to pupils from the Victoria International School of Sharjah read at the opening of the Book Fair.

SHARJAH // The inaugural Etisalat Prize for Arabic Children's Literature has gone to a Lebanese entry. The author Nabeeha Muheidli, her illustrator, Nadine Saidani, and publisher, Dar Al Hadaeq, share the Dh1 million (US$272,000) prize. The award was presented yesterday by Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed, the Ruler of Sharjah, who is an honorary member of the Arab Children's Book Publishers Forum.

The ceremony was held during the opening of the emirate's annual World Book Fair, which runs from November 11 to 21, at the Expo Centre Sharjah. Muheidli, who was awarded the prize for her book Ana Ohib - or I Like - said winning made her "as happy as a child when they are reading their favourite story". Dar Al Hadaeq will receive half the prize money, which was put up by Etisalat. The other Dh500,000 will be divided between Muheidli and Saidani, who both attended the award ceremony.

They said the money would help them with new projects. "A child responds to a book using all five senses so the most important thing is the way it is produced," said Muheidli. "The colours and the images must be high quality and the pages must be thick. This money will help very much with that." Ana Ohib is the last in a four-part series for children aged four to six. It tells the story of how each animal has a different favourite colour and why that animal chose that colour.

Muheidli said the book was primarily intended to fire children's imagination rather than be purely educational. "I have five children and I draw my inspiration from their world," she said. "I try to keep things simple and don't look at the overall message when I am writing." Khaled Bilbeisi, the vice president of the forum, said Ana Ohib captured the elements the judges were looking for. "Her book is very good, it is well coloured and illustrated and it is full of good ideas," he said.

"The criteria of the prize was a book that married content with form and was of a high quality. Ana Ohib was chosen because it met all of these conditions." Mr Bilbeisi said the annual prize would prove "very important" for the future of Arab children's literature." At the moment there is a gap between international books for children and those from the Arab world," he said. "Most publishers simply translate foreign works but this brings in issues of copyright and content.

"It is not the right way to push the industry forward. We need good books by Arab authors for Arab children." aseaman@thenational.ae