x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Kite story wins Dh1m book prize

Award-winning book tells the story of an orphan who releases her worries by flying a kite.

Students walk past a display of author Amani Al Ashmawi and illustrator Hanadi Sleet's book Fly Away Kite at the Sharjah Book Festival.
Students walk past a display of author Amani Al Ashmawi and illustrator Hanadi Sleet's book Fly Away Kite at the Sharjah Book Festival.

SHARJAH // A children's story about an orphaned girl who rediscovers her zest for life with a little help from kites has flown off with a Dh1 million prize.

Teari Ya Tayara (Fly Away Kite), written by the 64-year-old grandmother Amani Al Ashmawi and published by Egypt's Nahdet Misr Publishing House, was yesterday named the winner of the Etisalat Award for Arabic Children's Literature, one of the world's most valuable book awards.

A giant cheque was presented to the publishing executive Dalia Ibrahim by Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed, Ruler of Sharjah, on the opening day of the Sharjah International Book Fair.

"I'm proud my ideas and way of writing have been recognised," said Ms Al Ashmawi, speaking from her home in Cairo.

"The book is about an orphan who went to live with some of her relatives and met a boy who helped her to adjust to her new life and get rid of her sad thoughts.

"He gives her the idea to write her sad thoughts on a kite and then fly the kite so all the sad thoughts fly away."

Half the prize money will go to the publisher and the other half will be shared equally by Ms Al Ashmawi and the book's illustrator, Hanadi Sleet.

But the author, who has three sons and six grandchildren, has no plans to splash out. "I think I'll give most of the money to one of the cultural societies in Egypt," she said. "Maybe I'll keep some of it because I'd like to publish my own books."

The publisher, Ms Ibrahim said: “It feels great to win this prize, I was not expecting this very much because five publishers were on the shortlist so the probability was just 20 per cent. I was one  of three publishers shortlisted for the prize two years ago and I was 100 per cent sure that I was going to win then, but I didn’t.

“So this time I didn’t raise my expectations very much in order not to have the same feeling as before.

“The great thing about this book is that the author wanted to change the way of thinking of the kids. Whenever they have a real problem that makes them feel sorry and cry a lot they can think about it differently. They can forget about these bad things and move along and love their life, this is the main message of the book.

“There are other messages, like that you have to help others when you have this positive feeling, you have to be positive towards others and help others out of their problems.”

The prize was launched in 2009 by Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan al Qasimi, a daughter of the Ruler of Sharjah, to improve the quality of children’s literature.

Nominated books have to have been originally written in Arabic, rather than translated from another language, and their content must conform to the values, traditions and customs of Arab communities.

csimpson@thenational.ae