A Review of the Winning Books of the 3rd Ed. of the ACBPF Award 2016

A Review of the Winning Books of the 3rd Ed. of the ACBPF Award 2016

A Review of the Winning Books of the 3rd Ed. of the ACBPF Award 2016
Reviewed by:
Yaqoub Al-Sharouni
Mr. Sharouni presents a review of the three winning books of the 3rd edition of Arab Children's Books Publishers Forum (ACBPF) Award for Best Book of the year 2016 in three categories: early childhood stage (younger than 6 years), middle childhood stage (6 - 9) years, and adolescence (12 – 16) years.

"Atfi Al-Anwar"
(Turn the Lights off) by: Maitha Al-Khayat
Illustrator: Gustavo Aimar
Publisher: Kalimat Publishing UAE
This book won the Book of the Year Award for early childhood, a rare category among other Arab Children's books. The subject is very age-relevant; a child who does not feel sleepy and refuses to go to sleep because he wants to keep on playing with his baby animal friends. He sneaks out to play with them at the stable; a common behavior among toddlers and preschoolers.
"Atfi Al-Anwar" has recurrent words and phrases to help toddlers and preschoolers acquire new vocabularies like "Excuse me!"; "May I...?"; "I am sorry"; "my baby is asleep"; and "Please, turn the lights off". The Arabic names for each baby animal and the names of their sounds are found throughout the story although they may not be used in children's everyday life at home. Sharouni wonders whether it is age appropriate to use the story to introduce these words at such an early age.
However, Sharouni complements the illustrator for writing the sounds of animals and birds in their drawings exactly how a preschooler would hear them in real life: MO, MO for cows, MAAAA for sheep, WAK WAK for ducks, and BAK.BAK.BAK for hens. Toddlers and preschoolers find these sounds fun and adorable to say over and over again.
The illustrator has succeeded, adds Mr. Sharouni, to provide (11) average sized scenes in addition to (4x) zoomed-in portraits which are perfectly easy to comprehend for little readers. The storyboard starts with a panoramic detailed illustration of a farm spreading over the first two pages. However, avoiding such general scenes in other pages throughout the story is one great feature of this book. Otherwise, a child under 6 years-old would be overwhelmed by details. Another great age-appropriate feature of this story is the use of short phrases and abstaining from using too much pronouns and conjunctions, thus simplifying and shortening sentences to suit early childhood apprehension. Besides, the author uses simple vocabularies from everyday life which are common to preschoolers.
"Atfi Al-Anwar" indeed presents toddlers and preschoolers an attractive, comprehensible, and outstanding story making it worthy of ACBPF Book of the year Award.

"Warqat Al-Hayat"
(The Leaf of Life), by Amira Al-Marzouqi
Illustrations: Ahmad Suleiman
Publisher: Al-Alam Al-Arabi for Publishing and Distribution
Winner of ACBPF Book of the Year Award for middle childhood
This book is an example of creativity and innovation. It is about a tree leaf handpicked by a little girl to make it as a bookmark for her diary.  The little girl's emotions, sincere feelings, and goodness give life to the leaf retaining its freshness and color. The young girl later moves the leaf to live among stories and encyclopedias. When people read books in which the leaf resides it grows roots and branches and turns into a small plant. It is moved onto the dining table and later to the garden. The more people read around it, the bigger it grows. More people come to read under its shadow, until one day it becomes the center of a large open-air library for the whole city. "It is an innovative and unprecedented idea" says Mr. Sharouni, "which encourages young readers to love books and be passionate readers."
Mr. Sharouni is mesmerized by the "Warqat Al-Hayat" illustrator's innovative ability to portray an amazing life cycle of the leaf turning into an aging tree while maintaining a distinguished character for the leaf. The illustrator's genius lies in using miscellaneous Arabic calligraphy art as backgrounds for pages.
"Warqat Al-Hayat" is a book where a story about the passion of reading is complemented by the innovative use of Arabic calligraphy as an authentic aesthetic component of the book's illustrations. In addition, printing, bookbinding and color separation precision all come together along with the innovative story and illustrations to compose an attractive aesthetic invitation into the world of reading.
"Nozol Al-Zorah Al-Safra"
(Yellow Corn Motel), by Anas Abu Rahma
Publisher: Al-Ahlia for Publishing and Distribution
Winner of the ACBPF Book of the Year Award in the adolescents' books category
The real protagonist of the story is neither the motel nor the surrounding corn fields which are threatened to destruction and requisition by businessmen. It is a little girl named Mina whose diary accompany the reader throughout the story telling stories about "Souki" the dog, and "Siso" an old and sick lion. Mina embodies intelligence, imagination, creativity, talent, mystery, compassion, and an extraordinary love for scientific thinking. Mina is hilariously preoccupied with experiments and foreseeing outcomes in spite of her teachers' bewilderment about the futility of these experiments.
"Nozol Al-Zorah Al-Safra" is characterized by reliance on narrative techniques rather than on plot which makes it closer to postmodern literature. However, the subsidiary economic detective plot allows readers to explore potentials, emotions, intelligence, scientific thinking, and love for animals among various characters.
Mina's adolescent brother, who dropped school early in his life to help his family run the motel, narrates the story. Narration is closer to poetry, imaginative, and sentimental. The text provides wonderful portrays with descriptive words. The narrator implicitly sends a hidden and sometimes humorous invitation to read, "I loved reading because of Mina and the books she kept bringing from the school's library for me to read." Later he adds, "Actually, it was Mina's diary which got me attached to reading, I have peeped at it since I accidently found it under her mattress".
At last, the subsidiary conspiracy against the peasants establishes a narrative and descriptive background around characters and scenery.
In fact, "Nozol Al-Zorah Al-Safra" indeed needs to be read again and again in order to unlock its hidden secrets which make it worthy of the ACBPF Award.

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