Planet Picture Book


I have been wanting to feature picture books by Syrian book creators on the blog for a while now, but have held off due to the lack of titles available in English. I, alas, have no grasp of Arabic, the official language of Syria.

A couple of books have been on my radar. The Jasmine Sneeze by Nadine Kaadan features Haroun, a cat in Damascus that absolutely loathes the smell of jasmine, and decides to do something about it. Last year, Kaadan released a second title with Lantana Publishing, which she translated from the original Arabic. Tomorrow provides a unique insight into the life of a young boy and his family in war-torn Syria.

On the recommendation of Karen Van Drie (@worldlibraries on Twitter), I also purchased Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey, by Canadian author Margriet Ruurs, a picture book with stunningly original stone artwork by Syrian sculptor Nizar Ali Badr. This title is published by Orca Books.

But I held off featuring Syria until this year when I learnt that Darf Children’s Books, a small indie press in the UK, was due to publish two children’s picture books by authors and illustrators I had not previously heard off. The Dot is by award-winning Syrian author/illustrator Gulnar Hajo, who has published more than 20 books for children. As I learnt in this World Kid Lit post, Hajo is also the co-founder of Bright Fingers Publishing House and Pages Bookshop – actually two Arabic-language café bookshops that cater to Arabic-speaking refugees and immigrants in Amsterdam and Istanbul. Hajo also illustrated Nour’s Escape by Syrian author Abir Ali. Both titles have been translated from the Arabic by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp. I will be reviewing them on the blog in the coming weeks.

It is very exciting to see a handful of picture books by Syrian creators make its way into English. I hope there will be plenty more to come in the future!

Here are the three titles I’ll be reviewing over the next couple of weeks:

The Dot by Gulnar Hajo, translated from the Arabic by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp (Darf Children’s Books, 2019)

The Jasmine Sneeze by Nadine Kaadan (Lantana Publishing, 2016)

Nour’s Escape by Abir Ali, illustrated by Gulnar Hajo, translated from the Arabic by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp (Darf Children’s Books, 2019)

[Image: Bakdash Damascus by Michal Unolt made available under a creative commons licence. Source:]

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