The EBBY Launch on Monday, May 23, had a packed house and an audience of publishers, famous and emerging authors and illustrators, critics and academics, and many more in attendance, all eager to hear EBBY’s plans for the future, or just eager to partake in the post-launch buffet … we were offering cake. EBBY’s panel was comprised of Dr. Nadia El Kholy, our fearless leader; Dr. Ulfat El Shiaty, founder of Shoura Foundation for Development, our generous patron; Shahira Khalil, founder of Samir Magazine; and Dr. Yasmine Motawy, the brains behind the operation. Later, the panel hosted the talented Egyptians that were nominated by the Egyptian section of IBBY to represent the best of Egyptian children’s literature in the last two years: Affaf Tobbala (nominated for IBBY’s prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award), Yacoub El Sharouni (recipient of the IBBY Certificate of Honor for Writing, for Laylatul Nar), Yasser Gaessa (recipient of the IBBY Certificate of Honor for Illustration, for Sana fi Qena by Hadil Ghoneim), and Abier Megahed (absent but honored in absentia as the recipient of the IBBY Certificate of Honor for Translation, for Altemsah wa Alzarafa Sadikan Haqan by Daniela Kulot). Please note that the above honorees were selected by the Egyptian section of IBBY in recognition of their skills in a work that they produced within the last two years; alternatively, depending on which version of reality you lean towards, they were selected by means of the Harry Potter sorting hat.
Our EBBY panel explained the vision of EBBY and its next steps as it boldly sets forth on its mission. To summarize, in 30 seconds or less: During this past year, we’ve put ourselves back on the map, after lingering for a few years in cryogenic stasis post-revolution. We got our new lease on life thanks to the patronage of Shoura Foundation for Development and an energetic new board compiled of qualified children's literature academics, professionals, publishers, and more, all completely dedicated to the cause … or tricked into doing so. We’re gearing up to host seminars and workshops for writers and illustrators, and anyone else with a vested interest in the field—keep your ears pealed for Dr. Motawy’s upcoming seminar on how to win the Hans Christian Andersen Award (she was a juror in the last ceremony, so girl is legit). We are attending conferences, such as the IRSCL 2015 Worcester, UK, and IBBY 2016 Auckland, New Zealand; so those frequent flyer miles are getting a good workout. Furthermore, we’ve coordinated with Shoura to launch a writing competition called Ardena, on the racy topic of agriculture, but more on that later.
After we waxed poetic for a good portion of the evening, we reluctantly passed the mic over to our celebrated honorees. Who passed it down the panel like it was a hot potato, until it landed with Yacoub El Sharouni. Mr. El Sharouni became quick friends with the mic and settled in for a good talk, raising a number of important issues. He spoke of the need to translate research on children's literature and award-winning children's books. He commented on the importance of prizes as they help publicize books and authors. And lastly, he spoke of the importance of professional criticism in the field of children's literature in Egypt. There was more, but you missed it.
During the Q&A, several important points were brought to light. Here’s a highlight reel: The once popular Children's Book Fair was remembered and many asked for its return. Publishers such as Nahdet Misr offered their full support for EBBY and the support of an active community of stakeholders in the field of children’s literature in Egypt. Dr. Hussein Banhawy offered to return all the books that belong to EBBY back to the organization again … we’re holding him to that. The need for critics and researchers was once again reiterated, because international recognition of local talent hinges on having a healthy academic and critical foundation to bolster and support that talent. Last, there was a general feeling that problems relevant to children were not being addressed in current children's literature, and we need that relevance and those real-world connections to boost the love of reading in children. Or we need to bribe our kids to read.
All of the above was instantly forgotten when the buffet doors opened. There was a vicious stampede to get to the food and the cake was decimated in seconds. I’m happy to report that I managed to salvage a crumb. It was very tasty.
When the 35th IBBY International Congress came to an end I’m sure that all the attendees were in agreement that it was a great success and that they will miss New Zealand.
A great deal of interesting talks and seminars were held. What stands out were talks by Sir Richard Taylor, producer of Lord of the Rings, Katherine Paterson, author of Bridge to Terabithia, Leigh Hobbs, author of Mr. Chicken Lands on London, and many more. Librarians from Australia and New Zealand explained new techniques they used to encourage children to read such as categorizing books according to interest like pets or football. The amount of research and information about the development of children’s literature was incredible.
The 5-day conference concluded with a Gala dinner where all 500 attendees from around the world were in attendance. It was a real pleasure to have the Hans Christian Anderson Award Winner, Chinese Cao Wenxuan, give his remarkable acceptance speech. The winning illustrator, German Rotraut Susanne Berner was regrettably not in attendance, but sent a beautiful, personally illustrated video for all of us to watch as her acceptance speech.
All IBBY member states signed off the week by voting on changes in author and illustrator dossier content and submission requirements. Further details will be announced on the official IBBY site.
Once again, EBBY partnered with Dr Yasmine Motawy's AUC Community Based Writing for Children course on the 16th of April to facilitate a special community engagement day at the Samir Workshop at Samir Magazine, one of Egypt's oldest (since 1956). The Editor-in-Chief Dr Shahira Khalil is also a dynamic EBBY-er. The children who attended were mostly residents of the popular Sayeda Zeinab area where the historic Dar El Hilal is. The writers worked with the children to develop their fantastic storytelling abilities, to dramatize the story of Dum-ta-ta-Dum by Hans Christian Andersen nominee Afaf Tobbala, and talk to parents about the power of bibliotherapy. It was an inspiring day, the writers, as usual, going home with altered perceptions, a fresh outlook on who their potential readers are and what readers want.
For the 2016 Hans Christian Andersen Award, EBBY nominated Egyptian author Affaf Tobbala. Tobbala has worked in Egyptian Television as a director, screenplay writer and producer, and only started writing for children in 2005 at the age of 64.
In 2005 she collaborated with renowned painter, Adly Rezkallah, to produce her first book The Silver Fish, which was given an honorable mention in the New Horizon's category of the Ragazzi Award, and received the Egypt's Award for Children's Literature (then called the Suzanne Mubarak prize). Since then she has published over a dozen books for different age groups. A number of her books were selected for distribution to primary and middle school libraries on the national level and her first novel, The House and the Palm Tree, was included in the Arabic Language curriculum at a number of high schools.
EBBY’s Dina Elabd interviewed Tobbala and asked her about her journey to becoming an author of children’s books.
Dina Elabd: What is your opinion on children’s books in Egypt?
Affaf Tobbala: There has been a lot of growth in the past few years, and yet there is a great deal of potential for further growth. I appreciate literature more than the didactic side of books. If you have good intentions, then they will come out in story. Language, story, characters, dialogue, etc is all important. How to make the emotional connection etc… Many people don’t pay attention to it and don’t think children can understand this. So they usually put non-literature-like topics.
Elabd: Which of your books is your favorite, or are you most proud of?
Tobbala: Similar to the saying “Who is your favorite child? The one who get’s sick until he is better, or the one who is traveling until he is back?” I love my books that were not fully appreciated, though I felt they deserved an award. Such as Awrak adeema (Old Papers) and Enshudat el awda (Homecoming Song).
Elabd: Why did you start writing for children, when it wasn’t your background?
Tobbala: I married young at 18, so I didn’t have time to tell stories to my kids. But when my daughter had children, I would tell them stories and they seemed to like it. So when they got older, they told me to write these stories.
Elabd: Who is your favorite children’s writer or what is your favorite children’s book?
Tobbala: I hadn’t read any of these when I started writing. I read Le Petit Prince with my daughter, and very few other things. I would read adult literature. I felt it was important to write for children, as the didactic stories would make me angry. I liked funny things. All the stories are repetitive, basically the same story… like based on princes, judges, khalifas, and men with three children.
Elabd: What do you think is the most important thing in books for children? What do children like?
Tobbala: I believe good children’s books are also loved by adults. The child is a human at the end of the day—he will like mystery, he wants to feel emotions, and care for the characters. Like El beit w el nakhla (The House and the Palm Tree), which is read even in the German School and Hayah International Academy, although it’s a story about an old woman. So you don’t have to write about children for children. I don’t write what kids like, but I will make them like it through my story-telling techniques.
EBBY’s Laura Kfoury interviewed Abier Megahed, nominated for the IBBY Honor List 2016 in the translation category for Altemsah wa alzarafa sadikan hakan (Crocodile and Giraffe—Real Friends) by Daniela Kulot, about the challenges and rewards of the art of translation.
Laura Kfoury: What languages do you translate into and from?
Abier Megahed: I translate only from German to Arabic.
Kfoury: What do you like most about translating? Least?
Megahed: I like the challenge most when it comes to using simple language for children and yet not losing the spirit of the original text. I do not like typing very much, though it is less of a problem when it comes to children's books.
Kfoury: What is a translation-related lesson you've learned on the job?
Megahed: You have always many options for one translation.
Kfoury: What are some criteria for evaluating the quality of a translation?
Megahed: It has to be accurate, flawless, mirroring the original text in its spirit.
Kfoury: Should a good translation faithfully capture the original text, or add something to the original?
Megahed: It should faithfully capture the original text if possible, and add something to the original if necessary. But most of all, it should capture the spirit of the text.
Kfoury: What linguistic qualities are the hardest to translate from German, into Arabic?
Megahed: Cultural differences with a certain inherent vocabulary that does not exist in the target language are a major challenge. For example, snow and all that’s associated with it, or festivals, customs and traditions. Also idioms and figures of speech can be a challenge. But a good translator always finds a solution; therein lies the art of translation .
Kfoury: What are the online tools that you find the most useful in translating?
Megahed: There is a website called arabdict
http://www.arabdict.com/. It is a kind of online dictionary.
In 2013, when EBBY first re-emerged under the patronage of the SHOURA Foundation for Development, the board produced a makeshift logo to tide it through its growing pains. In 2016, ready to shed its infancy, EBBY tasked the creative minds in FP7 Mena with producing a new logo—which they agreed to do pro bono!—with the proviso that beyond being elegant and memorable, it had to achieve the following: to recall IBBY, our international umbrella organization—without imitation; to convey a love of reading; to appeal to children of all ages; and to reflect our Egyptian identity. Mission impossible … but, mission accomplished. Thank you FP7 for our new EBBY cartouche logo, we are deeply grateful! As an added bonus, we got an adorable pharaonic cat to keep our logo company.
A noteworthy chapter in our journey to a new logo was an EBBY logo competition launched in 2015 by AUC professor Nagla Ismail. Her student finalists truly impressed us with their innovative and playful designs, featured below. We thank them and the other student contestants for their wonderful creativity and effort.
This year EBBY’s jury (including two outside jurors) had a particularly challenging time selecting books for the IBBY Honor List, but not for lack of choice; rather, we’re spoilt for choice. Egypt has not submitted Honor List selections since 2012 (see previous Egyptian Honor List candidates on EBBY’s website) and since then, Egypt has seen a number of excellent works produced.
EBBY, therefore, proudly announces its biennial Honor List selections for 2016:
The Center of Languages and Translation is in charge of a publication entitled ALROWAD: The Eminent Scholars Series. Dr. Amani Badawy, the Chair of the Center, offered to publish one of these volumes (Volume 9) in honour of the late children's author Abdel-Tawab Youssef. This volume will cover different aspects of his work: as a storyteller, scholar, playwright, novelist, translator, writer, and teacher. His friends, students and members of staff of the Faculty of Arts, both senior and junior, are invited to send their contributions.
In addition to the section on work by Abdel-Tawab Youssef, the book will also print papers of a more general nature dealing with all aspects of children’s literature.
Please send your proposed title, abstract and bio this week to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contributions (in Arabic or in English) should not exceed ten pages.
Submissions will be refereed.
EBBY's Yasmine Motawy sat on the distinguished ten-person Hans Christian Andersen Award 2016 Jury, which met in January to judge the nominated authors and illustrators. Motawy is a children's literature scholar and translator, and Senior Instructor at AUC.
EBBY will host a seminar in 2017 on the Andersen Award submission criteria and guidelines, and Motawy will share her experiences as a jury member for this prestigious award. Stay tuned on EBBY’s website and Facebook page for further details.
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