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What a Story: Children’s Literature Today

Love and Sexuality in Children’s Literature in Lebanon (Katty Khattar)




Why do we write for a child? So that he would read when he is an adult? To help him acquire certain knowledge? To help develop his personality? If all this is the case, what do we write about? About what the child likes, or what he cares about, or what helps him to acquire experience in life? Writing for children is a very delicate matter because the ideas and words we offer them stick in their mind and very much influence their thought. If stories help the child to identify with their protagonists and imitate them, it is necessary to deal with all possible subjects in these stories. So why should love and sexuality be left out? Does the problem lie with the language or with the society? This study deals with the following subjects: - Introduction: the influence of reading on the child and developing his personality - The importance to the child of dealing with love and its different aspects - The problem of taboo in our society - The problem of the Arabic language and its difficulty with dealing with certain subjects such as love - My experience as writer in dealing with love as a subject and its language. - A comparison between several Lebanese and foreign stories dealing with love and sexuality. - My study has reached the conclusion that this subject is almost totally absent in modern stories, although love was very present in the old folk tales that are an essential part of our cultural heritage. Our folktales dealt with love and our forefathers neither found this to be a problem, nor did they shy away from telling their grand children about the heroes’ love and their endeavors to reach the loved one in spite of all the dangers. However, instead of showing some progress, today’s stories completely avoid certain subjects. 


Italian picture books represent our society (Eva Montanari)

life-lines in literature (Beverly Naidoo)

Conflict in Syrian children’s stories (Bayan Safadi)




The Arab and Palestinian-Zionist conflict is an important subject in children’s stories in Syria, mainly for patriotic and national reasons. This conflict was either treated in a direct, fiery way, or with a calm, humane tone. That is why public opinion and the realistic image of the Fida’i and martyr in our daily life plaid a role in those stories in developing a political interest. Because of this, war, conflict, the enemy, the pain of displacement and violence were prominent in many stories, for the authors felt it their role to instill the values of patriotism and resistance in children. In Zakaria Tamer’s works this conflict plays a major role, his stories based mainly on defending the right of the Palestinians and Arabs, with a clear call for armed resistance, as, e.g. in the story of The House. It was severely attacked in the Israeli press which accused the author of racism. Besides his constant call for freedom and resisting the enemy as we see in his stories: Why is the river silent? The sword and the plow ,The sword and the rose, The sword and gold, The enemy, and The forefathers’ horse. However, in Abd Allah Abd’s work, we find a general picture showing faith in one’s country and the importance of defending it, clearly stressing peace and all that encourages it, as well as love of work and protection nature, alluding to the enemy through several human and animal examples as in First of all the hand and The sheep fights. Prominent in Leyla Saya’s stories are love, beauty and cooperation, an excellent example of which we find in her story The soldier in which resistance comes to signify something humane, transparent and sensitive. I, personally, published my first stories influenced by the Arab-Israeli conflict, and what was taking place in the world between nations and the colonizers. Thus I published stories directly treating this issue such as The new demonstration, A Palestinian feast, Upside down thought. And I wrote about our people’s heroic deeds under French occupation, as in Morels’ cat, The shoe’s heroism, and A Garden. In our conflict with the enemy, children’s stories were infiltrated by ideas that should not be encouraged or supported, such as the exaggerated propagation of violence, or considering the “other” to be different due to dissimilar color or belief. 


Occupation in Palestinian Children's Literature (Sawsan Mrouwah)




This study concentrates on Palestinian children’s stories that deal with occupation in order to picture this occupation, its violence, and the displacement resulting thereof , etc. It shows how all this is represented in children’s stories. The study endeavors to answer the following questions: - What is the role of literature? To show the world as it is or as it should be or how it could have been? Do the children’s stories picture war and violence and their results as they are in reality, or as they should be dealt with? - On which subjects do they concentrate more than on others? Those that give the child hope in a better future (the idealistic texts as they are sometimes called) or those that are realistic and picture reality in all its darkness and tragedies? The stories we analyzed differed in their way of presenting the issues of occupation, resistance to it, the thirst for freedom, and the defense of the cultural elements in the Palestinian identity. Most of these stories could not liberate themselves from a direct, straightforward way of addressing these issues, and they were closer to political inflammatory slogans lacking much of the beauty of language and style, and fell in the trap of imitation and tradition. But most of these stories could render what the children felt of pain, suffering and thirst to live out their childhood far from wars and violence. However, the stories and novels addressed to young adults had characteristically childish examples of aspiring to resistance and liberating the country from the occupier. 


When Erich Kāstner (Ute Krause)

Children’s Culture in Iraq (Intilaq Muhammad Ali)




- The first phase (1969-1979): The magazine Majjalti was issued addressing children under 12. After one year the first issue of Mizmar was issued addressing the young up till 17 years, after which a series of stories from both these magazines was published - The second phase (1979-1985) was the golden phase in which “Dar Thaqafat al- Tifl” was founded which was a beacon in children’s culture, and had the advantage of freedom and money. - The third phase which was the beginning of the regression due to the government’s restriction of funding. 1986 -1991 the Iraqi war took place which exhausted the government economy and led to reducing the activities of the “Dar”, as well as the deterioration of its publications after it was subjected to the government’s censorship glorifying the many patriotic events and imposing ideas of war. Between 1991 and 2003 after the second Gulf War and the imposed embargo, life was completely changed, and this had a great effect on the “Dar” and with cultural damage to more than 4 million children. The last part of this phase started when the government fell and Iraq became occupied. This worsened the state of the “Dar” for its publications became very irregular. Still, a few positive things took place: 8 issues of Majallati, 7 of Al-Mizmar, and 10 books from the children’s library series were published. Modest Iraqi studios appeared that produced cartoons completely done by Iraqis. And the door was opened to publishers and private institutions supported by various sources. Several NGOs appeared, some of which disappeared while others remained, such as The Iraqi Center for Children’s Culture, and this helped to reinvigorate children’s culture with the help of cadres from Dar Thaqafat al-Tifl and others. Among the non-governmental magazines that are still being issued are: Furat, Habeebi, The Bird. 


Censorship of Children’s Books in Lebanon (Fadia Hoteit)




Censorship is a double edged power: it prevents and protects, and in this lies its danger. For while appearing to prevent and being imposed from outside, at the same time it is welcomed because it protects. The internal censorship in Arab societies is harsher than the external one. Suffice to look at the amount of what is written concerning the censorship of writing, speech and behavior (clothing, food, customs etc.) most of which are not censored by exterior factors, and it is enough for Arab thinkers to reflect deeply for them to realize the number of preventions they are subjected to whenever they want to freely express themselves. Until now Lebanon has enjoyed a large amount of freedom compared to the other Arab countries due to the variety of its population and the difficulty of having them subjected to one exclusive trend. But how does this open and diversified Lebanese society censor children? How does it educate them to later become citizens succumbing to their society’s traditions? Do we expect to find little censorship because of the limited social space given to children? Or, on the contrary, do we expect strong censorship preventing children from crossing the boundaries set for them? The study is based on a number of interviews with writers and publishers of children’s books hoping to discover what this field is subjected to. Various kinds of censorship have been found: self censorship (fear for the children, the writer’s moral and religious background, the traditional attitudes, etc.) and the external censorship imposed on them (by the state and public security, by society and the parents, by the market). The factors governing censorship of writing for children in Lebanon are: - forbidden subjects: violence, sexuality, confessionalism, politics, parents, etc. - Money: the writers; and publishers’ economic worries - Artistic considerations: the form and print and their relation to the local environment - The educational aspect: the necessity of having educational aims - Complying with modernity: the common social stereotypes. 


Daddy splits himself into four A contemporary domestic tale seen from children’s point of view (Mathilde Chèvre)

Parental roles between two generations (Nafila Dhahab)




The object of this paper is to see how the role of the family is presented to children, and to point out to what extent the stories are partial to one role or the other, and what is the concept they present of the family. By analyzing the books written by authors from two generations and both sexes, it also seeks to trace the basic changes the Tunisian family underwent and the roles their stories present, as a result of the political reforms. The study shows the extent to which the stories fuse with the process of social development through the roles they present, the examples they consider positive and which encourage a balanced life on which the future family will be based, far from stagnation and acts that are educationally reproved. It is obvious that children’s stories support social development because they present several characters and events that help the child to emulate the ideals they present. The study deals with the family members’ roles pictured in children’s stories and the extent to which they have adapted to the development of the Tunisian family. These stories have been written by writers of two generations and both sexes. From the first generation are Al -Arousi al-Matwi and Mukhtar Jannat, and from the second the poet and story writer Muhammad al-Baqluti and the critic and story writer Fatima al-Akhdar as well as the poet and story writer Muhammad al-Ghazi. The study has analyzed 20 stories four by each of the five writers. The stories that were analyzed showed that those by the first generation preserved the sexual role of each family member, showing the father’s hegemony and control in contrast to the mother who plays the mediatory role between him and his children. In the stories by the second generation the father is almost absent, and if he appears he is a forgiving, understanding man, the mother is not always present but when she is, she is active and responsible: caring for the house and children, helping her husband. However, the children play their usual role, no longer their previous artificial one, but with the girls having clearly internalized their role even when playing and imagining things. 


Parents and Relatives Roles in Children’s Books (Sana Shabbani)




Children’s stories usually reflect their societies. The way the role of parents and relatives is presented helps to form the child’s image of himself in the future and his understanding of the sexual roles in society and accepting them as they are. That is why this study deals with the roles of the family members, analyzing samples of stories addressing children between the ages of 3-5, 6-9 and 9-12. All the stories are Lebanese published in the last ten years and reflect Lebanese society and its family. The questions the study dealt with are the following: -What are the characteristics of the Lebanese family as described in the stories? How do they show the methods of bringing up children and what are the characteristics of these methods? - How do the stories show the role of each family member, male and female? What space is given to each of them in the family? - What is the relation between the main protagonists in the stories and the family members, and the relation among the family members. - In what space do the family members move? Is there a relation between this space and their social role? - How do the authors perceive the pattern of thought in family relations and is this pattern fixed? - What role do the pictures of the family members play and do those illustrations carry hidden messages? - What do the family members in the story do? What do they face? What hampers or helps them in their actions, and how do they react to the events? After analyzing the stories I deduced a list of ideas, values and educational guidelines reflected in Lebanese children’s books. From these we infer that the Lebanese family a in these stories is not based on authority, for it allows the child to develop in an atmosphere of choice and debate with the parents, develops his self confidence, does not use punishment, listens to others and discusses problems. Thus we see love but no spoiling , acceptance of scholarly failure and pardon .We see that the child possesses social skills but is not aggressive if he lacks them. What characterized the Lebanese family during the long wars it went through was its unity and its care and support of its members. However, globalization, consumerism, the bad economic situation and Western media which pictures the family’s breakup have all started to affect the status of Lebanese families, and as a result we find that children’s stories now picture the family’s disintegration and the rupture of family relations. 


War in two Books (Walid Taher)




A comparison between Walid Taher’s book Stupid People and Lena Merhej’s I believe we will be calm in the next war. Both books deal with the catastrophes of war and its devastating effects, but because they have been written by two different authors they differ in form, content and their exposing the essence of war and people’s awareness of it. I, Walid Taher, am 40 years old and do not remember the last war Egypt waged. As a result my book divulges a general symbolic idea of war, the stupidity of the fighters and human greed, without specifying or mentioning any particular war. Lena Merhej, on the other hand, is a Lebanese artist who I think is in her twenties. Lebanon is in a political and internal turmoil, its borders constantly attacked by Israel. Lena lived this turmoil as well as the last Israeli war in June 2006. As a result her book is very realistic and expresses excruciating, live pain, full of daily details of the war. Thus we have two books on war: a book about the general stupidity of killing and destruction, and a book about the specificity of a precise war. My paper will deal with questions I asked myself: -What is the difference between the effect each book has on Egyptian and Lebanese children? -Does the generality of Stupid People or the specificity of Lena’s book better engrave in the mind the horror of war? -What affects children more: dealing with the subject generally and symbolically or realistically ? - Then exposing to children the ambiguous relation between lofty morals and political necessity. - Dealing with the forms of conflict in an ideal or realistic way? Which of the two is a better method to raise a child? 


Illustrators as Authors: The Relationship Between text and image in Children’s Books (Lena Merhej)

The impact of coloring in children’s illustrations (Angela Nurpetlian)




لماذا نحصل على مائة نتيجة مختلفة عندما نطلب من الاطفال ان يلونوا رسمة ما؟... كل واحد لديه ذائقته، كل واحد لديه لونه الجذاب أو "المفضل"، كل واحد لديه ميله لاختيار مجموعة معينة من الالوان... البعض يرغب بالالوان الباردة، في حين يفضل البعض الآخر الالوان الحارة. إن الرسم في كتب الأطفال يأخذ في اعتباره العديد من المعايير. ولكن يبقى أن المعيار الأول هو الرسم نفسه، الرسم المسطح الأول والخطوط التي ستقرر شكل الشخصية ثم تفاصيل الهيئة. وبدقة أكبر كل تفصيل في الرسم يجب أن يدرس . من هنا فإن موضوع هذه الدراسة هو النظر في كيفية تغير الرسم حينما نخلق مناخاً للكتاب من خلال التلوين. إن التفكير في التلوين بعد أن يكون الرسم قد أنجز هو من الامور الصعبة. وغاية هذا البحث هو إظهار أثر التلوين ودوره في رسوم كتب الأطفال. إذ لم يعد هذا الأمر متعلقاً فقط بالذائقة فحسب، وإنما من المؤكد " علمياً" أن لدينا ردات الفعل معينة لها علاقة بأمزجة لونية محددة، بدءاً من الألوان الاولية. في المستوى الأول، تقوم الدراسة بأخذ عينة من كتب الاطفال في لبنان وتقوم باختبار بسيط على الاطفال الصغار، وفي موازاة ذلك، تعرض نتائج الابحاث العالمية في هذا المجال، مستندة كذلك الى آراء رسامين، والاستقصاءات المتوافرة حول رسوم الأطفال في عدد من المدارس اللبنانية، واستطلاع حول مدى توافر حرية التعبير، ومستوى تدخل الناشر أيضاً... وذلك من أجل النظر في إمكانية ولادة افق جديد للاستكشافات اللونية الحديثة في لبنان... 


The Birth of Hebi Inu- Snakedog- Slangehund (Helle Vibeke Jensen)




أسرد في هذه الدراسة الخطوات التي قمت بها حين ابتكرت شخصية "سنيك دوغ"، التي اشتهرت كشخصية رئيسية في قصة مصورة للاطفال، وفي (interactive novel) وفي موضة ملابس وفي العديد من المعارض الفنية. بدأ الأمر سنة 2005 حينما طلب مني أحد كتاب الاطفال الدانماركيين أن ارسم قصة صغيرة ليضعها في موقعه الالكتروني لمختبره القصصي. واطلق على الرسم اسم "سنيك دوغ". في البدء كان الأمر مجرد اسم، ولم تكن الرسمة اساسية في القصة، ولكن الاسم نفسه اعطاني فكرة ان ذلك الرسم "سنيك دوغ" يمكن ان تكون لديه حياته الخاصة. ولذلك ظهر في العديد من اللوحات والصور والرسوم والمواد الآخرى في ارشيفي. هكذا كانت ولادة "سنيك دوغ". كانت لدي مطلق الحرية في خلق بطلي، وأن أترك القصة تبدأ. ولقى الأمر أصداء إيجابية من الجمهور. ثم حصلت على منحة من وزارة الثقافة الدانماركية وقمت بتصوير اسكتش طوله ثمانية امتار، ضمنته القصة الكامة، والشخصيات وعالم "سنيك دوغ"، مستخدمة كل مواد ارشيفي واطنان من ساعات العمل. مثل هذا العمل لم يكن معروفاً من قبل في الدانمارك وكنت أتلقى تشجيعاً كبيراً لاستمر فيه. كنت وحدي مع "سنيك دوغ" لأشهر عدة، مع اقتناعي القوي بأن الأمر سوف يبصر النور. في اوكتوبر 2006 سافرت إلى اليابان، وعرضت بعض رسوماتي الاولية لمصممين في موسسة إيسيمياك للتصميم. هناك أحبوا الشخصية التي ابتكرتها وصار لديه اسم ياباني " هيبي إينو". فجأة اكتشف الناشر الدانماركي أن "هيبي إينو" يمكن أن يصنع كتاباً رائعاً للأطفال من دون كلمات. وفي وقت قصير جدا ابصر " هيبي إينو" الحياة، ككتاب للأطفال وكمجموعة ملابس. ثم بدأ يتحول في أشكال وصيغ متعددة، وجرى استخدامه في معارض مختلفة، وعلى الانترنيت، وهو اليوم محاط بمخلوقات أخرى، يخبر قصصا جديدة، يضيف أضواء جديدة على فهمنا لتلك اللغة العالمية التي يمثلها الرسم وسرد القصص البصري. 


The Arab World in American Children’s Literature (Elsa Marsto)




لقد وجدت دائماً بعض الكتب القليلة للاطفال الاميركيين التي تتحدث عن المسألة الفلسطينية من وجهة إيجابية. وفي الخمس عشرة سنة الاخيرة كان هناك زيادة واضحة في الأدب الذي يصور الوضع الحالي في العالم العربي المسلم بطريقة حاذقة وايجابية وجذابة. وبشكل عام يمكننا رد الفضل إلى التسعينيات حيث برزت نظريات التربية المتعددة الثقافة والأدب. وكنت قد قمت بإحصاء حول الكتب المنشورة في الولايات المتحدة حول الشرق الأوسط وشمالي افريقيا في الثلاثين سنة المنصرمة، ومنذ ذلك الوقت أقوم بتحديث تلك اللائحة بشكل دوري. وهي كتب للأطفال حول الحياة اليومية والعديد منها يمكن اعتباره بكل المقاييس جيداً ، على الرغم من أن الأمر لا يخلو من بعض القصص التي يمكن أن يكون فيها تصوير العرب أحياناً سلبياً بشكل واضح ولا يراعي أي توازن. إن الكتب التي تعالج مواضيع متعلقة بالعالم العربي تستحق الانتباه لأنها تصور مروحة واسعة من مواقف المجتمع الاسرائيلي إزاء العرب، ويمكنها بالتأكيد أن تفتح باب النقاش واسعاً حوال الانحياز والموضوعية. وكمثال عن المواضيع المعالجة في هذه الكتب نذكر كتاب المؤلفة البريطانية اليزابيت ليرد حول طفل وجد نفسه عالقاً في معركة في بيروت أثناء الحرب اللبنانية بينما كان يسعى للحصول على دواء لجدته ويصور الوحشية التي سادت الحياة وقتها. أما كتاب ليرد الثاني "قطعة أرض صغيرة" فتعرض عند نشره في بريطانيا لأول مرة للانتقاد لأنه لا يصور الاسرائيلي بشكل جيد، مما أخَر نشر الكتاب في اميركا لعدة سنوات. وكتاب آخر للكاتبة الاسرائيلية آنا ليفين بعنوان "الركض على البيض" يصور فتاتين في اسرائيل واحدة يهودية وأخرى عربية تقومان ببحث مشترك في المدرسة... الخ.

Additional Info

  • ISBN: 978-9953-0-1617-7
  • Editorial Committee: Nazek Saba Yared, Fadia Hoteit, Rania Zaghir, Lena Merhij
  • Year: 2009
  • Pages: 263
  • Publisher: Lebanese Association of Women Researchers.