Overview of the 35th IBBY International Congress

The 35th IBBY International Congress came to an end, and I’m sure all attendees can agree that it was a great success and that they will miss New Zealand. The complete list of IBBY honor list books are presented in a video here.

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 IBBY official site.

Here is a slideshow with a few snapshots of the conference. Enjoy!

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Day One of the 35th IBBY International Congress Auckland!

Yesterday was the first day of the 35th IBBY International Congress Auckland. Like their beautiful website, the IBBY Congress was organized and decorated impeccably. Over 500 attendees and VIPs from all around the world were in attendance, a feat for a country as far away from everything as New Zealand.

The day began with a special Maori themed opening, the ancient greeting of the indigenous people of New Zealand. It was a pleasure to be able to hear the horn being sounded, the women sing in greeting, and watch the entire performance. A primary school also performed later, showing five different kinds of dance and song from the five main cultures of NZ.

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Three authors also presented: Joy Cowley of “Mrs. Wishy Washy” an apparently very famous book in NZ, Kate De Goldi, and Witi Ihimaera whom have all made huge contributions in the field of children’s literature. Also, there was a unique Keynote Panel with American author, Leonard Marcus, and British book reviewer, Julia Ecccleshare, titled There is No Such Thing as a Children’s Book. They discussed the differences between American and English markets, why dystopian literature may be popular to YA in a world where adults no longer seem able to control what is going on, how children’s books are often viewed in the lens of whether they are useful rather than enjoyable, and an author’s need to market themselves in the modern world.

Several sessions played throughout the day, twelve in total. The sessions I chose to listen to were very well attended as well, with nearly every seat in the room taken! I was particularly impressed by the session on Children’s Literature in Education Conceptual Development, where Ms. Joanne Purcell of Australia discussed how some authors helped children thinking about thinking itself.

Finally, the day ended with the presentation of the IBBY – Asahi Reading Promotion Awards, going to excellent initiatives in Laos and Iran. The winning initiatives presented their work, and it was very eye – opening. Though their presentations lasted no longer than 10 minutes each, the long and difficult process of their work was clear. In less privileged environments with often illiterate parents and little value given to education, creating a love for reading is a slow uphill journey.

To an equally exciting rest of the conference!


The Lion that Dressed as a Sheep

My very first bedtime story, The Lion that Dressed as a Sheep, is now available on Amazon here and can be purchased as either a paperback or kindle!

This sweet tale tells the story of a girl who saves a lion cub. Unknown to her blind father, she raises the cub and learns a dear lesson of being true and honest to yourself and others. The beautifully illustrated story will put children to sleep happily with a positive message.


Melouq: Mystery and Adventure on the Mediterranean

My very first YA novel, Melouq, has finally been published on Amazon’s kindle platform and is available for purchase here! It is a very exciting time, and hopefully a good beginning. Read the summary below!

The Egyptian coastal town, Ras Zahir, has always been calm and quaint, until researchers from the capital arrive. Based on a storyteller’s tale, they create a competition to find the legendary island of Melouq. But, as three teenagers set sail, is it too much to hope that perhaps they will also find the fruit of the mythical Meldine Tree, promising health and beauty? Nour, Ali, and Dalia sail separately, hoping Melouq may solve their problems. But as long held truths begin to unravel, the island becomes the least of their worries.

“Set sail to the skies,
Let night be your guide;
The tree of heaven
To which you’ll confide.

Whether sea and storm,
The outcome be bleak.
You’ll find both disaster
And the island you seek.”

It has been reviewed by a fellow graduate of Critical Approaches to Children’s Literature, who wrote, “underneath the action, Elabd’s masterfully wrought characters uphold the story as each one sets out on a deeply personal quest, unsure of what lies ahead, sometimes afraid of the truths such a journey may reveal and realizing there is no turning back to the way things used to be.”


The EBBY 1 year Anniversary Party

The EBBY Launch last Monday was very well attended with publishers, famous and emerging authors and illustrators, critics and academics teachers, and many more in attendance. On our panel was CEO Dr. Nadia El Khouly, founder of Samir Magazine Shahira x,  founder of Shura Olfat x, and Dr. Yasmine Motawy. Later, the panel hosted the winners of EBBY’s honorary awards: Yacoub El Sharouny, Afaf Tobala, and Yasser Gueissa.

Dr. Nadia and Dr. Yasmine explained the vision of EBBY and our next steps. During this past year, EBBY has put itself back on the map ever since the revolution. We have compiled a qualified team of children’s literature academics, professionals, publishers, and more all completely dedicated to the cause. We are attending conferences, such as the IRSCL 2015 Worchester, UK, and IBBY 2016 Auckland, New Zealand. Furthermore, we are holding a writing competition, Ardena in coordination with Shoura – more details on our website. Last, we are making seminars and workshops for writers, illustrators, and all those interested in our field.

Yacoub El Sharouny 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. Last, he spoke of the importance of professional criticism in the field of children’s literature in Egypt.

During the time for discussion, several important points were brought to light. The once popular Children’s Book Fair was remembered and many asked for it’s return. Publishers such as Nahdet Misr claimed their full support for EBBY and an active community of chidlren’s literature in Egypt. Dr. Hussein Banhawy offered to return all the books which belong to EBBY back to the organization again. The need for critics and researchers was once again reiterated to make all writers feel that their work is being read and critiqued. Last, there was a general feeling that problems relevant to children were not being addressed in current children’s literature – and this would be necessary to boost the love of reading in children.

Informal Education Conference in Bibliotheca Alexandrina

Yasmine Motawy, Balsam Saad and Dina Elabd of EBBY were in attendance at the Informal Education conference in the Bibliotheca Alexandrina on October 12-13. Balsam Bookstore was the event’s sponsor, and visitors crowded around the publisher’s beautiful books, taking particular note of the latest publications. Motawy chaired a stimulating session on Animation & Multimedia’s impact on Children’s Education. The conference was an excellent opportunity to meet those interested in supporting, developing and innovating in the area of informal education in Egypt and the region.

Other IBBY notables were Hasmig Chahinian, from IBBY France who spoke on “Bringing Children and Books Together” and delighted the audience with cognitive research that shows how we can create a special bond between children and books and get a child’s brain to categorize reading as a “pleasurable thing” that should be repeated.

Read the article on the EBBY website here.

Presenting at the IRSCL 2015 Worchester Conference!

This August, I made my way into my first International Research Society for Children’s Literature (IRSCL) Conference at the University of Worcester in the UK. Very nervous about presenting my paper on the presentation and influence of children on the Arabian Nights in the past century, I had been editing and reediting my presentation up to two nights before. After successfully persuading my friends and relatives to listen to me explain theory and history, I received enough positive feedback to give both them and myself some peace of mind.

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(with my Cambridge colleague, Clementine Beauvais (right))

The five day conference went by quickly, listening to talks, papers, poetry, and story telling. I presented my paper: A Historic Analysis of the Role of Children in Arabian Nights Folklore, where I discussed retellings of certain tales in the Arabian Nights in modern publishing. I compared books from popular English literature publishers in the UK and the US to their counterparts in Egypt and Syria.

My research led me to five essential findings:

  1. Children are ‘told’ a story, supporting Maria Nikoljeva’s findings that adults make children’s literature about pedagogy.
  2. Children are encouraged to follow a ‘coming of age’ plot line, where the child is always expected to progress into becoming an adult. Again, this shows how the adult writer expects children to act.
  3. The Western child is encouraged to read alone, while the Eastern seems expected to read with an adult. This is clear in the format of the book
  4. The Western child omits religious references from culture, while the Eastern child has kept Muslim culture within the Nights retellings
  5. And one striking difference in all versions – children no longer have a storyteller. Scheherazade has disappeared.

After this successful conference, I look forward to attending many more!


Finally, The Magic Clock

My first children’s play was finally performed at the MUST Opera house by The International School of Choueifat 6 of October. After eight months of writing and editing the script, teaching 2nd and 4th graders how to act, and generally falling in love with everything to do with The Magic Clock, I’m very proud to have been part of this very successful performance!

Video will be uploaded soon.