Sharjah: The 4th edition of the Dh1 million Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature was awarded to Lebanon-based publisher Dar Al Hadaek for the book, Creatures on the Ceiling, at the opening ceremony of the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) yesterday.
His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, handed out the award as he opened the 31st SIBF at Expo Centre Sharjah.
Countless books by more than 920 publishers from over 60 countries are available at the fair, running until November 17.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Shaikh Sultan said: “Despite the participation of hundreds of publishers and hundreds of thousands of valuable books in our fair this year, we should not ignore some of the challenges faced by the book and written material in general in these times.”
He was referring to the growing trend of social media and digital publishing in today’s world.
“We believe that each has his own role and scope, and all of us as authors, publishers and intellectuals have to think of the best ways to maintain the balance of these roles and implement them quickly.”
In his speech, Shaikh Sultan added: “We believe that the publishing houses in the UAE and our region should keep up with this new revolution and innovate attractive ways to display “paper” books and “digital” books to encourage readers to buy books and read them in whichever way they prefer.
“The evolution of digital books has grown rapidly in recent years, and has become an increasing role in the dissemination of artistic and intellectual creativity, as it has become accessible through the internet to a wide audience of readers across the world,”
Competing for the Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature were 57 other titles from nine countries.
The winning book ‘Creatures on the Ceiling’, written by Nabiha Mheidly and illustrated by Hassan Zahreddine, features beautiful illustrations and simple language to tell the story through the eyes of a child, encouraging children to explore the fascinating world of imagination. The book is about the story of Karim, an eight-year-old boy who lives with his poor family in a modest house.
Karim’s strong sense of imagination transforms his bedtime into a time of joy and wonder as he explores the magical world of his room’s ceiling. The five books that competed for the award include two Lebanese titles, two Egyptian titles and one from Jordan.
“The Etisalat Award for Children’s Literature has become an important annual milestone for all those interested in Arabic children’s literature from all over the world,” said Shaikha Bodour Bint Sultan Al Qasimi, President of the UAE Board on Books for Young People (UAEBBY), at the award ceremony, adding that the quality of works submitted every year continues to improve.
The Award is open to Arab and international publishing houses and books and entrants must meet 17 specific terms and conditions to be eligible for the Award.
These include, among others, that the book must be written in Arabic, must have been published within the past three years, and that it should not be a recipient of a previous local, regional or international award. In addition the book must be an original work; translated or reproduced works are excluded.
Participation is open to all publishing houses dedicated to producing Arabic literature for children aged up to 14, and each publishing house may enter a maximum of three titles.
Shaikh Sultan honoured several winners in the awards ceremony that followed the opening.
The awards included Cultural Personality of the Year, Best Local Publishing House Award, Best Emirati Author, and Best UAE Printed Book about the UAE, among others.
Shaikh Sultan also launched the Arabic edition of his book, The Myth of Arab Piracy in the Gulf, first published in English in 1989. It has also been published in Farsi.
And it was announced yesterday that Shaikh Sultan has dedicated 4,000 titles of rare manuscripts and maps of his own personal collection to the Egyptian Scientific Institute, in an initiative to restore its library which was gutted last November during violence in Cairo.
SIBF has allocated a stand to showcase Shaikh Sultan’s collection dedicated to Egypt.
This year’s book fair will see Pakistan as the Country of Focus, with some 30 Pakistani publishers participating for the first time. Famous Pakistani authors and poets are also attending.
Other exhibitors include 22 Arab nations and 40 other foreign countries.
Leading authors like Graffin Aslar, Robert Lacey, William Hamilton, and Arundhati Roy are also participating.
Seminars and workshops are included in the fair’s activities, covering a wide range of topics, from cookery, children’s reading, and citizen journalism.