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Heritage discussed at reading festival

Award-winning children’s authors got together to discuss ‘Heritage in Children’s Literature’

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Swapna Haddow (left), Frane Lessac and Latifa Butti at the Children’s Reading Festival forum.
Gulf News

Sharjah: Award-winning authors of children’s books got together to discuss the issue of ‘Heritage in Children’s Literature’ at the ninth Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival (SCRF 2017), on Thursday.

Swapna Haddow, a UK-based author, accompanied by Frane Lessac from Australia and Latifa Butti, bestselling children’s books author from Kuwait, hosted the forum that discussed heritage reflected in books that have continued to entice readers for generations across the world.

Speaking about the influence of historical events in children’s literature, Lessac read excerpts from one of the books she illustrated, Simpson and His Donkey, about John Kirkpatrick Simpson, and how he and his donkey, Duffy, rescued more than 300 men during the battle in Gallipoli — work that gave new life to one of Australia’s most iconic stories.

Butti, for her part, spoke about her own experiences with the folk tale, and the role heritage played in shaping her opinions and her decision to become a full-time children’s books author. She said: “I took the folk tales I enjoyed on my grandmother’s lap to the children around me when I grew up. These children asked me if they could access these stories in books and that’s when it came to my mind that all these precious gems are locked up in my head! That’s when I decided to eternalise these stories in beautifully illustrated children’s book[s]. I published my first title in 2013 and haven’t looked back since.”

Her work, Without a Hat, about a beautiful young girl who breaks out of the straitjacketed norms of society to be able to live a more fulfilling life, was shortlisted for the Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature in 2015.

Haddow said the use of heritage and famous legends in children’s literature will provide fodder for children’s imaginations, opening them up to the cultures of the world.

“Children are born naturally to ask questions, it is not a unique feature of a particular country. The way we see ourselves in characters of books, irrespective of their authors’ nationalities gives them a window into experiencing other cultures. Heritage, no matter which part of the world it belongs to, holds universal qualities that are sublime and are laden with meaning. They are pillars of global integration and peace,” she said.

Running from April 19 to 29 at the Expo Centre Sharjah, the ninth edition of SCRF features a line-up of 2,093 activities with a total of 123 exhibitors from across the world.