Abu Dhabi: It’s a rare day, indeed, to see UAE royals reflected in a new set of children’s fiction books.
This week, when the doors to the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair open, a new four-book series will be launched featuring characters based on Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, Shaikha Shamma Bint Sultan Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, granddaughter of President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Shaikh Hamdan’s niece, Sheema.
The book launch is scheduled for Wednesday when the book fair opens at the Abu Dhabi Exhibition Centre.
In an exclusive interview with Gulf News, author Dr Reem Al Mutwalli said her series of books dubbed ‘Reemiyat’ wouldn’t be possible without Shaikha Shamma, who co-published the series through her Royal Publishing House together with Universal Publishers.
Dr Reem credited Shaikha Shamma with helping bring the book series to fruition.
“When I first mentioned my project to her, young as she is, she was very mature and professional. She sent me the resources from books that are core to such a subject. She has published a children’s book and I drew from her experience. She reviewed each storyline and edited it by adding key elements and facts. She even went around with me to schools and read the final scripts to children to test the vocabulary, storylines, characters by interacting with the children on what they thought of them,” Dr Reem said.
Book readings for children by Shaikha Shamma will continue at the book fair and involve more schools in the future, the author said.
“I looked for role models to base my characters, and I was inspired by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and his niece Sheema. “Hazza” she added, “the young boy in my Reemiyat series is based on (Fazza), who is Shaikh Hamdan and has all his traits of courage, exploration, adventure and hunger for learning,” Dr Reem said.
Sheema is based on Sheema in real life and she is a clever, inquisitive, responsible and patriotic young girl and an avid reader.
Shaikha Shamma is represented in the book series as “quiet but productive, kind, motivated, sweet and has a great heart for humans as well as animals”.
The author’s nieces Misk and Teeb, my nieces supplied her with the look she needed.
Two of the pets are based on Shaikh Hamdan’s pets: his camel Emar and his falcon Matrooch.
“I think the UAE is a great place to launch this book series as it represents a part of the Arab world that we can be proud of. The UAE embodies all the aspirations and inspirations for a better future while still holding on to history and heritage,” Dr Reem, who interviewed 64 artists to find the illustrator she wanted to capture the essence of the story, said.
“I felt it was important to begin with the two main topics I am most experienced in, hence the two first books are titled: A Special Visit To Qasr Al Hosn and the second is: Let’s Play Dress Up. They are both based on my books Qasr Al Hosn, An Architectural Survey (1995, 2014). And Sultani, Traditions Renewed, traditional UAE women’s dress during the reign of Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
To help bring her characters to life, Dr Reem experimented with doll makers, and again drawing from the benefits of the internet, she managed to work with five doll makers from around the world in the US, Portugal, Holland, Germany and UAE.
“At the fair, visitors will be able to view different versions of the dolls, some are of clay and fabric, others we are calling ‘selfies’, and some are rag dolls. The latter can be purchased by the children when purchasing the books.
There will also be necklaces, buttons and charms that can be bought for these characters so the children will have a more intimate engagement with the them to help identify with them as inspiring role models, she said.
“I feel on many levels this series is a much needed format to help bridge many barriers and cultures. Eventually the characters will travel to other Arab countries and become involved with different aspects, landmarks, and story lines from these countries and present them to the world at large,” she said.
Dr Reem said writing for children has been on her mind for some time now.
“I began a series of books to familiarise children with their culture, anchor them with their national identity, as well as highlight inspiring elements from today’s world that would motivate all Arab youth and make them proud of their heritage.”
Dr Reem believes that to be genuine one must always draw from one’s surroundings. That is why she looked for characters that will inspire children and adults alike.