SCRF 1-1714640742156
Visitors, young and old alike, spoke fondly about their favourite heroes at the 15th edition of SCRF on Wednesday. Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: Most heroes wear capes but even the ones who don’t are part of the collective consciousness of those attending the 15th Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival (SCRF) that kicked off at Expo Centre Sharjah under the theme ‘Once upon a hero’ on Wednesday.

For four-year-old Eliana Al Saabi who swears by characters like Ben and Holly, and Elsa of the Frozen series, her true hero, she says, is her dad. “He is my superhero because he can do everything for me I can think of,” says the Syrian who is all set to start school later this year. Ditto for fellow four-year-old German Maria Chahir who’s a fan of Paw Patrol. “My dad,” she quips when asked about her favourite hero.

Get exclusive content with Gulf News WhatsApp channel

Meanwhile for her dad Essam, a first-time visitor to the 12-day festival being organised by the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), it was a walk down memory lane. “This is a blast from the past and a reminder of the current times we are living in,” said the social worker from the German city of Bonn on his first visit to the festival along with his pharmacist wife Paulina Latkiewicz and their two children.

“It’s so refreshing to see your favourite characters come alive in front of your eyes in this beautiful manner,” added Paulina, a pharmacist who grew up fascinated by popular characters like Pinocchio, the protagonist of the 1883 children’s novel by Italian writer Carlo Collodi.

With over 1,500 cultural, creative and edutainment activities, SCRF 2024 is a haven for children and adults alike.

For Jordanian Rawan Maree who is working as a volunteer at this year’s SCRF, the event is like going back to her childhood days through her favourite characters. “Coming face to face with protagonists of your stories you imagined as a kid is special,” said the 37-year-old who is a fan of Lady Oscar, also known as The Rose of Versailles, a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Riyoko Ikeda.

Originally serialised in the manga magazine Margaret from 1972 to 1973, the series is a historical drama set in the years preceding and during the French Revolution. Using a combination of historical personages and original characters, The Rose of Versailles focuses primarily on the lives of two women: the Queen of France Marie Antoinette, and Oscar François de Jarjayes, who serves as commander of the Royal Guard. “For me Lasy Oscar stood for everything right, everything strong and everything that a woman can do,” added the one-time author who is now working on her second novel inspired by her favourite character.

Yet, SCRF 2024 is more than just a trip down memory lane. With 265 esteemed guests representing 25 countries and 186 publishers from 20 nations, the festival is a hub of creativity and innovation - a platform to find, nurture and celebrate the hero within.

“As visitors explore the festival, they are reminded of the power of the heroes of storytelling - from authors, to illustrators, to characters in books - to inspire, educate and entertain,” said Maree.