UN Book Club Promotes Arabic Titles for Kids

The United Nations “Sustainable Development Goals Book Club” has launched its first book-club reading lists in English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish, with the aim of educating “young readers on the SDGs with a reading list of relevant books in different languages”:

The first goal is the eradication of “poverty,” which seems just a bit nebulous. The book lists, according to organizers, will each be centered around one of the 17 UN Development Goals. It’s unclear whether anything more will be done to foster book groups or support the distribution of these titles beyond posting the lists of books online.

The first four titles were chosen by a committee made up up of members from the United Nations, International Publishers Association (IPA), the International Federation of Librarian Associations (IFLA), European and International Booksellers Federation (EIBA), International Authors Forum (IAF), and the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY).

They are:

Where Was it Lost? Mohannad Al Aaqous, ill Mira Almir (ages 6-9)

Sack of WondersOmayma Ezz Aldin, ill. Tina Makhlouf (ages 6-9)

The House of Weird Wonders, Omama Al Lawati, ill. Nabila Shishkly (ages 6-9)

The Night of FireYacoub El-Sharouni, ill. Samar Salah Eddin (ages 9-12)

Committee members praise first book, Where Was it Lost?, for breaking stereotypes; the second, Sack of Wonders, for its emotional intelligence and charming art; the third, The House of Weird Wonders for its beautiful language and message that “happiness can be found in simple things”; the fourth, The Night of Fire, for its look at how people can cooperate in the face of great hardship.

According to coverage in Ahram OnlineEl-Sharouni’s novel is “based on a true story of a fire that ravaged the old citadel’s market in Egypt, which sees frequent market fires. El-Sharouni’s imagination turns the fire from an unfortunate accident to a point to reflect on the problems of the poor, reinforcing confidence in children and their ideas and the courage and bravery of young people.” The middle-grade novel was also chosen for the International Board on Books for Young People’s 2016 Honor List.

The list itself has interesting titles that could lend themselves to wider discussions, but it’s unclear how this list — apparently without accompanying teaching resources — might make it into any book group or classroom.

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