A moving new children’s book that explores the many sobering reasons that children leave their homes, titled Migrating Hoopoe, is Hamad Bin Khalifa University Press’s (HBKU Press) selection for 2021 World Book Day.
“World Book Day is an annual event that was launched by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1995,” explains Rima Ismail, Outreach and Special Projects Manager at HBKU Press. “Each year, HBKU Press selects a children’s book that embodies our commitment to highlight local narratives on the world stage while sharing important messages and fun stories in order to promote a love of literacy and reading among youth.
“Our participation represents our commitment to upholding cross-cultural communication, dialogue and understanding.”
Migrating Hoopoe was originally written in Arabic by Soha Abu Chacra and illustrated by Omar Lafi. It follows the inquisitive hoopoe bird, traveling on plains far and wide, as he encounters many different people on his migratory journeys. He follows their paths and learns their stories. Who are these migrating people? What are they leaving behind and what do they hope to find, and why? And most importantly, what are their needs, wants, hopes, and desires that differ much from our own?
“Migrating Hoopoe was chosen as this year’s World Book Day book because it highlights the global issue of forced migration that greatly affects children,” continues Ismail. “It explores the issue in a meaningful way that will hopefully provide insight to our readers while instilling in them both empathy and hope.”
The book’s author wrote the story also with that aim in mind.
“This story is our story,” explains Abu Chacra. “Who among us has not been affected by the massive immigration crisis from the Arab countries and hotbeds of war and famine towards the West in the last 10 years? Who among us has not heard the tragic news and seen the frightening images of millions of migrants fleeing by land and sea from their countries, often enduring the impossible to get away from their tragic circumstances?
“I wrote this book to share these stories, our stories. And as children join the hoopoe bird on his travels around the world, I want them to see that despite our differences we are all moving in the same direction: towards hope.”
The book’s compelling nature is compounded by the powerful illustrative style conceptualized by award-winning illustrator, Omar Lafi.
“The focus of the illustrative style was sketches in black ink through discoloration because I felt it best expresses the melancholy and misery of people who are forced to migrate from their homes experience,” explains Lafi. “But throughout the pages I add a symbolic colored thread that the hoopoe gathers with him as he shares the stories. The black is the reality but, at the end as the readers experience this reality, they can see the collection of colored threads that symbolizes that there will always be hope for change and better days to come.”
HBKU Press celebrated World Book Day 2021 by hosting virtual book readings at local schools across Qatar in celebration of the day, providing children with the opportunity to meet and greet the author. Students from participating schools were also given free copies of the special edition WBD book.
In previous years, Dalal Al Romaihi’s Where Is My Teacher?, Shaikha Al-Zeyara’s Sultan Al Baher (The Sultan of the Sea) and Dr. Jabr al Noaimi’s Min Fa’ir Ila Maarid (The Mouse that Saved Me) were chosen as HBKU Press’ World Book Day book selections.
Special pre-publication editions of Migrating Hoopoe were distributed to students in honor of World Book Day 2021. The book will officially launch later in 2021 and hard copies will be available for sale on the Rafeeq, Snoonu, and Purplebox applications (available to download from the Apple Store and Google Play) and in bookstores across Qatar.
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