Hamad Bin Khalifa University Press (HBKU Press) honored a World Book Day through its yearly participation, and this year chose The Ultimate Superhero by author Rana Al-Hajj and illustrated by Nikos Yanopulos as its World Book Day selection
Initially launched in 1995 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), World Book Day is now celebrated worldwide every year on April 23.
“HBKU Press values World Book Day as a critical opportunity to engage with local and global communities,” said Rima Ismail, Outreach and Special Projects Manager. “Every year, we take great care in selecting a book of important messaging, reaffirming our commitment to growth, cross-cultural dialogue, and love of literacy and learning. We are proud to once again tell our local stories on an international stage.”
The Ultimate Superhero is an illustrated children’s book written in Arabic. It tells the story of a young boy named Sami who, like many children worldwide, views Superman to be one of the greatest heroes of all time. One day, his grandfather tells him the true story of a brave hero much closer to home – Omar Al-Mukhtar. Though he may not possess extraordinary powers such as flight or superhuman strength, Al-Mukhtar’s legacy lives on through the very human qualities of courage, intelligence, and honor.
“The purpose was to find an unconventional formula to introduce our hero, so the idea of comparison came to be. It allows the "personality" to present and discuss his ideas and gives the other party the chance to declare his opposing idea smoothly,” explains author Al-Hajj on the choice to juxtapose the two figures. Fictional superheroes such as Superman have been role models to children for generations, but Al-Hajj seeks to popularize stories of local, regional figures too. “The idea of this book is to shed light on the history of our Arab heroes, and to introduce these heroes to our children by attracting them to our glorious Arab history. Doing so strengthens the sense of pride in their own Arab origins and our heroes who are the pride of the nation,” says Al-Hajj.
“There is never a time when we are not learning, and every book I illustrate teaches me something new,” adds illustrator Yanopulos. “The Ultimate Superhero is an inspiring story about a real hero who didn’t wear capes or fly towards the sun, but instead fought bravely to free Libya. A real hero who was a great symbol of resistance against overwhelming odds. I used my stronger and brighter colors to celebrate this beautiful story and show our readers, and also myself, that we can always be a little braver, a little stronger, learn, grow and one day maybe become someone else’s real hero.”
HBKU Press is delighted to maintain its commitment to World Book Day and the values it instills in young readers. While HBKU Press would typically host community readings throughout local schools in celebration of the day, it unfortunately had to suspend outreach activities last year due to COVID19. Despite the pandemic, HBKU Press still managed to celebrate World Book Day of 2021 by hosting virtual readings across Qatar. This year, HBKU Press is excited to commemorate its return to school by inviting Al-Hajj for an in-person book reading, where children will be able to meet and greet the author themselves once more. Enjoy this exciting, educational tale with younger readers as they embark on a journey of their own to discover the true meaning of the word ‘hero,’ and answer the age-old question: what makes the ultimate superhero?
This is Rana Al-Hajj’s second book with HBKU Press. Her other book, The Cat in the Mouse’s House, is also an illustrated children’s tale originally written in Arabic. Both are now available for sale in bookstores across Qatar.
In previous years, HBKU Press shone the spotlight on other notable titles for World Book Day including Where is My Teacher? by Dalal Ghanim Al-Romaihi in 2021, Migrating Hoopoe by Soha Abou Chakra in 2020, and The Mouse That Saved Me by Dr. Jabr Al-Noami in 2019.
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