Hamad Bin Khalifa University Press (HBKU Press) has recently released The Adventures of Angie series in Arabic by first-time author Hala Abu Saad, and illustrated by Ali Elzeny. This compelling new collection of books addresses difficult topics like degenerative disease, differences in ability, and depression in a compassionate and age-appropriate way for kids
“One of our core editorial aims at HBKU Press is to make sure that children have literary resources available that help shape their understanding of the world around them,” explains Rima Ismail, Special Projects and Outreach Manager at Hamad Bin Khalifa University Press. “Kids are people too, and this series aims to tackle tough subjects in a suitable way that allows for meaningful conversations and growth to happen. The books are tailored to our audience and address these issues among the local background to incorporate details unique to the region. The idea is that when children see themselves and their culture reflected back to them in the pages of a book, they are more willing to accept the message and learn from it.”
Abu Saad, inspired to pen her stories by her mother’s knack for storytelling, wrote the series to honor her niece, Angela, who tragically passed away in 2015 in a car accident.
“I wanted to honor Angie’s memory. She was only 18 years old when she left our world, but her life was rich and extraordinarily inspirational,” explains Abu Saad. “Angie was authentic, loving and kind to everyone. She thrived from constantly learning and improving herself and growing as a person, willing to change and step in and stand up for herself and others.”
An educator herself, Abu Saad is a strong believer that books have the power to shape a children’s character and teach them lessons as they grow. She chose to tackle tough topics like Alzheimer’s disease, Down Syndrome, and depression in the elderly because she feels it’s important for kids to develop empathy and the ability to connect with others, celebrate each other’s differences and individuality, and live comfortably in an imperfect world starting at a young age.
“The characters in my book are real, but the incidents are imagined. Inspired by Angie’s character, I developed stories that will allow for children to develop self-awareness, self-acceptance, coping, and self-soothing techniques. Life is hard: loved ones will die, friends come and go, we meet people who are different from us, relationships change, traumas happen. I imagine how Angie would have faced each of these situations and wrote about them because I want children to develop the skills to approach new challenges with kindness, understanding and compassion, instead of judgement and fear.”
Illustrator Ali Elzeny considered the themes of each story before determining the style in which he would artistically bring the books to life.
“I wanted to keep a sense of realism with the art and the drawings of the characters because they are based on real life people and issues,” Elzeny explains when discussing the inspiration for the style. “But I also wanted to add patterned elements and fun color palettes to reflect Angie and the spirit of her character in the book.
“Working with the HBKU Press team to bring this to life was an absolute pleasure. It was truly a collaborative effort and, as an artist, it’s wonderful to have this type of support and to be considered a part of this wonderful publishing family.”
The Adventures of Angie series, written for children aged 9-12, includes three books titled, Grandpa Adel Forgets His Way Home, Teta Mariam’s Barley Soup, and The Sky Is Her Limit, though the author hopes to publish more in the HBKU Press series soon.
“It was an outstanding experience working with HBKU Press,” said Abu Saad. “Not only is the team friendly and cooperative, but they are also highly professional. I was included in the process from start to finish and was given their expert guidance along the way. The team at HBKU Press are now my second family and I hope to continue developing the series with them.”
The Adventures of Angie series launches on March 3rd and can be purchased and delivered to locations in Qatar from the Rafeeq, Snoonu and Purplebox applications (available to download from the Apple Store and Google Play). For more information on how to get a copy of any of your favorite HBKU Press books, follow their Facebook page (facebook.com/hbkupress) or Twitter and Instagram (@hbkupress) for daily updates.
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