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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
by Abir Ali
Age Range: 6-8
Adil is a reluctant reader but he perseveres and one day realises that he loves books and reading. “What Adil didn’t realise was that when we read with love, something magical happens. ” This is how he came to pick up a story about Nour, a little girl without a family or home. She lived on the street somewhere far away and long ago. While reading Nour’s story Adil was interrupted by the telephone and ran to answer it. What he didn’t realise was “when we stop reading halfway through a line, the character in the book stays awake while the story goes back to sleep.” Now Nour is wide awake while her story is asleep. Will she be able to escape from her story and find a happier life?
This longer-style picture book, by Omani author Abir Ali, translated from Arabic by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp, is distinctive and there is a lot to take in, particularly in the artwork by Syrian illustrator Gulnar Hajo. Nour’s character is shown to be full of contrasts: Sometimes she is sad, fearful, and feels trapped. Sometimes she is determined, happy and carefree. Ali reveals how Noor views the world giving her a nagging inner voice. One that derides her for being a ‘scaredy-cat’ and telling her callously that ‘there is no escape’.
Hajo’s shadowy, textured illustrations are certainly evocative and full of symbolism and allegorical meaning. A muted palette of white, black, yellow and brown as well as playing with perspective are used to maximum effect. One image shows large tower blocks packed together competing for space set against a sky lit up by a massive crescent moon that looms over a small sleeping figure on the ground. In another image legs and feet of passers-by crowd out the background but your eye is drawn to the screaming face which rises from the bottom of the page.
Ali conveys the power of stories and imagination in this clever and unusual picture book.