Darf Publishers tells OIW about their exciting plans for a new children’s list
For the last few years, Darf Publishers have been producing literature from nations that are not often represented, including: Libya, Sudan, Eritrea, Yemen, Indonesia, Italy and Egypt. They recently announced that they’ll be applying the same to children’s literature, in an attempt to promote diverse bookshelves.
This summer the London-based indie publisher signed a seven-book deal with award-winning
Faroese author/illustrator, Bardur Oskarsson. Some of Oskarsson’s work, including The Flat Rabbit, has been translated into more than ten languages. Darf is the first publishing house to acquire the rights to all his work.
Bardur Oskarsson biog
“This is a monumental project for us, and one we’re very enthusiastic about,” editor Sherif Dhaimish said. “Oskarsson’s work caught our eye at the London Book Fair 2016, and we knew it was the perfect opportunity for us to not just move beyond our usual Middle Eastern, often politically charged novels, but transition into the majestic world of illustrated children’s books.”
The collection, which will be released over 2018-19, is made up of profound fables accompanied by often-hilarious watercolour sketches with a minimalist, Scandinavian feel. This includes Oskarsson’s latest publication, The Tree (Træið, 2017), which teaches an invaluable lesson on life’s misgivings. Bob is intrigued by what might be on the other side of the tree. Only once has he been by the tree to have a look, but he didn’t dare go further. Bob’s friend Hilbert claims that he’s been on the other side of the tree several times. He even says that he’s flown around the world using his own wings, despite him being a dog. Bob isn’t quite sure what to believe…
Other titles include:
Paul the Cool Giraffe (Pól, hin kuli giraffurin)
The Bone (Beinið)
The Battle for the Good Grass (Stríðið um tað góða grasið)
Oksarsson’s first publication was back in 2004 - A Dog, A Cat and a Mouse (Ein hundur, ein ketta og ein mús). The three animals live peacefully alongside one another. But there is the problem – they are all bored! No more playing, chasing or tricking each other. That is until boredom gets the better of Dog. He decides to sneak up on Cat and scare her, just like he used to. Then suddenly, things turn a little chaotic…
In 2016, Darf began their expansion into children’s literature when they published Italian novel, Oh, Freedom! by Francesco D’Adamo, which went on to be shortlisted for the Marsh Award.
Aimed at a similar age group, Darf will release Apple Cakes and Baklava by Kathrin Rohmann in Spring 2018. This German novel follows the story of Leila, a Syrian migrant who becomes friends with Max. Her most cherished object is a walnut from her grandmother’s garden. Max is close to his own grandmother, who is very understanding of Leila’s situation, having fled her home in Pommern as a little girl. Leila is desperately sad when she loses her beloved walnut and, in a failed attempt, sets out to return to Syria.
The two novels and Oskarsson’s work are propelling Darf’s new ethos for children’s literature, which aims to promote diversity and help draw bridges between cultures/nations/ethnicities/perspectives that may appear abstract to one another.
A 2009 study conducted by Professor Kathy G. Short looks at the advantages of studying world literature in the classroom. The study claimed that: ‘Through literature, children can have the opportunity to go beyond a tourist perspective of gaining surface-level information about another culture.’ World literature has the power to open an umbrella over a number of subjects including geography, history, religious studies and languages. This does not quash the teaching of canonical works in schools, or suggest Scandinavian folklore and North African novels should replace E.B. White and Shakespeare; but rather, it highlights the importance of a diverse bookshelf to better our understanding of otherness.