Archive for the ‘Children’s Literature’ Category

Fiance of Helen Bailey, children’s author, found guilty of murder

Helen Bailey, whose body was found alongside that of her pet Dachshund Boris, wrote the Electra Brown series of books

Helen Bailey, whose body was found alongside that of her pet Dachshund Boris, wrote the Electra Brown series of books

The fiance of a children’s author who drugged and suffocated her before throwing her body in a hidden cesspit has been found guilty of murder.

Ian Stewart, 56, had denied murdering Helen Bailey at their home in Royston, Hertfordshire, in order to get his hands on her near-£4m fortune.

He was convicted at St Albans Crown Court following a seven-week trial.

Police say they will look again at the death of Stewart’s wife Diane in 2010 following the verdict.

Mrs Stewart died after having an epileptic seizure in the garden of the family home in Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire. An inquest was held but police will now re-examine the case.

“Watership Down” author Richard Adams dies aged 96

Richard Adams

Richard Adams

The author of Watership Down, Richard Adams, has died aged 96, his daughter has said.

Juliet Johnson said her father had been “ailing for some time” but “died peacefully” on Christmas Eve.

Watership Down, a children’s classic about a group of rabbits in search of a new home after their warren was destroyed, was first published in 1972.

Adams was 52 when he wrote it, after first telling the story to his two daughters on a long car journey.

It went on to become a best-seller, with tens of millions of copies bought around the world.

Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature receives 97 entries

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DUBAI: The Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature, organised by the UAE Board on Books for Young People (UAEBBY) and sponsored by Etisalat, has announced it received 97 entries in both children’s book and young adult categories after the call for submissions for the 7th edition closed. The shortlist of winning entries will be announced during the Frankfurt International Book Fair held in October.

The Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature is the Arab world’s most prestigious children’s literature award and has received entries from leading publishing houses in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Palestine. Publishing houses from the UK and Canada are also participating for the first time highlighting the international acclaim the competition is held in.

The award administration received 62 books in the children’s book category and 35 books in the young adult category, with most entries coming from Lebanon with 32 submissions, followed by the UAE with 18, and Egypt with 15 books in both categories. Other countries participated with books ranging between one and eight entries in both categories.

Maple Grove brothers create book series for Muslim children

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Laura Yuen writes:

Amin Aaser didn’t need to look farther than his own Minnesota childhood to inspire his series of children’s books. It’s set in a town called Maple Grove — which is where he grew up — and follows the story of four cartoon animals — including one who bears his name.

Amin, the fictional character, is a charismatic panda bear. Amin Aaser, the author, is 27, bearded and wide-eyed. His older brother Mohammed Aaser, 30, is a little burlier and wears glasses.

Their series is called “Noor Kids.” Noor means “the light,” the brothers explain, as if to illuminate the way for young Muslims.

The brothers both have impressive business-school pedigrees. Mohammed graduated from Harvard; Amin, who worked on the corporate side of Target and General Mills, is pursuing his MBA at the University of California, Berkeley.

The idea to create children’s books, Amin said, started in a conversation with their older sister, who was pregnant.

“The three of us began reflecting on our own childhood, about what it was like to grow up as a Muslim in North America,” he said. “That’s when the light bulb went off. We said there’s no way we want Aasiya, my sister’s daughter, to experience the same challenges as we did.”

Those challenges of growing up Muslim and the children of Pakistani parents are not hard to recall. They include a painful backlash after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

At the time, Mohammed Aaser was a 16-year-old working at a computer store.

“I still remember there was a lady who came in,” he recalled, “and she said, ‘I can’t believe you guys have someone named Mohammed working here.

‘And she went to the manager in front of the store and said that: ‘I’m never going to shop here again.’ “

Amin Aaser was just 13 when the planes struck the World Trade Center.

A friend turned against him and started bullying him online. During Ramadan, he would head to the library instead of the lunchroom so other kids wouldn’t notice he was fasting. During Little League season, he begged his mom to wait to pick him up until the games were long over, so other kids wouldn’t see her headscarf.

Looking back, he realizes he was ashamed of his identity.

“It wasn’t about how other people thought about Muslims,” he said. “It was about how I, as a Muslim, thought about myself.”

It’s a struggle his brother Mohammed can relate to:

“So this dichotomy forms in your mind,” he said. “And that is, ‘Can I be a great American? And can I be a great Muslim?’ ”

That’s why the brothers decided to launch “Noor Kids.” They wanted to reclaim the story of American Muslims and the values the religion teaches.

But the most basic desire was to offer something they rarely experienced as children. They wanted young Muslims to see themselves in the books they read.

The “Noor Kids” books are simple stories that explore issues such as bullying, charity and jealousy. They are intended for 4- to 8-year-olds. Families subscribe for $25 and receive four books over a year.

Now, the brothers are expanding the business. After the death of their mother in December, Amin said, he thought of his own legacy. He wanted it to be about more than spreadsheets.

Amin wrote the first eight stories himself and hired artists to illustrate them. But now “Noor Kids” has expanded to include a writer and art director, freeing him to oversee the daily operations of the company.

Since the Aasers published their first book four years ago, they’ve sold copies to 25,000 households all over the world. In the same period, they’ve seen Islamic children’s literature in the West take off.

The brothers say their vision for reaching little Muslims goes far beyond books. This year, they launched an online summer camp, and they have plans to get into animation and mobile apps.

One topic that their series doesn’t address is violent extremism in their community. Amin said that when they started the series, the books weren’t made to save their young readers from that; they were made to save them from losing their identity.

“Fast forward to where we are today,” he said. “Could this also help children understand what their beliefs actually are, so they can stand up against violent extremism? Yeah.”

Children’s literature is being taken seriously: Ruskin Bond

Compared to 10 or 15 years ago, children's literature is now being taken seriously by publishers, says author Ruskin Bond. (Image: BCCL)

Compared to 10 or 15 years ago, children’s literature is now being taken seriously by publishers, says author Ruskin Bond. (Image: BCCL)

New Delhi: Keeping children riveted to a book is not an easy task and requires responsibility and sensitivity, legendary author Ruskin Bond, who at 81 has more than 150 titles to his credit, says. The popular storyteller is also gratified by the fact that children’s literature has grown impressively and is now taken seriously by publishers.

“Writing for children is more responsible and one needs to be sensitive. If they don’t find the first few pages interesting, they will keep it away,” the uncannily witty Bond, who weaves magic with his pen, told IANS in an interview on the sidelines of a meeting with five children who have been selected in the ‘Child Reading to Child’ initiative of the Landmark bookstore chain.

Reading has always been a minority hobby even during his school days, though it has improved over the years.

“I often hear that reading habits of children today are affected by the internet and gizmos. During my schooltime, before the age of TV and the internet, there were very few kids who enjoyed reading. So I don’t think it has to do anything with the internet,” said Bond, who is warming up to the release of his new book “Rusty and the Magic Mountains” next month.