FEBRUARY 22, 2022 — Organizers yesterday announced that prolific and celebrated Lebanese author Fatima Sharafeddine has made the six-author shortlist for the prestigious 2022 Hans Christian Andersen Award. Other authors shortlisted were Marie-Aude Murail from France, María Cristina Ramos from Argentina, Peter Svetina from Slovenia, Annika Thorfrom Sweden, and Margaret Wild from Australia.
Junko Yokota from the USA was elected as the 2022 Jury President and she led the 10-member international jury, which also included Antoine Al Chartouni (Lebanon), Marilar Aleixandre (Spain), Evelyn Arizpe (Mexico/UK), Mariella Bertelli (Canada), Tina Bilban (Slovenia), Viviane Ezratty (France), Jiwone Lee (South Korea), Robin Morrow (Australia), Jaana Pesonen (Finland) and Cecilia Repetti (Argentina). Liz Page acted as Jury Secretary.
According to organizers, the criteria used to assess the nominations includes “the aesthetic and literary quality” as well as the “freshness and innovation of the body of work.” Jury members, who are assessing an author’s complete body of work, also look for an “ability to see the child’s point of view” and ” continuing relevance of their works to children and young people.”
They also announced an internatlonal shortlist of illustrators: Beatrice Alemagna from Italy, Ryoji Arai from Japan, Iwona Chmielewska from Poland, Gusti from Argentina, Suzy Lee from the Republic of Korea, and Sydney Smith from Canada.
The two winners will be announced at the IBBY Press Conference on Monday, March 21, 2022 at the Bologna International Children’s Book Fair.
Sharafeddine was part of the new wave of Arabic children’s literature that began around the turn of this century, and has since published more than 130 books for young readers. Born in Beirut, she was raised in many different places because of the Lebanese civil war. After studying both Arabic literature and children’s literature in the US, she moved with her husband and two children to Brussels, Belgium in 2001, and decided to dedicate herself to writing for children.
As she said in a 2011 interview with Alice Guthrie:
At the time my children were little, I would visit Lebanon and look for books for them in Arabic; I wouldn’t find anything comparable to the books they had access to in the United States, or that would make me proud to say to them ‘Look, it’s an Arabic book’. My decision to start writing for children was taken back then, when I realized that children’s literature in the Arab world was practically based on unscreened publishing/translating. Publishers, in general, were not aware of the basic characteristics of children’s literature. We needed to develop this literary art in Arab countries, so I decided to take action. My background as an Early Childhood Education specialist, and as a natural writer, were factors that set the stage for me to start publishing my stories.
I don’t really want to educate anybody with my stories. It’s not my purpose to send any messages through the books I publish, but of course there is a message in every book, whether I want it or not. I believe that the smartest technique is to be very honest when you write. Writers have to really draw from their own experience as children, and from their memories. Basically this is how I write – I draw from everything that I see. And I always relate to myself as a child. I think this is the trick: to be a good writer for children is to be a child yourself, to write from that perspective, from the point of view of the child. If you are able to do that, it reflects not only in your ideas but in the language you use as you write.
Sharafeddine is not only an acclaimed author, but she also gives workshops on writing for young people. She began writing picture books for children in the late 1990s and published her first YA novel, Faten, in 2010, when it won Best Book award at the Beirut International Book Fair. It has since appeared in a number of languages, and she has written several more middle-grade and YA novels, including Ghady & Rawan, Cappuccino, and Mila’s Pear.
At a 2020 event, reported on by Yasmine Motawy, Sharafeddine talked about some of the challenges for contemporary authors of Arabic children’s and YA literature, noting that publishers were hesitant to publish content that “bent gender-normative expectations, or that broke grammatical rules or inserted colloquial terms into a generally fusha text.”
The reason is, she noted, that the most lucrative market for Arabic children’s books is currently schools.
Many of Sharafeddine’s books have been translated into world languages, including English. Some are picture books from her popular Mimi series and works about historical figures such as Ibn Battuta and Ibn Sina; her co-written middle-grade novel Ghady & Rawan (written with Samar Mahfouz Barraj); and her YA novel Faten.