Archive for December, 2013|Monthly archive page

Illustrator Profile: Mona Yakzan

In Uncategorized on December 22, 2013 at 9:54 pm

One of the perks of what we do at ReadingStart is getting to know the wonderfully talented people behind some of our favorite picture books. Today’s profile is proof of those perks. We’ve always been fascinated by the depth and dimension of illustrator Mona Yakzan’s work, and naturally we just couldn’t help but share her work.

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Mona Yakzan is a Lebanese Cypriot artist. She holds a degree in Computer Graphics and Animation from Fredeick University in Nicosia, and a degree in Digital Graphics from the Lebanese American University. She also attended the University of Central England, and has recently participated in several workshops on Stop Motion Animation in Italy and the Czech Republic.

What is unique about Mona Yakzan’s work is the range. With every new story, a new style of illustration seems to emerge. She uses different mixed media techniques, mixing real photography with illustrated characters, using collage, stitching illustration, and creating 3D puppets for main characters.  For her latest book “Faer fe bayt Tamere,” published by Asala Publishers, she built 3D Puppets within 3D settings in order to illustrate the text.

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Some of her illustrated stories in Arabic are: “Sadiki Jameel”, “ Kayfa sara el konfouz Faran”, “”Fekrat Hemar”, “Kayfa tastadou Fekra”, “ Baytouna Ahla”, “Far fe bayet tamer”, “Al Keta al moutanakera”, “Ouzon al feel”, “La tataakhara ene antazerkouma” and many others. She has won several awards for her work, most recently the Bank Audi Lebanese Liras Master Card Design Competition and the 2012 Gold Medal at the Sharjah Exhibition for Children’s Book Illustrations for her illustrated story “Antar Wa Samir.” She has illustrated several children’s books published in Greece, the Middle East and Asia.

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We asked Mona what her favorite children’s book growing up was, and her answer was “Tom and Jerry,” the story plus coloring book.

Apart from her work as an illustrator, Mona is now working on a stop motion animation that will be shown at different European competitions in animation. We’re looking forward to seeing it!

ReadingStart’s “Tell me a Story” Program

In Uncategorized on December 15, 2013 at 5:49 pm

This November, ReadingStart launched the first “Tell me a Story” program site in partnership with Tahadi Clinic in Beirut, Lebanon ( The program is made up of two components: 1)  storytelling workshops for mothers with children under the age of three and 2) age appropriate book packs that are given to parents who bring in their children for their basic vaccines.

Tahadi Clinic provides free primary care and counseling to some of Beirut’s most impoverished families. As part of their regular services, the clinic runs pre-natal and neo-natal workshops for expecting and young mothers. ReadingStart’s storytelling workshops were therefore easily incorporated into the clinic’s offering. The workshops focused on raising awareness of the importance of starting young,  on techniques to make storytelling engaging and interactive and on creating a print rich environment at home using available resources.




Alongside the workshops, Tahadi Clinic also began giving out a ReadingStart book pack to every parent who comes in with a child under the age of three for vaccines. The book packs contain two Arabic board books from Dar Asala Publishing and a brochure on reading aloud with young children. The plan is to distribute free books to a minimum of 300 families over a one year period.



Author Profile: Rania Zaghir

In Uncategorized on December 1, 2013 at 12:50 pm

On my last visit to Beirut, I picked up a copy of a hilarious book called “Lamma Balatet el Baher” (لما بلطت البحر) by author Rania Zaghir. I read it standing up at the bookshop, giggling the whole way through, and then re-read it out loud to my mother who was shopping with me. The book is a collection of idioms and phrases that color our daily speech, and it completely hit home as those were all expressions I’d grown up listening to my mother spout at me, much like the main character in the book.   It was refreshing to see a kids’ book whose sole purpose was to play with words, and that was colored with humor while at it. As a result, I just had to get in touch with Rania to put together this author profile.


 Rania Zaghir is a Lebanese writer and publisher of children’s books. Interestingly, she says that she “had a tense relationship with the written word, with books, with literature courses” growing up. Books were not seen as fun, especially when assigned readings were doled out by teachers who mismatched literary selections with each age group’s needs, interests and linguistic abilities. “Literature classes seemed as exciting as a visit to the Museum of Painfully Boring and Irrelevant Artifacts,” she states. It wasn’t until university that she re-connected with books. Fortunately for those of us who love a good kids’ book, Rania took a children’s literature course that required her to produce a picture book. The book was spotted by a publisher who published it in 1999. Twenty eight books later, here we are.

Rania’s books have earned her numerous awards. In 2010, she won the Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for the Dialogue between Cultures Award. She has also won the 2009  Assabil (Friends of Public Libraries) Annual Award for Children’s Literature for her book “Sisi Malakit Talbas Kharofan wa Dodatayn” (سيسي ملاقط تلبس خروفاً و دودتين). Her books have been translated to Italian, Korean and German.


She is also the cofounder and curator of the International biannual children’s literature conference known as “What a Story!” In 2007, Rania Zaghir founded Al Khayyat Al Saghir Publishing House which devotes special attention to picture books of engaging, quality literary material that aim to develop the Arab child’s artistic and social awareness.

I can go on and on about Rania Zaghir’s work, which is extremely imaginative and creative, delves deep into the inner world of children, is not in any sense of the word didactic and is always beautifully illustrated. What I will do, however, is end with one of my favorite quotes from our chat: “I hope one day that Beirut will be as quiet as Stockholm because everyone is reading instead of arguing.”

Some books written by Rania Zaghir: Haltabees Haltabees, Haltabees Haltabees: Ashaar Men Semsem Wa khiyar, Man Lahasa Karna el Booza,  Sisi Malakit Talbes Kharofan wa Dodatayn, Limaza Amtarat el Samaa Koosa wa Warak Inab, Lamma Balatet el Baher,  Hadid Saboun Bonbon, Adnan wa Hakim al Asnan.



رانيا زغيركاتبة قصص أطفال وناشرة لبنانية. بين كتاباتها العديدة: حلتبيس حلتبيس ,سيسي ملاقط تلبس خروفا ودودتين ,من لحس قرن البوظة, لماذا أمطرت السماء كوسى وورق عنب, لما بلطت البحر, حديد صابون بونبون, سلسلة العملاق العملاق, أخي الصغير, …ترجم العديد من كتبها الى اللغات الايطالية و الألمانية والكورية والفرنسية والانكليزية.  نالت الكاتبة والناشرة رانيا زغير جائزة جمعية السبيل (أصدقاء المكتبات العامة) السنوية لكتب الأطفال2009، عن كتابها “سيسي ملاقط تلبس خروفا ودودتين (دار الخياط الصغير).  ترجم هذا الكتاب الى اللغة الايطالية وصدر عن دار سيرندابتا- بولونيا. وترجم كتاب “لمّا بلطت البحر” الى الكورية و” من لحس قرن البوظة ” الى الألمانية عن دار أيديسيون أورينت – برلين.

رانيا من اولئك الكتاب الطليعيين الذين مهدوا لادب الأطفال في العالم العربي.  أسست في 2007 دار نشر” الخياط الصغير” الذي يعنى بنشر كتب الأطفال التي تشكل مادة أدبية جذابة هدفها تنمية الحس الفني والأجتماعي لدى الطفل العربي. تخاطب الطفل بلغة واعية وذكية،تربطه بالعصر،ولذا تعمل على تقريبه من أجواء الثقافات الانسانية على نحو واع ومدرس، ومن هنا فإن القاعدة الاساسية هي مساعدة الطفل على تكوين ذخيرة معرفية خاصة،تشكل قاعدة استقبال وتلقي قادرة على الفرز بوعي. وتستخدم تقنيات في الرسم حديثة جدا يمكن القول انها ذات مقاييس دولية،بهدف تلوين عالم الطفل،وتدريب حواسه اللونية،ووضعه في اجواء من الدينامية الداخلية الفرحة والمشرقة.

 قصص ألفتها:

 حلتبيس حلتبيس، حلتبيس حلتبيس أشعار من سمسم وخيار، من لحس قرن البوظة؟ سيسي ملاقط تلبس خروفا ودودتين،  لماذا أمطرت السماء كوسى وورق عنب؟ لما بلطت البحر، حديد صابون بونبون، العملاق العملاق، العملاق العملاق يغني: سنة حلوة يا سلطة،العملاق العملاق هنا وهناك، بيتي هو طابة