Saturday, March 31, 2007

What did you read in youth?

Today, I found a gem: International Children's Digital Library
The mission of the International Children's Digital Library Foundation (ICDL Foundation) is to support the world's children in becoming effective members of the global community - who exhibit tolerance and respect for diverse cultures, languages and ideas -- by making the best in children's literature available online free of charge. The Foundation pursues its vision by building a digital library of outstanding children's books from around the world and supporting communities of children and adults in exploring and using this literature through innovative technology designed in close partnership with children for children.

By providing a library of children books in more than 80 languages, the foundation also aims to provide immigrant families to find children's books from their cultures and in their mother tongue; thus giving parents access to the books and stories from their youth to pass on to the next generation. A fundamental principle of the Foundation draws from a paper published in 2005 by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO): "Denial to access to information in one's mother tongue is equivalent to a denial of a human right." The report also concludes, "In terms of pedagogy, how do children learn best? In their mother tongue."

I was pleased to find that with 377 titles, Persian books rank high in the collection. (To put this number in perspective, there are 272 titles in English.) To find many of the titles that I grew up with, was like discovering a treasure box from my childhood.

This also brought me to discovering The Children's Book Council of Iran. The council has been around since 1962, devoted to the growth of national literature for Iranian children and young adults.

The Council encourages quality production of all types of literary and informational books, as well as Encyclopedia for Young People. Besides promoting the development of children’s reading culture, the council collects resources for rendering library services and establishing small types of libraries. It also encourages creators and publishers to produce quality literary and informational books; and promotes introduction of Iranian children’s literature to other countries.

For those of us who grew up with Hans Christian Andersen's stories, and who wish to celebrate their childhood on his birthday (April 2nd: International Children's Book Day), I propose we share the memory of the book that influenced our youth the most.

I will try to compile your responses into a colorful post.


RickB said...

Hi Naj, I don't know if you are a fan of Monty Python but Terry Jones has written a great satire about the situation with the UK captives. Worth a read-,,2047128,00.html

RickB said...

oops, tiny link

Amre El-Abyad said...


you have been tagged

Dr Victorino de la Vega said...

“Three cheers for Naj,
that's a great blog you have there.”
[Guthman Bey, Lebanese blogger]

Make it four mate!
Sometimes, there’s a woman…

“Now this here story I'm about to unfold took place in the early '90s - just about the time of our conflict with Sad'm and the I-raqis. I only mention it because sometimes there's a man... I won't say a hero, 'cause, what's a hero? Sometimes, there's a man. And I'm talkin' about the Dude here”

My first and favorite cartoon when I was 4 in pre-civil war Lebanon was “The Silver Surfer”.
We used to read the French version called “Le Surfer d’Argent”- a small publishing house in Lyons called LUG had bought the rights for all Marvel stories for France, Benelux, Switzerland and former French colonies such as Lebanon and North Africa.
For a reason I ignore, they published the Marvel stories with a 2 to 5 years time lag.

To me Norrin Radd was the epitome of cool.
He was the ultimate exile: trapped on earth by the “great cosmic barrier”.
Victim of an invisible fence set up by an angry God named Galactus.
A metaphor for life I thought.

When I was forced to leave Beirut as at the outbreak of the civil war, I figured out my parents would buy me some kind of “cosmic surf” so I could escape on my own, free from the reach of human madness and cruelty…

Anyhoo, here’s a link to a famous Silver Surfer soliloquy:

Mystic Rose said...

wow...this is great!! thank you for the link..a wonderful find!

Naj said...

Don't forget to tell me your favorit book, Mystic Rose :)

David said...

The first complete book that I ever read was Jack London's "Call of the Wild". I was 7 or 8 years old when I read it. The next book that I read was Jules Verne's "Journey to the Center of the Earth".

Naj said...

RickB thanks, read and commented on it too.

Dr V, the only comics I had was Flash Gordon, and I have to admit I didn't like it much, but I had a crush on flash Gordon :) But there was Tin Tin of course, which I loved. and I also had one copy of Asterix and Obelix in Egypt; I read it maybe 50 times and laughed every single time

David , Jack London at age of 7? eeaarrly! Well I think I got my had on his books (The call of Wild, and White Fang) at around 10. But I don't think I ever read them; made me feel somber. It was time of war. I wanted things that were light. When I was 7-8; I was hooked on a series called "Good stories for good kids" (ghessehaye khoob baraye bachehaye khoob), it had different series of stories based on old texts: say like odyssey, Kalila and Dimna, biblical tales, Molavi's Masnavi, and etc made simple for kids. But I also liked Mullah Nasreddin and anything Hans Christian Andersen.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Germany (so no, I am not a Lebanese blogger, though I have come to know that little non-country well and remain curiously attached to it) and my favorite books were collections of fairy tales by Wilhelm Hauff and, yes, Andersen. The editions I had are still being published and featured very beautiful illustrations by the aquarellist Ruth Koser Michaels. The two fairy tales I reread the most have the same theme: the heart of ice and its redemption. They are "The Cold Heart" by Hauff and "The Snow Queen" by Andersen.

Guthman Bey said...

Blogger has me as anonymous in the last comment, though I didn't mean to be.

Naj said...

Guthman Bey,

Pleased to see you here. I hope you found the soup recipe.

Snow Queen is still my favorite, and one which I often use as a metaphore of emotional states.

Am not sure I know Wilhelm Hauff, though, will look it up.

nunya said...

Ok, I'm gonna jump right in and tell you my favorite stories from childhood, and I'm sorry that I'm not Lebanese, German or Iranian. Neither ere my favorite stories. They were the
Little House series and I loved them. I own every one in hardback. That was what I wanted for birthdays and Christmas.

Even at ten I knew more about how easy we (as modern Americans in the 70's)had it than most ten year olds.

Naj, I'm having trouble responding to your comments on my blog. I'll figure out what the problem is eventually, but right now, I'm a bit frustrated by it.

Naj said...

Oh the Little House ... I loved it too. I used to watch it before revolution. After revolution, no more American shows, no more Spiderman, no more Superman, no more bionic Woman, no more 6million dollar man, no more Agent 007 or James Bond.

I loved Mary of course, because she was wise and looked like an angel; but I identified with Laura, because I more or less looked like her, and I too fussed about my freckled face :)

Guthman Bey said...

Yes thank you Naj, I found the recipe, and have likewise found a shop here in New York City which carries reshteh. I will keep you posted on my culinary progress.

Guthman Bey said...

Here is a link featuring English translations of some of the best Hauff fairy tales. "The Adventures of Saïd" was another early favorite of mine. "A Heart of Stone" is the last of the featured stories. It is set in Black Forrest, the region of Germany I am from.

nunya said...

Oh no Naj, I loved the books, but I never liked the TV show.

David said...

Naj, I wasn't any sort of a reading prodigy. ;) A school friend gave me The Call of the Wild as a gift. I recall feeling sorry for the dog who was abused by his master. Later in the story, I was happy for the dog when he gained his freedom and found his own way in the world. I suppose that London intended all sorts of analogies to the human world, but at age 7-8, all I saw was a dog.

I read little bible stories when I was younger that were mostly picture books with a little bit of text. I recall Noah's Ark, Jonah and the Whale, and the Walls of Jericho Tumbling Down.

Hey, you and I liked some of the same TV shows! I loved Little House, Bionic Woman, and Six Million Dollar Man (I'm not sure that even 6 billion dollars could rebuild Steve Austin today ;) ). Did you ever watch The Andy Griffith Show? I didn't really appreciate it as a kid, but as an adult, there are all sorts of wonderful moral lessons in the show and I really love the interactions between Andy and Opie. They are magical! :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Naj,

Rather than entire books, it is individual stories that I remember. But if there is one book that fed my wild imagination just at the right time,it was, the title, if translated verbatim:"the child who flies through the ancient world(times)". It was about a child traveling in time to the distant past accompanied by the narrator's voice which explains how life began on Earth and takes the child on a journey back to the present. I found the style simply unforgettable and the book put you "right there" in various places and times. Though I remember only bits of what I read, I remember reading through it day and night with my 'limited speed' of reading. I had to return the book to my uncle who had fetched from a library before I was able to complete it. I have not seen the book since. But the time I spent with the book turned out to be the right amount of ingredient to feed and to propel my curiosity.

DivaJood said...

I loved the book, Misty of Chincoteague - I loved horses, and ponies. Read this over, and over, and over as a child.

Wonderful post, Naj.

goatman said...

I remember liking "Little Black Sambo" as a creature of about 4 or 5.
This book is now banned in US as being racist. Too bad.
It involved a little black boy a tiger and a palm tree as essential elements. As I recall, the tiger ran around the tree so fast that he turned into butter! Can this be so?

little indian said...

I have been reading from ever since I can remember, in English and in Bengali.

We had the complete set of
"The Childrens' Encyclopaedia" by Arthur Mee (in 10 volumes).

They were my fall back reading material, if I did not have any other books, I would read these over and over again, or just look at the pictures.

Thinking back, that must have opened my mind to know about anything and everything.

After so many years, I found a set being sold in an Oxfam shop!!

Naj said...

David, Iris, Divajood, goatman and little indian; thanks for sharing with me your favorit book.
I'll be waiting till weekend for other to respond to my invitation.

butter-tiger :))


betmo said...

what did i read as a kid? any nancy drew mystery/hardy boys mystery i could find. charlie and the chocolate factory- all of the little house on the prairie books by laura ingalls wilder. my mother called me a houseplant because i never wanted to be outside- i was always inside with my nose in a book. i love to read and i love it when people are turned on to reading and books. it opens up whole new worlds- and you get to use your imagination. a rare thing in today's technological age.

Naj said...

House plant bet :)

I, too, in fact prefered the solitary confinement to my room with a book to playing and getting air in my lungs!

My father was often displeased with my zeal, he thought my brain wires would get too meshed up. My mother too thought I needed to read less, if I were to not suffer "intellectual depression" when I faced the realities of the real world!

Some days, I feel they had a point!

Mystic Rose said...

My favorite book, Naj, im not sure if theres one yet..i loved reading MahaBharata which is the story of long ago India, but more mythical than real.. but love it anyway for all the drama.

And I still like Enid Blyton's books...:)

and ofcourse you know I like Sufi
poetry. :)

little indian said...

Enid Blyton, of course.
I will still read them if I can get hold of them.

Naj said...

oh good people, I had never heard of Nancy drew or Enid Blyton as a child.

I have such an urge to go back to my mother's basement and pull out my books and see if there is the name of authors marked on any of them!

well I seem to have a nice weekend project ahead of me :)!

Coffee Messiah said...

Sorry I missed this post!

Although I read Mark Twain, EA Poe, Jack London, Defoe and most of the childrens classics, one of my favorites was a book written by Thornton W Burgess, whos illustrator Cady was one of the best. Mostly animals as people, The Log Of The Storyteller was about: Once a week a man would ask a child in the neighborhood to bring a log, and that child would ask the storyteller to make a story up about "whatever" and each week, a different child would bring the log, hence a new story.

I think I was brought up in the wrong country for alot of things!
; (