Diary of a School Boy & Children’s Talk / Reviews of Two Children’s Books by Taufeek Al-Issa

Diary of a School Boy By Khaled Jumaa

Troublemaker at the Al-Shaboura Refugee Camp, Gaza

Why aren’t mischievous boys the heroes of children’s books? In a collection of stories by the writer and poet Khaled Jumaa he returns to Al-Shaboura Refugee Camp in Gaza, where he grew up, in a childhood described as full of mischief, with his friends in the alleys of the camp and in school.

The mischievous boy is given the role of the hero of the stories, with his unique point of view and means of coping. Jumaa gives him the right to have his stories told, rather than the focus being narrowed to smart, diligent children.

Readers can identify the hero of the story as describing Jumaa’s own childhood, as though returning through them to his mischievousness and friendships in a singular and sophisticated manner.

Jumaa describes humorously and cynically phenomena he witnessed as a child in school – criticism by the school, the learning program, teacher-student relations and unequal treatment. Children will find all of this fascinating and will keep on reading.

Children’s Talk by Vadakh Zakatan

A chance for Playful, Mischievous reading

Children’s talk is a poetry book for children, written by the poet and composer Vadakh Zakatan. The book was published by Alrasif publishing house in 2014.

The book contains some poems written in literary Arabic and some written in Palestinian spoken Arabic.

Through his poetry the poet explains different concepts to children without giving advice, blaming or giving guidance.

The writing is based on children’s wish for enjoyment, and gives this through the writing as well as the artistic design of the pictures and colors.

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Zakatan suggests values to the child, such as the connection between a person and his homeland, equality and not preferring one person over the other. Homeland is portrayed as a warm, intimate place, where a person respects the other. He expresses a human stance on accepting difference between people, in songs children can sing or learn by heart. In this way he resists racism around color, religion, or even bodily traits.

Zakatan gives room to learning too. For example in the poem “gates of Al Kuds”  which teaches children the names of Jerusalem’s gates and includes explanations about the city and its history.

Zakatan doesn’t neglect the child’s need for mischief, which in his eyes is both important and dangerous. He gives room for its expression in an orderly and lovable manner, by allowing children to scribble on a “days of the week” plan as he wishes, as a rebellion against his routine.

The design of the book encourages children to express themselves as they with, for example by leaving an empty page besides every poem, and in this way letting the child choose this own expression through writing, drawing or scribbling.

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A letter from Taufeek Al-Issa:


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Dear Readers,

For many years there’s been an agreement to take political matters into considerations when writing about Palestinian literature, to write with the aim of transmitting political ideas. This is indeed an important cause in light of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and I don’t want to underestimate it. But despite this, we will take a different approach, where material will be chosen, and related to in criticism, based on its literary and artistic quality.

For the length of human history, nations have not disappeared or become instinct because of a lack in politicians or a diminished political role. Rather, nations and peoples, who conquerors tried to annihilate, survived in human consciousness through literature, the arts and sciences left by these peoples.

Body without spirit

Politics is destined to die, while literature, art and artistic creations survive.

I don’t mean to put down politics and those who work in it, and their influence on social and economic progress. Yet this progress remains without spirit as long as artistic creations won’t bring the body soul and life. Like a judge’s court rulings, which lean on the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. Not every kind of legal justice is ethical justice. It must take the spirit of the law into consideration.

Three discoveries advanced human development in the transition to modernity: when man lifted his eyes from his work in the field and made the discoveries which helped him invent machines that make his life easier, the discovery of fire which supplied cooked food and heat, and the invention of electricity.This is how man deals with his needs and wants, leading to survival and security, a life of comfort and greater ease. If there wasn’t a burning need for this, man wouldn’t make inventions or search for aids in these matters.

From this same place of need satisfaction, comes man’s attraction to literature and art, in order to give expression to his individual and social subjectivity. This need is not only the poet or musician’s need for creative expression, but the need of many from all ages and points of view, to enjoy artistic products. This enjoyment is not only for entertainment, but for “the pleasure of knowing and understanding”, for, as Becket said, knowing is a human need and right.

Going back to the beginning of the article, we see it as the right of the reader to have high quality creative work presented and literary criticism brought on interesting, enjoyable material, without narrowing or limiting ourselves to a framework with political, social or ethical constraints.

As for the suggestion that we bring material which touches on the humanitarian Palestinian issue, I’ll say that any creative material that will be presented has a human message and will strengthen our existence in our country and in the world and for the duration of history.


Children's booksGazaTaufeek Al-Issi