ArabKidLitNow recommends Nadine Kaadan’s Answer Me, Leila
Author’s awards: 2011 Anna Lindh Foundation prize for the best fiction book for children with special needs
Author: Nadine Kaadan
Illustrator: Nadine Kaadan
Publisher: Box of Tales Publishing
For English translation contact: Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp
For teaching resources contact: info@OutsideInWorld.org.uk
Buy in Arabic: Box of Tales Publishing
This beautifully illustrated picture book is a playful retelling of the fairy tale Rapunzel, but with a twist: Leila is deaf, so she can’t hear her suitor calling to her.
Leila and Sami keep missing each other: she sits up in her high tower waiting for him, but no matter how many times he comes and calls for her, she doesn’t answer. Things look better for them both once Sami realises that he needs to learn her language, sign language, in order to win her heart.
With its swirling illustrations, bright colours, and cheeky sideways glances, it’s a refreshing story about overcoming hearing difficulties. Leila’s lovely, ornate flowing hair, looping and curling like the Arabic letters it conceals, suggests the beautiful physicality of her language. And the book ends with Leila giving the readers a beginners’ lesson in sign language.
Answer me, Leila! was cited by The Guardian as a ‘badly needed story for young people’ in its feature on disability inclusive books which should be available in English.
The British charity Outside in World has produced some excellent classroom resources for Answer Me, Leila! to encourage teachers to explore issues of inclusivity and accessibility with their pupils. See the OIW website for a helpful report on how Answer Me, Leila! was used as a case study with deaf and hearing primary school pupils, demonstrating how stories such as this can empower deaf pupils, encourage mutual understanding and inspire children to improve their storytelling skills.
Nadine Kaadan is an award-winning children’s book author and illustrator from Damascus, Syria, now living in London where she completed her MA in Art and Politics at Goldsmiths, University of London, and MA Illustration at Kingston University.
Nadine in the media:
- Nadine Kaadan: a Syrian storyteller in London (Words and Pictures blog)
- They have a right to understand: Nadine Kaadan speaks to Middle East Eye about Tomorrow (report by Nashwa Gowanlock)
- BBC video: Writer Nadine Kaadan helps Syrian children understand war
- From Syria to the UK, Diversity and Children’s Picture Books: Guest blog on Picture Book Den