Delaram Ghanimifard is Co-founder of Tiny Owl, an independent publishing company, committed to produce quality books for children. Tiny Owl aims to introduce the cream of the crop of global children’s literature, contemporary and old, to the English speaking audience.
The idea of publishing books with a diverse background came to me when I was faced with a “single tone” in the children’s book market in the UK. My son was in Year 5 when we came to the UK, and did not know much English. Looking in the libraries and bookshops, I could find very few books that reflected the diversity of his classroom, or that he could culturally relate to.
Knowing that there were plenty artistic and culturally rich books published in other countries, I thought we could translate some of the best here in the UK and add to the valuable books published here. We started publishing books from the place we knew best: Iran.
Each book is unique in a way. They range from old and modern fables to poems, and contemporary stories. They have been translated into English and then edited both for rubbing out the foreign tone and to make sure they are culturally approachable by children (and parents and teachers) here.
We believe by seeing the art works in a picture book, children enrich their visual and artistic knowledge. It is important to show the children the variety of possible art works in the books they read. This can also complement visiting galleries to see works of artists in a different environment.
Some of our books can be used to teach about lifestyles and diversity in the world (such as Tahmineh’s Beautiful Bird), while others have deep meanings to think about and discuss in class. For the latter, books by contemporary poet and author Ahmadreza Ahmadi are the best we can suggest. Alive Again (see above picture) talks about regaining things that are temporarily gone: blossoms, rain, and wheat grains). His other book When I Coloured In the World, plays with the idea of changing unpleasant concepts such as war and hunger, to more colourful and happy words. We suggest asking the children what words they would like to change in the world and what colour would they give this new word.
Tahmineh’s Beautiful Bird is the story of a Qashqai girl in a nomadic tribe. She likes a bird, but her parents tell her to weave the image of the bird into a carpet-like shoulder bag, instead of capturing and keeping it in a cage. Every page of this story shows us a corner of Tahmineh’s life style as a Qashqai girl. This includes her school, how her mother bakes flat breads and milks the goats, and what they wear. The story and illustrations are from a renowned ethnography artist, in a modern simplified cubist style.
Another aspect of Tiny Owl books is introducing a part of world’s literature that is less known in the UK.
The Little Black Fish is a contemporary classic in Iran, a book that almost every child in Iran has read and knows. It is said that this book has had a large impact on political changes in Iran. The illustrator of this book, Farshid Mesghali, has won the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award for the illustrations.
From the old classics, stories from the 13th century poet, Rumi, are among world treasures. Tiny Owl has published two titles from Rumi: The Parrot and the Merchant, and The Jackal Who Thought He Was a Peacock.
To find more books and read reviews please visit http://tinyowl.co.uk.
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