“The city streets are full of colors, smells, and noise that carry with it its identity, stamping my memory with a history passed and a future full of recollections. As the school bell rings, the children rejoice at he end of another school day. As for me, the most beautiful part of it is the route we take back home.” That’s how Rania Zbib Daher starts her most recent children’s book “zakirat el madina” (Memory of a city). Her book inspired by her childhood years in Beirut is a beautiful depiction of the city through the eyes of a child. Every page I read reminded me of that same route I used to take with my mom back from school; the man that sold roasted peanuts, the Ka’ak seller, and the man that pushed his vegetable and fruit cart along the streets of Beirut, all played a role in that theatre of life in this crowded city.
I love Rania’s books. They smell of Lebanon. They sound like Lebanon and they feel like home. Like all wonderful books, the child is always the catalyst in his stories, a warrior of life with little ideas that sound so simple yet are a true test of bravery. Feyrouz (in the book Feyrouz, the pomegranate girl) saves her village from melancholy by teaching them how to love life again by pushing them to try the forbidden fruits of a pomegranate. She helps her friends by showing them that the small pleasures of life lie in finding beauty and happiness. In her books, the children like Feyrouz, Adam, or even the hen Bak Beek are all small characters of everyday life but they shine because they know deep down inside that what matters the most is the belief they have in themselves.
There’s wisdom in the words of children, more than in volumes and volumes of books combined. In my heart I hope someone tells our kids never to stop believing these words. I hope someone tells them; we might be able to fix the world, you see, if we all believed in statements like these, just like Rania does. Because in the words of Maya Angelou “a bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” Our kids just like Rania’s characters are birds that sing, and it’s their individuality that shines through. I love to get lost in books. Between their pages, my boys and I, discover a lovely place to be where children create dreams and life is conquered by them too.
So if you ever “find pomegranate seeds on the ground and felt a strange kind of happiness in your heart, be sure that we (the children) passed by here. Without knowing it, a smile will be drown on your face, and you will hear a new heart beat, a happy one” (the ending of Feyrouz the pomegranate girl).
To books, to dreams, to courage, to love, to believing as Dr Seuss so unassumingly once said “ a person is a person no matter how small.” To our kids and for them being the protagonists in their lives…