Hamad Bin Khalifa University Press’ (HBKU Press) newly released children’s book The Firefly is a finalist in the Children’s Picture Book (illustrative 6 years and above) category of the 2020 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. The book is written by first-time Qatari children’s author, Ameera H. Al-Naemi.
“We are extremely proud to be able to provide a publishing platform that recognizes the literary value and important messages of our books and authors from around the world,” explains Bachar Chebaro, Executive Director of HBKU Press. “This type of recognition is sure to increase a book’s visibility and readership internationally and helps HBKU Press participate in cross cultural communications in a global context.”
The Next Generation Indie Book Awards is the largest international awards program for indie authors and independent publishers. In its fourteenth year of operation, the award was established to honor the most exceptional independently books published each year across 70 different categories. The award is presented by Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group in cooperation with Marilyn Allen of Allen O'Shea Literary Agency.
The Firefly was selected as a finalist because it successfully highlights the selflessness of charity to children, teaching them an important lesson on how to positively contribute, even in the smallest way, to the global community.
The story follows Ibraheem, a young boy who wants for nothing in his life as his own little corner of the world is safe and sound and filled with the love of his two parents. His only heartache comes from his inability to understand his parent’s benevolent charity work. Putting his own needs before others, Ibraheem urges his mother to stay with him instead of traveling the world to help others and spending time away from him. He does not believe that a person can single handedly make a difference, and would rather enjoy being in his mother’s presence all the time at home.
But, through the light of a firefly, Ibraheem comes to terms with the fact that maybe, just maybe, small acts of charity do make a difference in the world.
Al-Naemi was inspired to write this book through her own experience working with many international humanitarian organizations to bring about invaluable change. Her involvement in multicultural environments – whether at an office, orphanage, or refugee camp – has served to widen her understanding of foreign cultures, and has enabled her to recognize the many similarities that unite people from different backgrounds around the world.
“To me, fireflies have come to represent a small but significant spring of light and hope,” explains Al-Naemi when asked about her inspiration for the story. “In The Firefly, they help get Ibraheem's mission back on track with little more than their own light. My hope is that we, too, can become sources of light in the sense that we can help energize, guide, and lead our communities. Ibraheem's family values, which revolve around the concept of unity, are central to fostering a sense of community and would enable anyone to find joy in reaching out to others with even the smallest acts of kindness.”
The award recognition came as a complete surprise to the author, yet is significant as it provides a unique perspective by an Arab author on a global issue and shares a message that is central to humanity. Al-Naemi recognizes the success of her partnership with HBKU Press and credits the local Qatari publishing house for playing a key role in developing the book.
“The foresight, experience, and guidance that I received from the team at HBKU Press was instrumental in the literary journey of materializing my own appreciation of fireflies. I look forward to working alongside HBKU Press on my next children’s book project, whenever that may be, as the first partnership has proved to be fruitful.”
Nico Yanopulos, the Greek artist behind the book’s illustrations, was instrumental in depicting the powerful text through evocative illustrations.
“Illustrating The Firefly was my first cooperation with HBKU Press and I feel so happy and blessed that it has been recognized for an award,” said Yanopulos upon hearing the news.
The illustrations complement the text in a way that depicts the emotional journey of the protagonist’s personal growth.
“This is nothing like my usual style of illustrations that are full of color and life. When I was consulting with the HBKU Press team on creating the images for the book, we decided that the color aspect would be very symbolic. I sketched the whole book using a dark pencil and gray tones and then I applied only two colors: yellow and blue. Yellow to symbolize the light and hope and blue to symbolize peace, kindness, and truth. I’m happy with the final effect and that this helped bring the meaningful text to life.
“I’m very happy and grateful to work with HBKU Press, a publishing house that believes in my talent as an artist,” Yanopulos added. “I truly believe our meaningful work together is enriching the world of literature.”
The Firefly is perfect for children aged 5-12 and can be purchased in bookstores across Qatar, or through the Snoonu and Rafeeq applications in Qatar and delivered to your door. It’s also available as an eBook on Kindle, Overdrive, and the Streetlib platforms.