Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat- Necessity may be the mother of invention, but in the case of the young Saudi girl Lulwa Bint Abdul Malik Bin Ahmed al Sheikh, it is only one factor among many which has allowed her to become the youngest Saudi to write a children’s book. Her book is currently on sale in the biggest bookshops in Saudi Arabia.
The lack of female writers in Saudi Arabia who specialize in children’s fiction, the stereotypical plot of children’s stories [being published], in addition to the open and cultured environment that Lulwa al Sheikh grew up in, which encouraged her to read, as well as her own exceptional talent; all of these contributed to the eight-year-old third grade student penning her first book entitled ‘The Sun and the Moon’ in English. Lulwa donated all of the book’s proceeds to charitable organizations that deal with the protection of children.
Lulwa said, “I have always loved to read and write, and express what I know or have learnt through the written word. Before the publication of my first book, I made several [other] attempts that were read by members of my small family; my father, and my five sisters. In my first book I tell the story of somebody who is lonely and sad because he can only come out after everybody has gone to sleep. But the sun feels sorry for him, and offers to help him by allowing him to join her in watching the children while they play at dawn.”
Lulwa added, “I wrote the book in English because I love the language and have a good command of it. I hope that by writing the book in English, children all over the world will be able to read it, and not only children, but adults as well.”
Lulwa stated that she aspires to be a children’s fiction writer because there are not many female writers who write children’s fiction in Saudi Arabia. In order to achieve this, Lulwa has read a number of books and stories, especially children’s fiction.
Lulwa has donated the entire proceeds of her book to the Charitable Society for the Care of Orphans in Riyadh [ENSAN] and the Disabled Children’s Association because she cares about other children, especially orphans and the disabled. She said, “By donating the proceeds of my first book, I wanted to convey a message of profound love to them. I regard them as siblings and friends, and I hope to put a smile on their faces.”
Lulwa also made reference to the substantial support given to her by her family, and added that the experience of seeing her book on the shelves for the first time was one of the happiest moments in her life, in addition to her joy at seeing her school friends and relatives buying her book and reading and enjoying it.
Lulwa is now preparing to start on her second book which will be written in Arabic. The protagonist of this story will be a small bird who enjoys being free and faces a number of different situations.
Lulwa said that she wishes to write books in each language that she speaks and that she is interested in studying languages. Lulwa is fluent in French, as well as Arabic and English. Lulwa’s stories attempt to indirectly guide children towards moral and ethical ideals, such as helping and treating others kindly.
Lulwa’s elder sister, Sara al Sheikh, 20, said, “My sister is multi-talented. In addition to her literary talent, she also has a talent for drawing. My father is continuously encouraging her, and her first book is entirely her own creation. She wrote it by herself and provided the illustrations. After we saw [the rough draft] my father decided to support and encourage her by printing and copywriting it at the King Fahd National Library, before distributing and selling it via private bookshops.”
Sara added, “Lulwa is open-minded and has a wild imagination. This is what grabbed the attention of my father, who is a journalist, and my mother who is an academic. We are a family that loves to read. I have four other sisters who also love to read, but it was Lulwa who displayed a strong talent for writing and expressing herself. So we made the decision to encourage her to be a young and talented writer. By gaining experience we hope that Lulwa will become a distinguished writer in the future.”
Sara, who majored in translation at university pointed to the importance of education in supporting talented children by saying, “I noticed that Lulwa’s teacher encouraged her [to write a book]. And when Lulwa showed the teacher the first draft of her story, the teacher offered to publish it, and also placed posters of the book on the school walls. Education is an important factor with regards to nurturing and developing children’s talents.”