An analytical Study on The Image of the Child in Children’s Literature Illustrations in Children’s Books Published in Lebanon


An analytical Study on

The Image of the Child in Children’s Literature

Illustrations in Children’s Books Published in Lebanon


Presented to Anna Lindh Foundation for Dialogue BetweenCultures

and prepared by Hala Bizri

Beirut, 2011



During the last few years, research, studies, and round tables have been numerous in Beirut trying to figure out the “color” of the publications addressed to children. The modern book has appeared in Lebanon with no prior decision, preparation, or coordination of any kind. Young publishers decided to risk the adventure, each for his own reason and as they please. They succeeded encouraging thereby old publishing houses that used to publish traditional books to renew themselves or at least to try. This innovation in publications coincided with an active movement by the Ministry of Culture, some local cultural or educational associations, a network of libraries, and a number of foreign Cultural Centers in Lebanon.


            In parallel with this healthy movement of children’s books, another trend by the persons involved in this field was mainly based on the competition between the publishers and sometimes between the same creative authors. Moreover, an additional action was the concern of many young artists, university students or newly graduates, in illustrating children’s books.


            This study aims at highlighting “The Image of the Child in Children’s Literature” in Lebanon. Rather than evaluating the beauties of the illustrations addressed to the children or examining the techniques used, the goal is to analyze the works of the artists regarding creativity, content, and purpose: what the artist wants to say, what he is saying – unintentionally perhaps, and the value he adds to the text.


            The study is therefore looking at the “image of the child” in the illustrations in reference to the following:

-          Transmitting the relation of the child with himself, his peers, and the adults around him;

-          Transmitting the relation of the child with his natural environment and his community;

-          Expressing the child’s identity and its effect on his culture and on the formation of what he belongs to;

-          Expressing the identity of the illustrator, his culture, and what he belongs to;

-          Ability to communicate with the text and engage in a dialogue with it in addition to the role of the text (or the writer) in this dialogue;

-          Expressing the identity of its producer (and sometimes the funder), his culture, and what he belongs to.


The sample of the study consists of 44 books with drawings published in Lebanon between the years 2006 and 2011 and addressed to children, 3 to 9 years old[1]. The works of 25 illustrators will constitute the focus of the research, in an attempt to cover relatively different patterns and artistic trends.


It is hard to determine the number of the illustrators of the children’s books currently in Lebanon. It might be more than 30 as an initial estimation. However, if we consider a child illustrator every one of whom a children’s book was published at least once, we would reach more around 80 illustrators. Studying the works of almost 25 illustrators should allow us to reach a clear picture of this product.


There have been in Lebanon very few attempts by publishers to work with big artists on illustrating children’s books. The visual artist Amin ElBacha illustrated one of them[2]. Moreover, some illustrators who have currently become famous in the field of drawing in children’s books are also visual artists who participate in exhibitions or who might mount their own exhibitions. One example is Hassan Zahreddine who participated in the “Autumn Exhibition” at Sursok Museum in the fall of 2010, accompanied by big names of brilliant Lebanese artists. Another one is Mohammad Said Baalbaki who mounted his own exhibition of artistic equipment in Maqam Gallery in Beirut during the same season.


As for children’s books illustrators in Lebanon in general, most are graduates of Graphic Design Department from the Lebanese Universities. Only few come from Plastic Arts Department.


What might first strike anyone knowledgeable about the illustrations in children’s books in Lebanon is that they are attractive, not only to the young readers but in a more general sense to the audience of art lovers. They are attractive by their beauty, art, modernity, audacity, and accuracy in relation to the drawing, realization, and production. Some publishing houses might be distinguished from others by the quality of their productions, their selection of illustrators, and the freedom space they allocate to the painter. Nonetheless, the “stereotyped” production where all the faces resemble to each other and all scenes come as expected has become close to extinction in this field.


Although the artistic techniques are not the focus of this study, it is however important to mention that they constitute the first element that shows us how creative these artists are. Creativity through a pencil and a quill, bold colors as well as black and white, collage, or moppets, in addition to what is called “mixed media” where several tools and techniques are used together. It seems that everything is suitable for the illustrator to experiment and to try to overcome the locally set limits. The works come as a pretext for him to experiment his tools, demonstrate his creativity, and challenge his potentials.


            Moreover, illustrations in these books tell another story. It is a story that often surprises the author himself, a story he did not expect, a story that he might like or might refuse. It is how the artist sees the story. Additionally, this artist seems to have a lot to say. It is as if these stories have come to allow him to express his thoughts behind the curtains of the image with various interpretations.


These illustrations convey to us the reality of the Lebanese society with its most important values, namely pluralism, pluralism of identities and belongings and plurality of tastes and potentials. A common feature however reigns, and it is the inclination to this diversity and the courage of constantly seeking it.


[1] These criteria were set by Anna Lind Foundation that initiated this study.

[2] In the Arabic appendices, you can find the complete list of the mentioned books with their titles, authors, painters, and publishing coordinates.

Hala Bizri
Arab Children's Literature Regional Programme
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