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


An analytical Study on

The Image of the Child in Children’s Literature

Illustrations in Children’s Books Published in Jordan


Presented to Anna Lindh Foundation for Dialogue Between Cultures

Prepared by Hala Bizri

Beirut, 2011



This study is about the “Image of the Child in Children’s Literature in Jordan”. It focuses on what the illustrations in the books addressed to children 3 to 9 years old represent regarding the following:

-          The identity of the child, reader of the book

-          The identity of the society fostering this child

-          The relationship between the author and the artist

-          The dialogue between the text and the illustrations


This kind of literature might be at its starters; yet, some authors have become known and their names have surpassed Jordan to reach other Arabic countries. Moreover, the sustainability of their works during the last ten years reflects their strong will in making this field succeed.


On the other hand and probably due to its late initiation, Children’s Literature Critique in Jordan remains minimal. The few studies that exist are more descriptive and they rarely analyze the topics of this kind of literature. Despite the fact that Jordan does not lack artists and creative people, children books in Jordan are most of the times illustrated by painters who are not Jordanian. They are from other different Arab countries, especially Iraqis, Palestinian, and Syrians in addition to Lebanese.


Jordanian Children Literature has several features and characteristics. An intriguing one is that most eminent writers publish their books by themselves. It is rare to see a publishing house in Jordan dealing with the publication of different writers interested in children. This might sound strange at the first strike, but the reality of books and publishing in Jordan imposes this strong interrelation between the publishing house and the author, due to the scarcity of the income in this field. The Jordanian book, as other literature fields in the Arab Levant, suffers from a problem that might be the biggest obstacle that children books face in the Arab region, and that is distribution.


            The main research theme in this study is the role of publishing houses as a starting point. It is the publishing house that chooses the illustrator according to his style, and it is the publishing house that represents the country where it publishes. In every publishing house, the focus will be on the illustrations depending on their patterns and artists. The following are the some of the main Jordanian Publishing Houses specialized in children’s books: the Ministry of Culture, Manhal Publishing House, Child’s World Development Foundation, Nahed Shawwa Books, Abeer Taher Books (Jasmine Publishing House), and a new Publishing House: Jabal Amman Publishers.


Three artistic levels can be seen in Jordanian Children Books Illustrations:

First, the illustrations performed on the computer, and they are plain. The colors are unified with no waves. They are usually accompanied by a hasty realization of the book. The capacity of these books to transmit feelings to children and to enrich his imagination is minimal due to their commercial production. Moreover, their style holds many repetitions from one book to another.

Second, the beautiful artistic illustrations characterized by bright colors, as if we are constantly in a spring flowering garden. The personalities in these illustrations are usually happy, honest, and romantic. They carry many positive traits and avoid negative feelings. These illustrations are far from reality, and they concentrate on embellishing the daily life of the child. They do not add strong efforts to fill these illustrations with different complex meanings that enrich the imagination of the child, in addition to the beautiful feelings they transmit to him through their lines and colors.

Third, the beautiful artistic illustrations characterized as well by charming colors, but they are different from the previous ones as to their boldness making the artist participate with the writer in the creation of the text. This last category is the scarcest in the Jordanian books, for it seems to be difficult to find a writer or publisher who allows the illustrator to surpass his mandates, which is transmitting the text literally in drawings and colors.

However, at the social level, there is a sort of common impression that most illustrators of Jordanian Children’s Books leave, regardless of their nationality. The impression is the image of a healthy society that is content, joyful, optimistic, and full of faith. It is an extremely purified image reflected in the faces of the personalities in the books. Children in these books are often modern, as it shows in their clothes and their toys or games. The parents are both modern as it shows in their clothes and traditional with the given role to a mother and a father, for instance. As for the features of the persons, you can see their looks Arab Oriental by some illustrators and completely Western by others in a way that does not resemble at all the Western features that an Oriental person might carry sometimes. However, in both cases, the faces are beautiful and open.

Therefore, illustrations in Jordanian Children’s Literature hold many possibilities for embellishment. What they lack is the acceptance and acknowledgement of reality in addition to opening the space to imagination with all its potentials, not only the ones related to beauty. What is needed is not to be content with illustrating beautiful tolerant faces and green poetic hills, but to open the door to the city and the village as well as the human being with his/her true and complex structure.

Hala Bizri
Arab Children's Literature Regional Programme
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