Posts Tagged ‘muslim children’s books’

Living Islam, Danyal, and The Victory Girls

Assalamu alaikum.

Yesterday found me in a tent, in a field, in Lincolnshire (an English county I’d never visited before) as Day Two of the famous Living Islam event got into full swing. I had agreed, with Kube, to run a couple of writing workshops for Muslim Scouts, and had devoted many spare moments over the last couple of months to generating ideas for activities that would (hopefully) not resemble some sort of punishing Summer School!

Living Islam, in Lincolnshire


Anyway, that these young writers came up with such impressive results had far more to do with their enthusiasm and creativity than the somewhat experimental format of my workshop! Please read on and enjoy Eesaa’s composition below.

By way of context: I worked with one group of girls and one group of boys, all aged 10-12. They had to write, in instalments, the next part of The Victory Boys to follow a section I had read. To complicate matters, and to tap their imaginations, the children had to

(1) write in new characters (Danyal for the boys, and a whole team of Victory Girls: Isha, Saara, Yasmin and Aishah – selected by the tried-and-trusted Cinderella “Whose Shoe?” method!);

(2) add mystery objects from randomly chosen boxes (ranging from a banana skin to a plaster (that’s a Band-Aid, y’all!) to a mobile phone); and

(3) take blindfold shots at a goalnet.

(4) Finally, they were also asked to include some of the agreed descriptions and traits of these new characters in their writing!

The most impressive pieces of written work were rewarded with free personalised copies of the book – many thanks to Kube Publishing for providing these! Here is one of the winners:

As Mr Bateman walked off, Saleem thought, “Hmm, a speedy substitute…”. He looked over at Danyal sitting on the bench in his shorts and scratching his short, black hair. As Saleem walked over to him Danyal looked up.

“Yes, Coach Saleem!” As soon as the words came out of his mouth Ibrahim, on the pitch, was fouled and his knee started bleeding. Limping off the pitch Ibrahim put a plaster on his knee.

“Danyal, you’re on!” said Coach Saleem. Danyal jogged on and got into the striker position with just 5 minutes left. News came through on mobiles that the leading team had won their game so Shabab Al-Nasr had to win.

Back on the pitch a superb through ball by Junayd had released Danyal who raced clear and… slipped over a banana skin! It had been thrown by one of Rovers’ defenders. The ref blew his whistle and pointed to the spot. PENALTY! With 1 minute left Shabab Al-Nasr had won a penalty!

Danyal stepped up nerveless, even though the pressure was immense. As Danyal ran up the keeper waved his gloves distractingly. The ball hit the crossbar… then post… and went in!! The final whistle blew and Shabab Al-Nasr celebrated. They had won!

by Eesaa

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“Getting it right”; or: “One man’s fine-tuning is another man’s nit-picking”?

(This post continues At the negotiating table)

Assalamu alaikum.

When we left the publishing process at the end of the previous post, it was June 2010 and – to my mind – the script was finally ready to become a book. Presumably it would just take a few weeks to get some pictures drawn, and maybe a month to have a few million copies (!) printed?

Er…no.

In fact, the first task to arise after this point was to come up with fourteen chapter titles. This was a simple enough process: I suggested some, the editor approved or improved them, and we settled on these titles. And then…

…then…

…exactly why did it take twelve more months for The Victory Boys to be released?

Well, first of all, as I subsequently had it explained to me, the publishing world does not move quickly. This can be incredibly frustrating, especially if one is not aware of the reasons why there should be any delays. In my situation, there was an added complication: the editor with whom I had been working, quite reasonably took up employment elsewhere, meaning that the publishers needed to recruit a new editor. Enter Brother Yosef, who contacted me in January 2011 with great enthusiasm regarding my manuscript.

I had already learned a lot about myself (and the limits of my patience, astaghfirullah) during the preceding months, but now that I had been paired up with a new editor, I saw no reason to endure any further delays. I remember insisting to poor Yosef over the phone, “It’s ready as it is; I don’t want any more changes… it’s just waiting to be printed…”

Quite understandably, coming from a position that I could not fully appreciate at the time, Yosef must have seen things slightly differently. You will often hear the effective football manager/team coach being praised for his “man-management” skills – usually demonstrable when the team’s  (hitherto) off-field hellraiser suddenly takes to turning in match-winning performances – and I think this bodes well for Yosef should he ever fancy himself as the new Saleem (you’ll have to read the book to get that reference!)

Check out the professional (and soothing) tact and diplomacy in this email:


As I have already alluded to elsewhere, Yosef’s input in fine-tuning the text (and pulling out some blatant errors that I had not spotted) was invaluable. In a few instalments we tinkered with the text, sent it back and forth to each other, and eventually arrived somewhere we were both satisfied. This was not always without an element of compromise and reasoned explanation, as can be seen in this excerpt of the edited work-in-progress (click to enlarge):

Yosef and I discuss a point using the MS Word 'comment' function

At the same time, work had begun on commissioning some pictures for the book (Eman Salem the selected illustrator). You might recognise this early sketch of Hasan (those who like to play ‘Spot the Difference’ are free to point out how this picture evolved by the time the typeset version of the book was complete!)

Ultimately, and after an out-of-house designer had been recruited to produce the (very striking!) front cover, the book was finally ready to become a reality. As Yosef put it, in his email of 21st April…

Alhamdulillah!

(Not to be continued this time… but comments very welcome!)

In pursuit of a publisher…

(This post continues Victory-Boy Meets World…)

I cannot claim at the outset that I hoped or expected to get The Victory Boys published. I’d always felt that I had a chance of having something published one day if it was a good idea and if I had long enough to do justice to it. My recollection is that I didn’t begin the book with the notion that it might be published; I was just trying to say something, maybe even get it off my chest. I know quite a few people who say that the best way of venting their spleen is to write it all down. I totally empathise with that sentiment, but it didn’t do me a lot of good at school, so I try to be very careful what I write these days!

Anyway, after three chapters or so, the idea suggested itself that I was on to a good thing. By the end of it, I was confident that I’d written something worth reading and, heck, if no-one wanted to publish it, I’d jolly well publish it myself! As it was, and particularly because my manuscript was, by design, a Muslim football book, I sent off two chapters to a couple of Islamic publishers (as per the submission instructions on their websites), and busied myself with other matters whilst waiting for a response.

Out of courtesy to the first of the publishers to reply, I will not name them here. It is enough to say that they wrote me a very encouraging reply which ultimately boiled down to “Loved the script; sorry, don’t do fiction.” Oh well.

A few days later, I heard from Kube. The (then) editor, Sister Fatima – an established author herself – was also full of enthusiasm and asked me how much of the book I had written, and if she could see more. I was delighted to pass the whole thing to her, and soon after she told me that she would be referring it to a panel, who would give their collective verdict on whether the book should be published, and what (if any) changes might be required. This process was estimated to take roughly five weeks.

Sure enough, about five weeks later, I found an email from Sr. Fatima waiting in my inbox. Having felt my heart beat just a little faster as time had drawn inexorably toward this response, and knowing very well that – in terms of a verdict – this was probably it, at this point I gave a model demonstration of ‘skim’ reading, finding what I wanted to know in approximately one-zillionth of a second and disregarding all of the finer details!

The beginning of sister Fatima's email

As one may infer from the last part of this excerpt, there were some changes to be made before the book could be published, although this also opened up a period of negotiation and compromise regarding some of these stipulations and suggestions. More on that in the next instalment!

(To be continued…) (again!)

Jumpers for goalposts? (well… chair legs and rugby posts anyway…)

Salam, one and all.

I cannot deny that, when I was a boy, I was hopelessly obsessed with football.

Among the habits I developed during this time, were:

*recreating goals I had seen in my bedroom (to clarify: the recreations took place in my room – few, if any, worthwhile goals had otherwise occurred there to my knowledge);

*drawing stick-man diagrams of goals I had witnessed, either on television or by the team for which I played. (Since I also started out as a goalkeeper (and was somewhat narcissistic) I did detail some of my finer saves as well, though I was certainly no Hasan…);

Hasan: Definitely a better goalkeeper than I.

*arranging my cuddly toys in formation to play out (often frantic) games between chair legs using one of those rubber balls with impossibly high bounceability so appealing to young children – if the placement was just right, it was possible to contrive a shot that would hit both posts a good six or seven times in total, which I assume would be a record were it ever to happen in, er, ‘real’ life…;

*tottering down to the rugby club with my friend Simon, a ball, and a sheet of fixtures he had prepared for the ultimate precursor to ‘Fantasy Football’: we would take it in turns to be goalkeeper/entire-opposing-team, and provide our own commentary as we played out the league games in the manner we felt they should unfold!

There were probably many more examples of cringeworthy, football-related deeds on my part, and one has to wonder what form these might have taken if I have already confessed to football matches with cuddly toys. Years of therapy (read: marriage) and disillusionment at the dismal performance of my own team have helped to dampen my enthusiasm to a more appropriate, balanced level, but it should not be assumed that any of these states of childishness are beyond me, and being the father of two boys is unlikely to help my rehabilitation (I also have high hopes for my daughter Insha Allah…)

Some of the agents provocateurs of my age of football fever were particular comic books, novels and TV series relating to football. I distinctly remember enjoying the sheer amount of football action in the books of Michael Hardcastle (I have no recollection whatsoever regarding plot, but I’m sure there must have been one!) and I have sought to emulate this concentration on the football itself in The Victory Boys. I was also a fan of Roy of the Rovers, especially since in those days I was enjoying a prolonged flirtation with Liverpool FC, whose then player-manager Kenny Dalglish seemed to me the real Roy Race.

My favourite comic book, however, was the Football Picture Story Monthly series. Why, oh why, is there not an equivalent series now? Even speaking as a teacher, I would love to get my hands on some of those books (and dearly wish I’d kept my own…) as it doesn’t take a skilled detective to know that the majority of boys love football, and comic books do not carry the same level of commitment as even a short novel – perfect, then, for the reluctant reader.

However, my favourite football novels of the day (and remember, this is before the day of High Fidelity-the-book, never mind the hugely disloyal film of the same name – the romance of football ruined by the romance of romance!) were definitely, without a shadooo of a dooot: Jossy’s Giants.

For those who haven’t seen it, Jossy’s (Glipton) Giants are a team of one-time losers who are transformed by the inspirational figure of Joswell “Jossy” Blair, whose own career was curtailed before it had truly begun, let alone blossomed. From the pen of the renowned darts commentator Sid Waddell, the books are written with more than a little humour and enough match action to satisfy the young football devotee.

A very tough act to follow, in my humble opinion!

Jamal

Can faith and football flourish side by side?

Assalamu alaikum (peace be upon you) and welcome to the world of The Victory Boys, from Kube Publishing.

In fact, the world of The Victory Boys is not so very different from the world in which we live (except that the characters are fictional, of course, and do not in any way resemble any of the people I have ever known, nor myself in a dark mood…)

Indeed, the inspiration behind the book was in large part my perception of the ease with which community apathy might be replaced by purpose; all-pervading futility by positivity, and how the idea of any one, or handful of individuals, could be the catalyst for dynamic, uplifting change.

Imam Munieb, with ‘black sheep’ Saleem

The main adult character, Imam Munieb (you may have had the, er, pleasure of receiving his Tweets) could only be described, were the word to exist, as a footyphobe. At the outset, he sees absolutely no benefit in playing, watching, or possessing even the most rudimentary knowledge of such base, worldly entertainment. Unfortunately for him, the boys at his madrasa (school) do not share his views on ‘The Beautiful Game’, and given that they’re nowhere near so receptive to his classes, something has got to give…

In the next few posts, with the book release’s imminence imminent,  I’ll be linking the odd excerpt and introducing a few of the characters from the book.

Get involved – let me know your thoughts on the concept, the characters, the excerpts, and – hopefully in the very near future InshaAllah – the book itself!

Jamal