The Looking Glass : New Perspectives on Children's Literature, Vol 8, No 2 (2004)

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TLG 8.2 Introduction

Frame of Reference


Jane Goldstein


Any culture is like a tapestry, with countless threads and color shades that become the total picture. In extraordinary weavings the variations in hues can create changes in the viewer's perception as the sun dances across the work of art. The Arab world, as a culture and as a region, is rich with many threads and themes that make it a very complex weaving of people and location. As events continue to affect the region, the picture continues to change as new shades of contrast are added or deleted.

Changes in political trends and leaders influence any region. The Arab world has a diversity of modern political thought that is often shaped by tribal ties that reach back centuries. The Muslim faith is another important force. Its many leaders order another range of thought which often can dictate the everyday lifestyle of his particular followers.

In coming from outside the culture it is easy to have many misguided perceptions. We do not all look at labels the same way. Sometimes this is from our own misinformation. For this issue we have chosen to define Arabic as being a person who speaks that language. Arabian refers to the geographic area of the peninsula by that name. While many in the West tend to include Afghans and Iranians as Arabic people, this is not true. Many of them share a connection to Islam but they do not speak Arabic as a first language and consider themselves to be of other ethnic and political groups. This issue includes discussions of topics of the whole region where many Arabic people dwell. As a result you will see some comments referring to non-Arabic groups too.

Sabeur Mdallel speaks Arabic as his first language. His article in Alice's Academy explains the history of children's literature from his cultural perspective. He has translated into English many references and titles from Arabic in sharing information many readers would not otherwise have access to. The second article in Alice's Academy is by Elsa Marston. Marston is an American married to a native of Lebanon. She shares some of her perspectives on the culture as she has experienced it and reviews books that are available to American children.

Jabberwocky is the column devoted to issues of translation. Eve Tal has lived in Israel for many years and is published in both English and Hebrew. Her article for The Looking Glass focuses on translation as it applies to Uri Orlev. She concludes her discussion with charts showing the availability of books in translation in English. The charts should stimulate some thoughts about the limited amount of literature in translation for English speaking children.

Illuminating Texts focuses on Palestinian American writer Naomi Shihab Nye. The first columnist, John David Brantley, told The Looking Glass that he had Nye as a student for four years in the 1970s. She is now a close friend and colleague. For three years they taught together in a workshop for editors of high school literary magazines. He was impressed with how she encouraged the students to write well about small things that revealed big ideas. He commented to us that she was a complete poet when she arrived on his campus as a freshman. An article on Nye's poetry by this editor follows.

Maggie Parish is back with musings as she explored the topic of literature for and about Arabic children. This was a new area for her and she titles her journey "A Way of Seeing is a Way of Not Seeing". Some responses to a previous forum follow that piece.

Beth Roberts shares in My Own Invention how she uses a fictional book to bring ancient Egypt alive in a classroom of students for whom English is not their first language. Picture Window follows with a list of illustrated books that might be of special interest to teachers and librarians. This is the work of one of our column editors, Jeffrey Canton.

This issue concludes with some new award postings and new paper calls. Please take a special look at the new focuses for Alice's Academy and for the special issues for April 2005 and April 2006. There are many ways to contribute to coming issues. Guidelines for all columns have been carefully explained by Elizabeth L. Pandolfo Briggs.

In conclusion, this issue started with a trip I took to Jordan two years ago. The rich history combined with the wonderful hospitality that was shared humbled me and it saddened me that so much good is lost in the bad events of today. I was transitioning into the position of new editor for The Looking Glass at that time. I timidly suggested an issue focusing on the Middle East. The response has been only positive from day one! Frame of Reference cannot end without thanking the many people on the staff and at conferences who worked to get the word out and to secure some of the new writers for this issue. Like many good things worth doing, this has been a challenge that could not be met alone.

Editorially yours,

Jane Goldstein


Volume 8, Issue 2 The Looking Glass,April, 2004

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"Frame of Reference" © Jane Goldstein, 2004
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The Looking Glass: new perspectives on children's literature

ISBN 1551-5680