kids books

Meet Hassan Manasrah

As part of our ongoing series introducing readers to Penny Candy authors and illustrators, we're happy to present Hassan Manasrah, award-winning illustrator of The Blue Pool of Questions (English-language version to hit the shelves in September!). Meet Hassan, then and now:

Hassan is a visual artist, illustrator, and comic creator. He studied interior design at al Balqa Applied University and painting at The Jordanian Fine Art Center. He also studied printmaking at the Jordanian Fine Art Museum where he concentrated on lithography, etching zinc and copper, and lino- and mono-prints. From 2008 to 2010, he worked as Assistant Art Director for the animated cartoon series Pink Panther & Pals. Since 2010, he has illustrated 25 children books. In 2014, the book Why Not? was shortlisted for the Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature for best illustration and made the White Ravens list. In 2016, he won an Etisalat Award for best illustration for the Palestinian edition of The Blue Pool of Questions.


"Regarding my favorite book," Hassan writes, "it was Bahbahan Is Playing. Bahabahan is the name of a chubby blue elephant with a big red cheeks. I think it's my choice for favorite book because it was the only one I owned for a long period of time. As an adult, I did a little research and discovered that it is a book of poetry, published in 1981. But I only remember that blue elephant—and the large size of the book itself."



Life Lessons: Books for the Kid in ALL of Us

We've been thinking a lot over here at Penny Candy Books about just how important the books we read as kids have been in our lives—and the responsibility we have as publishers to engender dialogue rather than present the world in black and white. We want our books to raise questions, not to create unwavering answers (except, actually, when it comes to hate. We don't have time for hate). We get excited about multiple interpretations—books that can be walked around like holograms, seen from multiple perspectives. 

A lot of the books we read as kids are interpreted by our parents, or through our parents' lenses. Take The Giving Tree, one of my all-time favorites, for example. My mom's interpretation of this story: be selfless, give of yourself to make others happy. My interpretation: don't take advantage of another's kindness; don't give so much of yourself that you're left a stump for sitting on.

Images from  The Giving Tree , Shel Silverstein

Images from The Giving Tree, Shel Silverstein

These are wildly different interpretations of Silverstein's story (and there are plenty more)—I never thought it was fair that the tree kept giving of herself just to win the boy's approval, not even when my mom told me the tree was doing the right thing. Silverstein was a complex man, and so are his stories. All of these ideas are in conversation with each other. The story is simply told, but it is not simple. The Giving Tree gave me the opportunity to develop my own theories about self, selfhood, selfishness, and selflessness. 

Here are two books that make use of kids' books lessons:

We'd love to hear about the lessons you've carried with you from your childhood reading. Please post a comment! We'll continue to add to our list of influences in our Life Lessons category. 

Here's to the kid in all of us,