In a captivating new children's book series by Joozoori Books, young readers explore 15 diverse Arab nations across North Africa, the Levant, and the Gulf. Created by Lebanese-Algerian siblings Sarah and Hicham Zaraket, and illustrator Soufeina Zaraket, the series celebrates their heritage as reflected in the name "Joozoori," meaning "my roots" in Arabic.
Despite living in different cities – Sarah in Paris, Hicham and Soufeina in Berlin – their ties to their roots remain strong. Sarah highlights their shared experience of being away from home, underlining the importance of heritage. Joozoori was born from their desire for authentic children's books that celebrate Arab culture and nurture a deep connection to ancestry.
(L to R) Sarah Zaraket (co-founder of Joozoori), Zarifi Haidar (illustrator), Samar Mahfouz Barraj (author), Maya Fidawi (illustrator), Lara Jannoun (graphic designer).
Every book can be customized with the reader's Arabic name on the cover, fostering a personal connection to the story. The bilingual books offer the original Arabic text, with a choice of English, French, or an Arabic dialect. Language adaptation aligns with the reader's gender, enhancing engagement and understanding.
Lebanese-born author Samar Mahfouz Barraj wrote the stories, while a team of illustrators from various regions contributed illustrations that highlight the abundant Arab talent. Collaborating with cultural advisors enabled the team to capture the minutest cultural nuances of each nation, ensuring accuracy in portraying everything from traditional attire to local cuisine.
A spread from Joozoori Books’ “My Trip to Saudi Arabia,” illustrated by Sarah Marey
Beyond the books, the team created educational posters with local symbols like coffee cups, palm-adorned incense holders, and iconic Saudi "dallah" coffee pots. The series centers on a recurring plot: a child in a capital city loses their talking cat, embarking on a journey across five distinct cities, revealing coastlines, mountains, ruins, and lively neighborhoods.
Sarah explains, "The intricate details of our illustrations encourage parents to engage with their children, fostering meaningful conversations." While the primary audience ranges from 3 to 12 years old, the books have resonated with adults as well. The specific stories are set in locations like Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Jordan, each being a love-filled endeavor that champions culture, promotes familial bonds, and fosters global community connections.
“My Trip to Saudi Arabia.”
Sarah envisions their project as a cultural unifier for Arabs, fostering love for one's homeland and forging strong connections with children. "Our shared Arabic language unites us; why not bond over other shared values?" she remarks. Through its vivid pages and heartwarming narratives, Joozoori Books achieves the noble aim of building bridges between generations and across cultures, all while celebrating the beauty of Arab heritage.