A children's book competition was held and curated by Al-Mouna Library - Safadi Foundation, as part of the Beirut World Book Capital event listing. I was invited to contribute, so I decided to claim my powers of brainwashing future generations with things of glory...I ended up co-designing the thing.. cover, back cover, inside illustrations and patterns.. The book will be distributed for free to libraries across the country :) Enjoy
THE CLOSE PLACE THAT IS FAR AWAY
by Raafat Majzoub
In a place, very far away, in a place still very close, lived a lot of shapes and one color. Everyone passed by it, but no one ever saw how much fun everyone could have inside. From that place, very far away and very close by, no one heard any noise. No one heard any music. The people forgot it. The city forgot it.
The place had many friends. When the place was alone, the wind would fly between its shapes, and would make music between its rectangles and squares. With the wind, came birds of all colors, from places with no names. They came from here and there, and all of them came to sing and color. The blue birds would sit next to the purple ones, and the green birds would sit next to the yellow ones. But then the wind would come, and whistle its tunes, and the birds would all dance together. The blue birds forget that they are blue, the purple ones forget that they are purple, the green birds forget that they are green and the yellow ones that they are yellow. The place sings with the wind. The circles make echoes to how the wind blows, to how it turns around itself to make the birds jump. The place is happy. In winter, the wind would bring the clouds. The sky loves the clouds. When they come, it makes new lights just for them. This is how the sky says hello to the place. The place loves the sky, and when it rains, it hides all the sky’s children in its stomach. The birds, all of them, the blue, purple, green and yellow hide in the place’s shapes. And when the rain stops, they all paint rainbows.
This is how Zeina saw the place that no one saw. She followed the rainbow. Not many people follow the rainbow, but if you follow your rainbow, the place will find you, and say hello. One day, after the rain, Zeina put her new shoes on and went out for a walk. She loved her city after the rain. She loved to talk to rainbows. This time, there was a special rainbow. It had eight colors not seven; it had the most wonderful gray she had ever seen – and it made all the other colors more colorful.
Zeina loved everything new. She loved that this was a special rainbow. She loved the grey, so she decided to say hello, and when she did, the rainbow grew longer and longer. She followed and followed, until she reached a long wall that had no beginning and no end. She looked to the left, then to the right, but she had to look again – because she saw nothing new. That wall, does not start and does not end. Zeina turned her head to the rainbow – and smiled, the rainbow smiled back, and decided to show her what was behind that big wall. Slowly, the rainbow became a stairway, made of eight steps of every color. Zeina did not wait. She ran up the rainbow, eight steps of Gray, eight of Violet, Navy, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange then Red until she was high, very high, above everything.
From the top of the rainbow, Zeina could see everything. She saw Tripoli like she had never seen before. She saw the ice cream shop where her Mama used to take her after school, and the bakery that her Baba used to get bread from. She saw her school, and the trees around her school, and everything looked very small. There was one thing that Zeina did not know, something that she could not recognize. It looked like a very big egg in the middle of the city surrounding by the long wall she was wondering about.
Zeina is very curious. She wants to know everything and likes to get lost in places she doesn’t know, so she pointed at the egg, and asked the rainbow to color steps so she could go down. She jumped off the Gray steps, to the Red, then the Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Navy and Violet until she reached the place. When she got inside, it did not look like an egg, but she noticed that this time, she was on the other side of that long long wall. She was inside, and everything was Gray. The gray reminded her of the rainbow, and as she looked around to thank it, the rainbow had disappeared. This is what is funny about rainbows, they come all of a sudden – and they go without saying goodbye.
Zeina thought that she was all alone. In fact, she wasn’t, and she was going to know that very soon. Being the curious Zeina that she is, Zeina decided to walk around, to discover this new place inside the walls. She walked and walked, and all she could see were strange shapes in the middle of fields of grass that grew taller than her. Between the strips of grass, Zeina noticed some gray objects in a distance. The objects had the same gray as the rainbow did, and it was wonderful. Zeina wanted to see more, so she ran towards these things she had never seen anything like before. She ran and ran until she reached a gray mountain. The mountain was smooth and curved very evenly, that she couldn’t help but run up to its top and slide down. As she was climbing and sliding, Zeina noticed that this mountain had a door. She had never seen a mountain with a door before, so she walked into that door very slowly, to see what the inside of a mountain would look like. She walked in, step by step, and it was very dark, but it sounded very weird. For each step, she would hear more than one sound. She was scared, “Anyone there?”, she shouted.. and the inside of the mounted shouted back “Anyone there?” Zeina ran outside. She did not like the inside of the mountain, she did not understand it. She still wanted to know who was inside with her, so she sat in front of the door waiting for anyone to come out. She waited and waited, but no one came out. As the sun was changing it’s place in the sky, a purple bird started flying around the gray mountain. Zeina loved the color purple, so she sat there, watching the bird. The bird was the nicest she had ever seen, and she wanted to talk to it. She stood up and started waving at the bird, but the bird kept dancing in the sky, and then flew lower, until it went into the mountain through the little door. Zeina was scared that the voices in the mountain would harm the bird, so she started crying, but right after the bird entered the mountain, the most wonderful music came out. Zeina’s feet started dancing, and she immediately stopped crying. She looked around, and all the grey objects were smiling, she could see all the rainbow colors in everything around her. She ran into the mountain to see where the music was coming from, and in the dark, she saw this purple bird, flying around, alone, with the music of a hundred birds. The purple bird saw Zeina, and he liked how she danced, so he flew towards her and sat on her shoulder. The music stopped.
-“Hello”, said the purple bird
-“Hi”, said Zeina
-“You are a good dancer”, the bird told Zeina.
-“Thankyou”, Zeina replied, “but where is all this music coming from, with only you in this mountain??”
The purple bird told Zeina about how everything is made for a reason, and how his father, Oscar, made this big playground for everyone to enjoy. He told her about the story of this mountain and how its stomach is made to produce wonderful music with echo.
-“Echo?”, Zeina asked… “what is Echo?”
The bird smiled, and told Zeina to look at the mountain’s shape. She looked. The mountain is a perfect dome, and on the inside, this shape makes any sound bounce at different speeds, so you can hear it more than once, over and over. Zeina was puzzled, “so you can have as many friends as you like?”, she asked. The bird told her that she can never be alone if she’s happy, and this mountain only reminds her of that. Zeina was happier than ever, she started to like this place again, and wanted to learn about all the other things. She asked the bird about the gray rainbow, the floating ground, the cone, the tower and the flying carpet, but the bird said that the only way to know things is to go and try them, he kissed her goodbye, and flew away, and Zeina knew what she had to do.