« Search again     |     Back to AfricaAccessReview.org
Illustrator's Notebook
Ellabbad, Mohieddine; Illustrator's Notebook. : Groundwood Books, 2006. $16.95, ISBN 0888997000.

Note: "Mohieddin Ellabbad reflects on his childhood and on the cultural influences that led him to become one of Egypt's finest illustrators. Using his own creative awakening as an example, he encourages young artists to find inspiration in the world around them. Intended by Mohieddine Ellabbad as a way to explore different ways of seeing things through illustration, learn about how Arabic writing is an integral part of the image in the Arabic pictorial tradition. Reads right-to-left as the original Egyptian version, and includes all of the original Arabic calligraphy, with English translations in the margins. (CABA Winner)


Egyptian artist Mohieddin Ellabbad's award-winning, scrapbook-like journal, The Illustrator's Notebook, shares in words and images key sources of his artistic inspiration. The heart of the book is Egypt, with many visual and verbal references to its pharaonic, Arab, colonial, and modern cultural history, and Ellabbad's place in it; yet he makes clear that the world beyond his borders also inspires his work.

Ellabbad has created a striking paean to originality (versus printing press pictures), a celebration and underlining of differences like skin color, the way different artists interpret cats and, most obvious, the direction of the text itself: the book opens from the 'back.' Using his unique voice and distinctive artwork, he also expresses creative universals, emphasizing the importance of dreams, memory, and sensory experience. To illustrate, he chooses subjects that resonate widely: heroes and superheroes, animals, nature, even paper currency.

The book seems pitched at children, in the artwork, the large-print page headings, and the vibrant textual and visual presence of the author's own childhood. Ellabbaad's tone is conversational, his language simple enough for younger readers yet conveying complex ideas about art and what links and separates us as creative beings.

Sarah Quinn's smooth translation captures the author's humor and depth; the English text, confined to margins, illuminates without intruding on the handwritten Arabic of the original pages, featured in full size facsimile.

Copyright Africa Access 2007 All rights reserved.

Rating: HR Grade: E / M : Ages 9-12 Type: Book

Reviewed by: Liz Kepferle, Georgetown University

Subject: North Africa / Egypt / CABA winner