AlDhabi AlMheiri, an Eight year old Emirati girl has been crowned by Guinness World Records as the ‘youngest person to publish a bilingual book (female)’ . She was just about to turn eight when she published her book ‘I Had an Idea’ on July 7, 2022. The book has already sold more than 1,000 copies.
At the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) she stands next to her parents in her bookstore and publishing house, Rainbow Chimney, and talks eloquently and confidently about her book and her dreams.
Her journey as a writer started at SIBF 2021 when she attended a publishing conference with her parents. In the conference, Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, President of the International Publishers Association (IPA), asked if anyone had any questions and AlDhabi’s hand went up.
“I had no idea what she was going to ask but she said: How do I become something big like you?” said her mother, Mouza Al Darmaki. She said that Sheikha Bodour then asked her to come on stage and asked her why she wanted to become something big.
“She said: ‘So that I can share your thoughts about publishing with the world’,” said Mouza adding that Sheikha Bodour told her then that she was the youngest Emirati publisher and that maybe someday she will come and speak on this stage.
It was that encounter that made her want to write her book in which she talks about her own journey with Rainbow Chimney – the bookstore that sells fun and engaging books for all children.
She said that when she visited her grandparents, she noticed how the entire family spends most of their times on tablets and how there was no interaction between them and how that didn’t sit well with her.
“So, I took boxes filled with toys and books to my grandparents’ house during our next visit. I made sure I had coloured the boxes because once you see something colourful, you forget about everything else and you look at it. When my cousins wanted to open the boxes I told them that the only condition is to leave their tablets and they did,” she said, adding that since then no one touches their electronic devices when the family gets together.
She also said that she made sure the boxes had books and not only toys. “I mean, if its only toys then what’s the point. It’s not wise to do that.”
AlDhabi credits her parents for nurturing her love for reading. “Whenever I wrote something that I learnt from a book, I would write it out and my father would frame it for me.” Her parents encouraged her to write in English and Arabic and to think out of the box.
Her mother said that she read to AlDhabi from when she was just six months old – mainly books about space and the universe. “I felt that I wanted to widen her horizon from a very early age. I knew she was different as she knew the names of the planets from a young age,” said Mouza. At the age 3, AlDhabi started reading and by for-and-a-half years, she was already writing.
Her mother also nurtured her creative spirit saying that the hour preceding bedtime was important for them, as they spoke freely like friends. Puppet shows would also be hosted with her mother as the audience.
AlDhabi’s dream is to encourage all children – especially children with autism and children of determination to write and to express themselves so that they can tell their stories. “Children may look different from the outside but inside they’re just the same,” she said.