HBKU Press tackles the complex relationship of siblings in latest children’s book by local Qatari author

On any given Friday afternoon at the Rumaihi household, the house is filled with the exuberant voices of innocuous children and adult banter as generations of the family gather around for their weekly respite from the flurried activity of everyday life. The atmosphere is chaotically relaxing in a way that only a large gathering of family members can be: the never-ending buzz of chatter and laughter that comes with years of inside jokes and shared history.

But every once in a while, a sharp yell and childish, whining voices cut through the amicable gathering and an inevitable fight brews between the siblings.

“It is something that happens in every family, I know,” explains Qatari author, Muneera Saad Al-Rumaihi. “But it got the point where my eldest, Majid, could not stand his siblings anymore and was constantly wishing out loud that he was an only child.”

And thus, the inspiration for her latest title, Angry Majid, materialized. “My kids are always my inspiration. This is an issue that has been going on in my own house and I’m sure many Arab families face sibling tension and rivalry because our families are generally so large. So it’s important for me to write about an issue that kids can relate to, in a way that they understand, learn from, and enjoy.”

Angry Majid, released by Hamad bin Khalifa University Press in Arabic in May 2017, tells the story of a child named Majid who is constantly surrounded by his annoying and demanding siblings who drive him crazy. He is angry all the time and wishes nothing more than to be an only child. But what would it really be like to be an only child? Majid’s mother gently and lovingly explains what life would be like as an only child, in the hopes of changing his mind.

“Animosity between siblings is something I see all the time,” explains Sozan Zaghmout, a senior school counsellor at Qatar Academy – Doha. “What parents don’t understand is that this often stems from the idea that the children are competing for their parents love and attention. A little disagreement from time to time is normal, but if it is something constant, this may be a result of the child feeling threatened by lack of attention from their parents.”

“Angry Majid perfectly exemplifies the situation in many households with children,” Zaghmout continues. “And it perfectly explains how to deal with this issue. The mother in the story acknowledges her child’s resentment, which is so important because as adults we tend to dismiss children’s feelings as ‘bad’ or ‘not right’. And then she validates them by giving him the attention he needs and offering a different perspective to the problem. She shows him he is safe with her and it is OK to think about his wish, no matter how unrealistic it is, because it is the only way for him to realize that it may not seem as great as it sounds.”

“I would definitely recommend this book for any family experiencing this problem. The author was very clever to deal with this issue in such a way that is validating to children everywhere and simply and clearly shows another perspective: that siblings may not always be perfect, but being an only child is not as great as it sounds as well.”

Al-Rumaihi is also the author of the critically acclaimed Manal’s World – a whimsical tale of an imaginative, wheelchair-bound girl who doesn’t let her disability stop her from making friends and playing like any other child – which was the 2016 World Book Day featured title.

HBKU Press books are available in bookstores around Qatar.