Ingrid Habib shares her recollections of growing up in Lebanon in her children’s picture book Childhood Memories.
Through a collection of personal vignettes, Habib tells of her childhood, which features many elements near-universal to children: playing dress-up, enjoying her dolls, family gatherings, and the like. But her anecdotes of life as a child in Beirut also describe elements of daily living unknown to children raised in a different time and place, such as racing snails, or lowering a basket from the family’s balcony to purchase items from the merchants below. Habib provides welcome details about the foods she ate, clothes she and her family wore, and more.
The book is written in a pleasant, intimate, conversational tone, as if Habib were in the room telling her stories firsthand. There are a few flaws that arise from this method, such as mentioning “Teta” and “Jeddo” as part of a story several pages before any explanation of who they were (Habib’s paternal grandparents).
Habib’s descriptions are excellent, and the illustrations also help readers visualize the settings and actions she relates. On average, a full-page illustration accompanies every two pages of text; the drawings are simple but effective and feature admirable detail.
There are minor missed opportunities throughout; when Habib describes the beautiful carpets her grandparents owned, and says that “I treasure those carpets now that they’re mine,” one wishes she had provided a scanned image or two, as she does with the collages she created (presumably as an adult) at book’s end. Although Habib weaves a wonderful tapestry of tales, on a few occasions her transitions and endings can be abrupt, perhaps none more so than the book’s final sentence: “My mum died in a car accident.”
Despite that jarring note of sadness, Childhood Memories is told in a spirit of happy remembrance, through which the author seeks to inspire others to preserve and relish their own memories. In this, Habib’s book is highly successful.
Also available as an ebook.