Can a king or a child build the peace?

Halil TurkdenRadikal Newspaper Book Supplement22.08.2014

The third book of “Sheroks the Little Witch” was released after ten years. Aslı Der: “Children are ignored everywhere. In a field like literature, it is extremely important for them to be able to ask the right questions.”

Aslı Der is on the 2010 Honor List of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), the world’s largest children’s and youth books organization, and received the 2007 Best Children’s Book Award from the Turkish Association of Children’s Publications (ÇGYD), with her sixth book Peace Rooms.

Big Trap, the first book of the “Sheroks the Little Witch Series” released by Gunisigi Kitapligi, also took children readers on a fantasy journey in 2007. Thirteen years have passed since the first book of the series, and with the third book, Peace Rooms, we are witnessing the adventurous world of our hero Sheroks. In Aslı Der’s first book, we had a taste of a naive fantasy children’s book, and in the second book, we witnessed a serious matter such as the importance of mother tongue in people’s lives in Sheroks’ world. The last book of the series, Peace Rooms, contains the solutions that a child can produce for peace, the importance of communication and metaphors that will take readers of all ages by surprise.

While Sheroks fans were experiencing excitement with Peace Rooms, we chatted to Aslı Der.

Why is it important to write in children’s and youth literature?

I think children and young people are freer and more questioning readers who are not yet caught by prejudices and social impositions. In this respect, children’s and youth literature is a special field for me. Also, I would be a completely different person if I didn’t grow up with books. I believe that every child and young person needs a close friendship with books during their painful growing up years.

Is there a relationship between the philosophy education you received and the fantasy journey you took the children on?

Philosophy has always been shown as a very theoretical, incomprehensible, difficult and otherworldly field. However, philosophy can be a direct influence in human life. Contrary to popular belief, it can make the world an understandable and freer place for the individual and society. One of the best ways to do this is through art and literature. For instance, after I finish a book, I approach the characters, the plot, the setting and the ending with this question: “How would I write if I were the writer?” While philosophy is already a journey in itself, as a companion of the literary work to the child it’s a tremendous thing.

What does it mean to you that children read fantasy literature?

Children are already faced with a didactic, rigid system built with rules at every point of life. When I think of their world of wondering and questioning, I see an infinite line. Thanks to fantasy literature, instead of damaging such an immense world of imagination, we can make them question, ask questions, and create a plot of what will happen next.

We have a world of stories full of knowledge and wisdom before us. Despite this, you are far from a didactic language, what should be attributed to this?

In fact, it could turn into a didactic language in terms of the topic and characters, but that didn’t happen. Because the child may not be accompanied by literature and philosophy at the same distance in every example. In this day and age, in an environment where information can be obtained and consumed very simply and quickly, our job is to make the children ask “how” and “why” questions. Children are ignored everywhere, and they are exposed to practices that annoy and upset them. Especially in the literature field, it is extremely important for them to be able to ask the right questions, question their vital practicalities, and use the right language.

The most important element that accelerates the illustrator is the text. You were together with Huban Korkman in all three books of the “Sheroks the Little Witch” series…

When I encountered the characters that emerged after Huban Korman’s drawings, I was completely fascinated. As an example, she created a Prince Hortim that I had never imagined at the time of writing. I have always trusted her rendering, vision and the harmony between us. We already know that she is one of the most prominent names in Turkey in her field. She is one of the people who brought Sheroks to this day.

How is the report card of children and youth literature? What’s lacking, what are the obstacles, etc…?

For children to do better, reading more, writing and research is a must. We have to keep producing in order to offer them a better, good quality product. Literature is an important step in their liberation and reflection of liberation. For that reason, we must offer them a pleasant journey and let them be.

Like the first two books, Peace Rooms is concerned with conveying a social reality to the child. How does it feel to be able to do this in fantasy?

In the first book Sheroks the Little Witch, I aimed for the reader to forget the outside world, enter the world of characters and think in this magical world. In Big Trap, I tried to make us feel how the mother tongue affects and shapes our lives and how the person is isolated from the society and disappears when they lose their communication. One of the first few things that an individual embraces in life, is their mother tongue. Its loss means the loss and lack of many things. Peace Rooms is a sharper book than others. It emphasizes the importance of peace, reconciliation and communication in human life. In addition, when we look at today’s politics, we can see that the solutions to their problems are actually based on understanding simple concepts. Especially in order to simplify, understand and apply controversial concepts such as “peace” and “solution”, I think Peace Rooms will be a meaningful guide.

The effect of the metaphors of “peace chambers” and “wells” in the books on child readers is intriguing…

The “well” is all the practices, thoughts, beliefs that we accept without question, mostly imposed by the powers that be. It signifies that everything we accept without questioning, even if it started with good intentions (which is the case in my book), will cause us trouble one day. On the other hand, “Peace rooms” exist in my book as an indication that human troubles such as reasoning and communication, can only be solved with people. It would be great for the reader to feel this: They have the right to express themselves in every subject, and this right should always be in every subject. I’d be a happy person if they think of talking things through and always listening to the voice of conscience. We all need this at any age.