Egypt’s youngest writer takes on WWIII

“First I’d like to dedicate this book to the children of Gaza,” states 11-year-old Janna Gohar in the release of her latest book, “World War Three, Cats and Dogs.” Gohar’s book tackles the issue of peace and the price of war through the storyline of a global war between cats and dogs; the journey of one cat and one dog who aimed to stop the war only to start one of their own.
“‘Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves’ — Confucius,” reads the tagline of Gohar’s book, and the moral behind her story. “You don’t need to always go into violence, you need to see both views, like when you get in a fight with somebody, the first person and the second person should talk it out not just start immediately fighting,” explained Gohar, who is against violence in all its forms and calls for peace even if it is impossible. “I think they only say that because this is what’s happening, but people can stop the war. Its not the war who chooses, it’s us who choose to make the war, so if you want to actually stop it, you can,” she insists.
Gohar’s talent flourished at an even earlier stage, during the first grade, when she surprised her schoolteacher with a story she wrote about Christmas. Cushioned by her family’s support, especially her mother who encouraged her and promised to publish any story she completed, Gohar managed at the age of ten to write her first book, “Sharktanic.” One year later, she writes her second.
The 13-page book is illustrated by her older sister, Nadia, who also illustrated Sharkatanic. However, Gohar’s style of writing has transformed from a descriptive one like in her first book Sharktanic (another version of titanic but where passengers are sharks) to a more sophisticated, narrative illustrative and didactic form where protagonists turn into antagonists within a dramatic change of events.
Her multi-dimensional characters, Steve the American Dog and Ishtar the Iraqi Cat, embark on a quest to end the war between cats and Dogs. But a sudden change of events occurs when they reach one of the battlefields only to find Ishtar’s husband dead. She breaks down and asks the soldiers to stop the killing and end the war. Yet she gets stabbed and is carried to a hospital. The soldiers were so moved by her peace call that they actually end the war, yet, somehow, Steve manages to get all the credit for the peace call and becomes a wealthy and powerful businessman as a result. Left alone in the hospital, Ishtar wages war on Steve and follows him from Rome, Egypt to Japan, where she finally gets her vengeance by killing him and leaving no evidence. Only then, when she feels very guilty, she begs God’s forgiveness and asks God to bring Steve back to life.
Despite the obvious connotations of the Iraqi war, Gohar’s story draws on all forms of wars and violence between all nations, be it among cats and dogs, Gaza or elsewhere, she insists. To Gohar, nation leaders are the problem, because they choose war instead of peaceful solutions.
Her vivid images shift from describing the dog warriors wearing steel head armor along with cat soldiers’ crystal chest armor, to how Steve “broke all the weapons and put all the bodies into the shape of a heart.” “I meant that even when there is something terrible, one can make something beautiful out of it,” notes Gohar, explaining why the sudden change of heart between Ishtar and Steve, who traveled the world to stop war yet ironically started their own.
“First of all you shouldn’t take somebody else’s credit, ” she said, explaining that, if you take the credit for yourself, when you actually do something on your own, are really proud of yourself and want people to give you a pat on the shoulder, people wouldn’t be enthusiastic because you told them that you had already done it before. “When it came to them (the protagonists), they changed; he became greedy and she forgot about peace, because her jealousy took over. She went through all that stuff: her husband died, she got stabbed in her arms, dehydrated and sitting in a hospital with her arms stabbed and Steve taking all her credit. She was envious,” Gohar explained.
But Steve is a dog and dogs are loyal pets, I argued. “Well this has nothing to do with the normal pet status, like cats are lazy and dogs are man’s best friend. I wanted to make something different, like cats can also get up and do if they want to and dogs can also slack off if they want to,” explained Gohar.
Gohar’s writing technique is influenced by the books she reads. “Usually I like to read Bone comic books where they always fix something, another problem appears. It’s like the big thing gets split into many pieces, and you put them all back together like a puzzle,” she explains, adding that she also likes to read biography genres, about daily life matters, but interesting ones, such as the Lizzie McGuire series.
Being a published author doesn’t grant her any special treatment, assures Gohar, who enjoys writing because “it takes you into a new world; when you are writing, you are into the story, as yourself but more of an observer yet at the same time you are making what’s happening.” She adds that the down side to being published is the demanding media coverage at her book signing event where “the cameraman made me walk in this door 20 times to get a shot.”
Gohar’s approach to writing is rather spontaneous. “I usually write the first thing that comes into my mind. In the case of this book it is all about the war. When I wrote Sharktanic, I watched the movie “Titanic” every night. However, now she is influenced by her mommy, explained Gohar, who is keeping her upcoming book as a surprise.
Gohar has recently received an offer to write a children’s television series.

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