English Title Final Final.png

In the Shade the Olive Tree is a bilingual children’s book for people of all ages about a little girl's search for Peace. Layla, the girl whose journey unfolds in the book, was born in Syria six years ago, and as such has never known Peace. One day, she decides to go on a journey to find her long-lost Peace, with countless beautiful ideas of what she might look like.

I hope her journey shines a new light on the painful reality millions of people live in: one driven by the heart of a child.


* If you don’t know the password, reach out at




Far from being a story about a political conflict, In the Shade of the Olive Tree tells a universal story about the capacity for peaceful coexistence inside and all around us.

Its unconventional setting for a children's book, war-torn Syria, allows to create a realistic and positive image of the world: even when things are broken outside, we can still find light inside each of us.

I hope the young readers who have seen war enjoy a story told about them that empowers them, no matter how disempowering the surrounding is.

I hope all other young readers enjoy a different story about them that talks of adventure and discovery, and creates empathy towards other children that come from a completely different world.

I hope the older reader falls in love with the purity of spirit, the serious playfulness, the compassion, the earnestness, the curiosity, the bravery and the positive outlook of Layla, and perhaps even find a long-lost version of themselves in her. For this book, too, is about them.




Layla's search for Peace leads her to discover a treasure: an ancient chest containing illustrated cards with definitions of Peace, written many years ago by the people of the land.

Just like the treasure in Layla’s journey, the book includes a set of cards for the reader to play with and explore. Each card reads a definition of Peace from Arabs and Kurds currently living in Syria and Europe. Each card, too, is itself a piece of a puzzle: when joined together, they form a beautiful calligraphy of the word Salaam (Peace in Arabic) made specifically for this book by renowned calligrapher Mouneer Al Shaarani.




In the Shade of the Olive Tree is the debut book of Virginia Alonso Navarro. An artist and engineer, she spent years working in war-torn countries in the Middle East and North & East Africa, and even longer searching for her own path toward Peace.

As an engineer, she led research in Malawi and Uganda devising new waste management models with governments and industry. As a technology consultant, she advised and trained governments and civil society organizations on data-driven decision-making systems. As an artist, she has worked with the United Nations, MIT and other leading institutions to explain complex concepts in simple, visual terms.

Recently, she founded House of Ayni in Mexico, an integrated educational program that equips top social leaders in the country with the tools required to deepen their resilience and amplify their social impact.



Mouneer Al Shaarani


Mouneer Al Shaarani (منير الشعراني) is an internationally acclaimed Syrian artist. He is an admired calligrapher, book designer. A student of the Syrian master calligrapher, Badawi Al Dirany, he has worked as a calligrapher since 1967, then as a Designer of books and various printed matters as well as a designer of typefaces characters. He has designed more than 2000 covers and tens of logos, published educational books and articles on Arabic calligraphy, critique and Arabic Islamic art. He has contributed as an artistic consultant to the work of the International Arab Encyclopedia and edited the entries of Arabic Calligraphy and its biographical names. His award-winning artwork is displayed in museums and private collections in over twenty countries.