The Arabic Quilt: An Immigrant Story
Aya Khalil, Author
Anait Semirdzhyan, Illustrator
Tilbury House Publishers, Fiction, Feb. 18, 2020
Suitable for ages: 6-8
Themes: Quilt, Immigration, Egypt, Bilingual, School, Prejudice, Inclusion, Diversity, Friendship
Opening: “Kanzi, habibti, your’e going to be late to the first day of school,” Mama calls.
Book Jacket Synopsis:
Kanzi’s family has moved from Egypt to America, and she wants very much to fit in. Maybe that’s why on her first day in her new school, she forgets to take the kofta sandwich her mother has made for her lunch, but that backfires when Mama shows up at school with the sandwich. Mama wears a hijab and calls her daughter Habibti (dear one). When she leaves, the teasing starts.
That night, Kanzi wraps herself in the beautiful Arabic quilt her teita (grandma) in Cairo gave her. She writes a poem about her beloved quilt. It smells like Teita’s home in Cairo, and that comforts Kanzi. What she doesn’t know yet is that the quilt will help her make new friends.
Why I like this book:
The Arabic Quilt is a compassionate and feel-good book for immigrant children who are bilingual and starting a new school. They want so badly to fit in with and be accepted by the other children, even though they may dress a little differently and bring an ethnic lunch from home.
Kanzi’s teacher handles a difficult situation with such creativity. Kanzi writes a poem about her Arabic quilt and shares it with her teacher. The teacher asks Kanzi to bring her quilt to share with the other students. They think it’s cool and want to make a classroom quilt. The teacher invites Kanzi’s mom to teach the students how to write their names in Arabic for their quilt squares. Completed, the quilt is hung on the wall outside the classroom.
I love that this celebratory story of cultural traditions, acceptance, and inclusion is based on the author’s own childhood experiences, after immigrating to the US from Egypt. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but it will put a smile on your face.
Anait Semirdzhyan’s lively and expressive illustrations are beautiful and full of details. Make sure you check out the Arabic names on the quilt.
Resources: This is an excellent classroom or school project that will help unite kids of all cultures. Make sure you check out the Glossary of Arabic Words at the end with Arabic letters and English words derived from Arabic, like zero, algebra, candy, sugar and coffee.
Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.
*Reviewed from a library copy.