The Arabic Quilt by Aya Khalil
📚 BOOK REVIEW 📚 Title: The Arabic Quilt: An immigrant story Author: Aya Khalil @ayakhalilauthor Illustrator: Anait Semirdzhyan Publisher: Tilbury House Publishers Age: 5-11 Rating: 9/10 🌟 Summary: Kanzi is American-Egyptian girl who wants to fit in at her new school. When mama drops off her forgotten lunchbox, her classmate, Molly, makes fun of the unusual word mama uses in Arabic. Her teacher reassures Kanzi that speaking another language is beautiful, and she should not feel ashamed of it. At home, Kanzi finds great comfort in her Tieta's quilt while she writes a poem about it. It reminds her of Egypt and it still has Tieta's smell resonating from it. Ms. Haugen asks Kanzi to bring her quilt in class and is inspired to have the class make their own. She invited Mama to class and with Kanzi's help, they wrote the names of all students in Arabic to create their paper quilt. Molly is not impressed and says "We live in America and...we should only speak English. Ms. Haugen gives the students great insight on a few common English words that have Arabic roots. It brought understanding, sympathy and a shift in perspective from Molly towards Kanzi. 🌸 Lessons: This beautiful story focuses on the importance of embracing our identity, while also including gems about family and friendship. From the very beginning, we are able to understand that Kanzi is insecure when it comes to her identity. I really like the teacher in this story and how she uses her platform to help Kanzi adjust into a new school as well as show her classmates the beauty in diversity. One of the aspects that feels so real in this story is when Molly apologizes to Kanzi for making fun of their Arabic word. She simply apologizes because the teacher told her to since Kanzi's feelings were hurt. When Kanzi responds by defending her case, Molly shows no honest remorse or interest and arrogantly skips away. Many times we ask our kids to follow the protocol and make amends when they have wronged others, but there is a time when that becomes a mechanical consequence without truly sympathizing with the other. This is when the lessons need more creativity, just like in this book.
This storyline has a beautiful and tender feel to it. I love the clean illustrations that are not overwhelmingly colourful. Two things that need to be mentioned: First, when Mama was dropping Kanzi off at school, Mama was singing along to Arabic songs in the radio. Second, out of all the good bye greetings, Mama tells Kanzi "Good luck today." As Muslims, we should avoid using this term since we don't believe in the concept of good/bad luck as it does not go in line with one of the pillars of our faith, which is Qadr (pre-destination). 🌸 Islamic Content: Visibly Muslim characters 🌸 Other concerns: 1. Makes mention of singing along to music 2. Term "good luck" being used.