I am a quilt lover and a collector of the stories behind each homemade quilt. The book I’d like to share today features a lovingly made quilt and a story that will make your heart happy.
THE ARABIC QUILT – An Immigrant Story
By Aya Khalil (author) and Anait Semirdzhyan (illustrator)
Tilbury House Publishers 2020
Picture book for ages 5-9
Themes: immigration, quilts, languages, Arabic
Setting: School and home
The story begins –
“Kanzi, habibti, you’re going to be late to the first day of school,” Mama calls.
“I’m coming, Mama,” Kanzi stuffs her notebook into her backpack and quickly but carefully folds her quilt-the special one Teita made in Egypt.
Kanzi and her Egyptian-American family have moved to a new home and she is preparing for her first day of a new school. Though she enjoys the traditional food her mother prepares; she doesn’t want to be different than the other students. She just wishes she could have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. When her mother comes into the class and calls her by an Arabic term of endearment, another student teases her. Fortunately, Kanzi’s kind and understanding teacher assures her that it is beautiful to be bilingual and she shouldn’t be ashamed.
Kanzi loves to write poetry and when she returns home, she wraps herself in her quilt and writes about it. When her teacher reads the poem, she asks Kanzi to share the quilt with the class.
The students are fascinated by the quilt and want to make their own. Kenzi’s mother comes to class and shows each child how to write their name in Arabic. The children use their Arabic names to design their own square. The squares are combined into a beautiful quilt which they proudly display in the school’s hallway.
There are so many reasons to love this book!
- Kanzi is a poet!
- Kenzi truly values the quilt made by her grandmother. It even inspires her poetry
- Kenzi’s third grade teacher handles a difficult, but too common problem, with loving concern and she shares English words with Arabic roots such as vanilla, algebra, and sugar with the class
- The girl who made fun of Kenzi apologizes and makes amends (forgiveness doesn’t show up very often in picture books)
- The Arabic Quilt addresses issues many children deal with such as starting a new school, not wanting to be different, teasing and bullying, and being an immigrant
- The Arabic Quilt celebrates different cultures and shows that though outwardly different, people share many things
- The story is positive and satisfying – (spoiler alert) the Arabic quilt inspires another class to make their own quilt using the children’s names in Japanese
- The beautiful illustrations are vibrant, kid friendly and are perfect for this book
This timely book will be a welcome addition to public and school libraries as well as family book collections. I know it will be used to spark conversations and I can’t wait to see the quilts that children will make based on The Arabic Quilt.
Read about author Aya Kahil here.
Read about illustrator Anait Semirdzhyan here.