Happy Valentine’s Day! Some folks associate this day with romantic love. Others fondly remember the treats and Valentine’s Day cards shared among classmates. I think of it as a day to celebrate love and acceptance in all of its manifestations, including that among family members and that among friends, new and old. In the spirit of the day, I’d like to share a new Perfect Picture Book that showcases the love among family members and the friendship that can blossom in a new land.
Title: The Arabic Quilt: An Immigrant Story
Written By: Aya Khalil
Illustrated By: Anait Semirdzhyan
Publisher/Date: Tilbury House Publishers/February 2020
Suitable for Ages: 6-8
Themes/Topics: immigrants, family, treasured objects, feeling welcome, acceptance, cultural heritage, quilts, poetry
“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.
Brief Synopsis: A young immigrant struggles to adapt to a new school in America, but finds comfort in , and a way to fit in, by showing her classmates the precious quilt her grandmother had made her.
Links to Resources:
- Try making paper quilts;
- Kanzi’s family moved from Egypt to the United States. Learn more about this North African country;
- Does your family speak a language other than English at home? Share some words in that language with friends and classmates;
- Do you have an object from a relative or friend that is special to you? Draw a picture of it or write a poem about it.
Why I Like this Book:
I believe that fitting in is so important when children start a new school, whether in a new neighborhood, town, or even country. And when language used or customs followed at home seem different from those of the other children, I think it’s even more difficult for the new child.
That’s the situation Kanzi finds herself in as The Arabic Quilt begins. Thankfully, Kanzi has some things that help console her when she’s feeling down: the soft quilt that her beloved grandmother made her and a love of poetry. When an astute teacher picks up on these things, she helps Kanzi, and Kanzi’s classmates, realize that having different customs and speaking a language other than English at home are positive circumstances that enrich us all.
Maybe this heart-warming story of love and acceptance resonates so much with me because my mother made afghans for each of my children or maybe it’s because we lived abroad during two periods when my children were young. But I think it also will resonate with anyone who’s ever felt different for whatever reason and with anyone who’s struggled to find a way to fit in, while keeping true to her or his family, religious beliefs, and/or cultural heritage.
Beautiful illustrations, including of the beloved quilt, and a glossary of Arabic words complete this heart-warming and timely new picture book.
A Note about Craft:
Per Tilbury House’s website, Khalil based The Arabic Quilt on events from her own childhood. Doing so renders this story more believable and enables the strong connection between a grandmother and granddaughter separated by oceans to shine through.
To console herself after a difficult day at school, Kanzi writes a poem about her beloved quilt. I love how she turns to writing when she’s feeling sad, and I especially love how this adds another layer to this immigration story: that by journaling or writing poetry, a child may feel better about whatever situation she or he encounters.
Visit Khalil’s website to learn more about this debut picture book author. See more of Semirdzhyan’s art on her website.
I read an electronic version of this picture book, downloaded via Edelweiss, a resource for book reviewers. This book is scheduled to publish next week.
This Perfect Picture Book entry will be added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!
This feels like a rich, warm story that truly could resonate with most, as you say. You can be a white, cis, het, wasp kid and feel completely different. Love your suggestion of paper quilts as an activity.
So true! Which is why this truly is a book for anyone!
So true, Valentine’s Day is a good day for sharing love in all its forms. This sounds like a wonderful book. I had great aunts who made quilts, and I remember them trying to teach me how to quilt when I was small, but I had no patience for it. It think it was because my stitches looked so clumsy next to theirs. Thanks for this recommendation!
This is a debut, and I haven’t seen any reviews on the professional review sites yet, so I wanted to give it an early shout out.
The SFPL has 29 copies on order. I just put a hold on one. Yay!
So happy to read this!
Perfect share for Valentine’s Day. The love of family near and far is so precious. And a quilt or afghan is a great memory of loved. This story reminds me a bit of Patricia Polacco”s “The Keeping Quilt” and would pair nicely with this story. My daughter was 4 when the book came out and Polacco came to a book signing with the real quilt in hand. Loved your post and introduction today!
Great recommendation for a pairing! Thank you!