The Arabic Quilt

Written By: Aya Khalil

Illustrated by: Anait Semirdzhyan

For Ages: 6 years and up

Language: English & Arabic

Topics Covered: Immigration, Muslim, Family, Resilience, Own Voices.


When Kanzi starts school in America, she misses her home and her family in Egypt. She desperately wants to make friends and fit in. Kanzi ends up forgetting her lunch and when her mom drops it off at school for her and speaks Arabic, a girl named Molly starts making fun of Kanzi. When Kanzi gets home, she wraps herself up in one heirloom that reminds her of her grandmother still living in Egypt, a quilt. She brings it for show and tell at the request of her teacher, and this is the catalyst for a beautiful classroom activity that just might unite everyone and stop the teasing.

I enjoyed this tender story, and it touches on some pointed statements that a lot of people have been told, including some version of “we’re in America, speak English”. When Molly says something like this in the classroom, Kanzi is hurt and confused. The Arabic Quilt is realistic in the way that when a teacher is committed to showing how interconnected languages are, minds can be changed. It takes bravery on Kanzi’s part to feel rooted in her Arabic language pride, instead of denying it. Earlier in the story, Kanzi was self-conscious of bringing her Egyptian food from home. As far as fitting into an elementary school lunchroom goes, having a pb&j is a pretty guaranteed way. The book ends with Kanzi meeting another bilingual student who was inspired by Kanzi’s classroom project. Overall, the story is endearing and familiar. I love how the author notes in the back that it was inspired by her own immigration to the US as a child. There is also a glossary in the back for the Arabic within the story.

This book was generously sent to us by Tilbury House Publishers, but all opinions are our own.

Aya Khalil

Freelance Journalist and Blogger Aya Khalil, holds a master’s in Education with a focus in teaching English as a second language. She’s been featured in Teen Vogue, Yahoo! Book Riot and other publications. Her work has been published in The Huffington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, Toledo Area Parent and many others. She’s done sensitivity readings for DK Publishing/Penguin. 

Aya is a picture book author and is represented by Brent Taylor of Triada US Agency.  Her debut picture book THE ARABIC QUILT was published in February 2020 Tilbury House

She is also an adjunct instructor at the University of Toledo. Besides writing and teaching, she enjoys spending time with her family, traveling and exercising.

Anait Semirdzhyan

Anait Semirdzhyan moved to the United States from sunny Armenia in late 2012. Since then she’s been dedicating herself to art, focusing on children’s book illustration.  

 Although Anait’s favorite tools are traditional Pen & Ink and watercolor, she also works digitally and is always eager to try new media and learn new techniques.

Anait is an active member of the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and represented by Christy T. Ewers at The CAT Agency

She lives in the Seattle area with her husband, twins, and a shaggy Labradoodle.

Besides drawing, Anait enjoys spending time with her family,  afternoon walks with her four-legged furry friend, and boosting creativity with The Broad Strokes, her children’s books authors and illustrators critique group. 

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