The Arabic Quilt: An Immigrant Story

Aya Khalil (Author) Anait Semirdzhyan (Illustrator)


Kanzi's family has moved from Egypt to America, and on her first day in a new school, what she wants more than anything is to fit in. Maybe that's why 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.

Product Details

$17.95  $16.51
Tilbury House Publishers
Publish Date
February 18, 2020
9.3 X 0.5 X 10.2 inches | 1.1 pounds

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About the Author

Aya Khalil is a freelance journalist and educator who has taught at all levels from preschool to college. Her debut picture book, The Arabic Quilt, is based on events from her childhood when she immigrated at the age of one to the U.S. from Egypt with her parents and siblings. She currently resides with her husband and their three children in Toledo, Ohio.
Anait Semirdzhyan is an experienced illustrator who has lived in diverse cultures throughout the world. She currently resides in Seattle, Washington.


A full cast of narrators brings life to this audiobook, making listeners feel like we are in the kitchen with Kanzi's Egyptian family or in her third-grade classroom at school. On her first day of school, a classmate, Molly, teases her about her native language. Her teacher responds by assigning a class project that teaches the value of being bilingual: a quilt with all the students' names in Arabic. Lively music enhances the happy mood of triumph as the class quilt is unveiled. By the end of the audiobook, Molly's voice has changed from snobbish to contrite, and Kanzi's from ashamed to proud. Also included is a glossary of Arabic words spoken in Egyptian dialect and a list of English words derived from Arabic.--The Arabic Quilt (04/15/2020)
One of the Eighteen 2020 Children's Books You'll Want on Your Reading LIst This Year--Abi Berwager Schreier"18 2020 Children's Books You'll Want on Your Reading LIst This Year" (12/29/2019)

Is it possible that a kid's book can make a grown person cry? Yes, most definitely, because I did while reading Aya Khalil's debut picture book The Arabic Quilt- An Immigrant Story. The term "children's book" is misleading. They should generally just be called books, because it's stories like these that deserve a larger audience than only the market it's being targeted to.

The Arabic Quilt is an endearing story of little Kanzi's first day of 3rd grade in the U.S. She recently immigrated with her family from Egypt and doesn't want any extra attention on her than is necessary. Whether you are a new immigrant or several generations removed, this story will especially be felt by families where the parents: speak a different language, dress in traditional clothes or send ethnic food for lunch. Or, like me, all of the above. Hence, the waterworks.

Even though my kids are not immigrants to the U.S., and neither am I, this scene has played out before with my own children at their school. Once, after seeing me dressed in hijab, my daughter got asked, "Why does your mom wear that?" "Does she have hair?" It is so hard for children to just want to belong and find their place, without their classmates making it harder.

-- (02/21/2020)
SLJ Starred Review -- A timely, heartwarming story with expressive, vibrant illustrations that complement the text. This story will boost immigrant children's morale and teach others to be more open-minded.--Noureen Qadir-Jafar, Syosset Library, NY"The Arabic Quilt" (03/01/2020)
"In the end, Kanzi's most treasured reminder of her old home provides a pathway for acceptance in her new one"-- (03/01/2020)