The Arabic Quilt: An Immigrant Story (Hardcover)

The Arabic Quilt: An Immigrant Story By Aya Khalil, Anait Semirdzhyan (Illustrator) Cover Image

The Arabic Quilt: An Immigrant Story (Hardcover)

By Aya Khalil, Anait Semirdzhyan (Illustrator)


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Children's Africana Book Award (CABA) 2021 Honor Book

NCSS 2021 Notable Social Studies Book

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.

That night, Kanzi wraps herself in the beautiful Arabic quilt her teita (grandma) in Cairo gave her and writes a poem in Arabic about the quilt. Next day her teacher sees the poem and gets the entire class excited about creating a “quilt” (a paper collage) of student names in Arabic. In the end, Kanzi’s most treasured reminder of her old home provides a pathway for acceptance in her new one.  

This authentic story with beautiful illustrations includes a glossary of Arabic words and a presentation of Arabic letters with their phonetic English equivalents.

Aya Khalil is an award-winning author of picture books and board books. Aya holds a master's degree in education, whose articles have been published in The Huffington Post, The Christian Science Monitor and Motherly. Aya and her books have been featured in Teen Vogue, Oprah Daily, The Washington Post and more. She was named one of Arab America's Foundation's 40 under 40 in 2021.

Anait Semirdzhyan grew up in a multicultural family and lived in several countries with diverse cultures before settling in the Seattle area with her husband and twin daughters. Her illustrations begin as pencil sketches on cold-press watercolor paper. She then inks the outlines, paints with watercolors, and scans the illustrations in order to edit them in Photoshop. She is the illustrator of The Arabic Quilt and other works that can be viewed at
Product Details ISBN: 9780884487548
ISBN-10: 0884487547
Publisher: Tilbury House Publishers
Publication Date: February 18th, 2020
Pages: 36
Language: English
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 - School Library Journal

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.

— Isra - Muslims in Kid Lit

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.
— AudioFile review

In the end, Kanzi’s most treasured reminder of her old home provides a pathway for acceptance in her new one.
— Goodreads

One of the Eighteen 2020 Children's Books You'll Want on Your Reading List This Year
— Abi Berwager Schreier - Romper