If you’ve never been to Egypt, this is the book you need to read—it’ll make you hear, see, smell, and taste Cairo like you’re really there. When Aunty Fatma comes to visit, the little girl is transported back to her homeland through all her senses, especially during the bedtime song her aunt sings. And even when Auntie has to return home, the two stay connected through their shared experiences (and video chat).
The author, Zeena M. Pliska, wrote this book as a “love letter to Cairo”, her family’s homeland—and hers, though she was born elsewhere. And her love for this country shines through in every sentence. At the end of the book, there is a glossary for the handful of Arabic words readers will learn as they flip through the pages full of street vendors, animals, vehicles, and buildings. Some of them are the ones I always hear at my own grandmother’s house, herself an Egyptian immigrant. This story celebrates Arab culture, family, language, and people in a way Western media does not do often enough.
Illustrated by Egyptian-born Hatem Aly in a sort of eclectic style that reflects the hustle and bustle of the big city, every page of this book is as colourful as the culture it depicts. With a mixture of digital art, ink drawings, and a bit of photography, the artist brings Cairo—and the protagonist’s full house—to life. Bright, fun fonts give a little extra kick to the text, integrated into the images by speech bubbles and clouds.
The moral of Egyptian Lullaby is that you will always be connected to your roots, no matter how far away you live from the places that tell your family’s story. Published by Roaring Brook Press, this book is available through Macmillan and Amazon.