Kanzi, the immigrant girl of Aya Khalil and Anait Semirdzhyan’s bestselling picture book The Arabic Quilt, has come to feel welcome in her American school—that is, until an entire shelf of books about immigrant kids and kids of color suddenly disappears from the school library.
Upon learning that the books with kids who look like her have been banned by her school district, Kanzi descends into fear and helplessness. But her classmates support her, and together—with their teacher’s help—they hatch a plan to hold a bake sale and use the proceeds to buy diverse books to donate to libraries. The event is a big success; the entire school participates, and the local TV station covers it in the evening news. Prodded by her classmates to read the poem she has written, Kanzi starts softly but finds her voice. “You have banned important books, but you can’t ban my words,” she reads. “Books are for everyone.” The crowd chants, “No banned books! No banned books!” and the next week, the ban is reversed.
Aya Khalil appends a note about how The Arabic Quilt was briefly banned from the York, Pennsylvania school system, and the backmatter also includes a recipe for baklawa, the Egyptian pastry that Kanzi prepares for the bake sale.
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 www.anaitsart.com.