The Arabic Quilt: An Immigrant Story | Aya Khalil


The Arabic Quilt: An Immigrant Story written by Aya Khalil and illustrated by Anait Semirdzhyan

Out Now from Tilbury House Publishers; 32 pages

Content Warnings: Xenophobia, bullying

About the Author: “Aya Khalil, M.Ed, is an author and freelance journalist. She holds a master’s degree in Education with a focus in teaching English as a second Language. She’s been featured in Teen Vogue, Yahoo!, Book Riot and USA Today. Her work has been published in The Huffington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, Toledo Area Parent and many others. She also teaches at the University of Toledo and occasionally subs at a local public school. Aya is represented by Brent Taylor of Triada US Agency.  Her debut picture book THE ARABIC QUILT was published in February 2020 by Tilbury House & illustrated by Anait Semirdzhyan and has won numerous awards. Her upcoming picture book, THE NIGHT BEFORE EID, will be published in 2023 by Little, Brown/ Christy Ottaviano, about three generations of Egyptian-Americans bonding over a special Eid treat. It will be illustrated by Rashin Kheiriyeh. Besides writing and teaching, she enjoys spending time with her family, traveling and cycling (indoors and outdoors). She lives in Northwest Ohio with her family.” (Bio taken from author’s website)

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About the Illustrator: “Anait Semirdzhayan 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. See more of Anait’s work at” (Bio taken from the back of The Arabic Quilt)

Find Anait Semirdzhyan on the following platforms:

“‘Learning other languages besides the one we grow up with helps make the world a friendlier place.’”

It’s Kanzi’s first day at school after her family’s move to America from Egypt, and all Kanzi wants is to fit in. Except how can she do that when Baba packs her a kofta sandwich for lunch instead of PB&J and Mama sings along to the Arabic radio channel in the car? But when Kanzi’s teacher comes up with the idea to create a class masterpiece inspired by Kanzi’s special quilt from Teita in Egypt, she realizes that with the unification language provides, she and her classmates are stronger when they celebrate their differences together. 

The Arabic Quilt is one of the best picture books I’ve ever read. I wish I’d had this beautiful story when I was a child! Aya Khalil’s sweet and inspiring message pairs perfectly with Anait Semirdzhyan’s simple yet stunning illustrations, making me want to read this book again and again and again. I even choke up at the touching end every time I crack this story’s spine! With the focus on how “languages can unite us together like a quilt,” as Kanzi writes, I love the inclusion of the Arabic words throughout and the helpful glossary at the end. The incredible illustrations incorporate so many details—even on the cover and endsheets—that I notice something new with each read. In a time where we are constantly being torn apart, The Arabic Quilt is a celebration of how embracing different cultures and languages can truly bring us all together. 

PRR Assistant Director, Wendy Waltrip