A RIVER OF DUST Written by Jilanne Hoffmann Illustrated by Eugenia Mello (Chronicle Books;…
Here’s an instance where reviewer Debbie Glade wholeheartedly advises you to judge a book by its cover.
This is by far my favorite cover of all the Chicago Review Press Kid’s Guides, and it really beckoned me to find out what was inside. A Kid’s Guide to Arab American History: More than 50 Activities ($16.95, Chicago Review Press, Ages 7 and up), written by Yvonne Wakim Dennis and Maha Addasi educates us about the history of Arabs immigrating to America as well as their rich cultural traditions and accomplishments.
I’m glad this book was written because it dispels many stereotypes of Arab Americans and reminds us that being part of any culture is not only about politics and religion. And by the way, when it comes to religion, Arab Americans can be Christians, Muslims, Jews or may practice other religions – just like the countless other immigrants who have come to America over the centuries. As a country, we pride ourselves on being the melting pot of cultures, cuisines, languages and traditions that we are, and Arab Americans are an important part of that mix.
The chapters of this book take the reader through the different nations where most Arab Americans have emigrated from, sharing rich cultural traditions and facts about famous Arab Americans and their originating lands. There are more than 50 really impressive, well-thought-out activities in this book too. Among them are recipes, making musical instruments, playing games and creating original art. (I am really looking forward to trying to make my own drum out of a dog rawhide bone and a glass vase. See page 26.) The art and architecture of the Arab world is really quite impressive as you shall soon discover by reading the book.
One of the first pages I read explains that the town of Opa Locka, Florida (just a 15-minute drive from my house) is home to the most Arab Moorish structures than anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere. Who knew? This and so many other facts about people and places can be found here. In the back of the book are additional valuable resources and websites for further reading. The index is quite detailed and helpful. The only suggestion I would have to make this fantastic book even better would be the addition of maps to help educate young readers about the locations of the countries Arab Americans came from.
If you learn anything from A Kid’s Guide to Arab American History, it’s that Arab Americans are our neighbors, not our enemies. They may be light skinned, dark skinned, blonde or brunette. They may attend our places of worship, they are citizens who vote, serve in our armed forces, build businesses with hard work and determination, seek higher education and want to better themselves and make America a better place to live, just like you and me.
If you like this book, you may want to check out Mirror, a very unique book about two families from two very different cultures.