All day, as he does a man's work--delivering bottles of water to customers in his native Cairo--Ahmed (pictured as nine or ten) treasures a secret. As he and his donkey make their way through the noisy, crowded streets, getting food from a handdrawn cart, he remembers his father's advice (""I close my eyes and have my quiet time. . .'If there are no quiet spaces in your head, it fills with noise,' he has told me . . .'Hurry to grow strong. . .but do not hurry to grow old'""). Ahmed is proud to relieve his tired father of a heavy task--and prouder still, that night, to share his secret with his family: he has learned to write his name. Skillfully, the authors use the secret to sustain suspense--in what is primarily a child's-eye portrait of modern Cairo--and to highlight the significance of Ahmed's poignant joy in his accomplishment. Lewin's warm, expansive double-spread watercolors capture both subtleties of character and the city's rich diversity. A handsome, affectionate book.