A debut illustrated children’s book focuses on two siblings’ magical adventures in Syria.
Laila wants nothing more than to be a great explorer like her grandfather Ibn Battuta. Her little brother, Ahmed, is more of a homebody who gets nervous any time he has to go anywhere. One day when their mother is out, Laila decides that she is going to hunt for her grandfather’s travel journal, which he called Rihla. With Ahmed’s help, she finds the journal and discovers a poetic clue, urging the two children to embark on a journey. Slowly, the book begins to grow in size, revealing itself as a magic portal. Laila and Ahmed follow their grandfather’s clues through Syria, where they travel on camelback to a castle built by the Crusaders, a market in Aleppo, an ancient water wheel, the oasis of Palmyra, the Church of St. Sergius, and finally to the country’s capital city of Damascus. As they move from place to place, they are greeted by old friends of their grandfather’s and treated to the many enchanting sights, sounds, and tastes of Syria. Even timid Ahmed comes out of his shell, eager to unearth each clue on the route their clever grandfather laid out for them. The lively book features rich, colorful paintings by debut illustrator Kassem depicting the two children as they trek from one vivid locale to the next. Alloo’s sweet story will instill in young readers a sense of wonder and appreciation for the history and grandeur of Syria. Though there are many images, the narrative is wordy and would be best read with a parent or guardian who can help guide a curious child. While there is no in-depth history provided, there are enough insights into Syria’s past to pique readers’ interest and encourage further research. This work would be a superb supplement to history lessons covering the Middle East
A fun, warm, and friendly tale that’s sure to delight and inspire youngsters to learn more about the Arab world.