Everything changes for a young girl when her dad’s Auntie Fatma comes for a visit from Egypt. Fatma has brought with her memories of a place that the girl once considered home. The constant Arabic chatter around the house makes the girl miss her old life. Even her favourite sahlab drink, infused with nuts, raisins, and coconut, tastes more delicious when made with Auntie Fatma’s special mix. Her aunt assures her that she will return to Egypt. “Don’t worry,” Auntie says. “Once you drink from the Nile, you’ll always return.”
Infused with a rich layer of cultural pride, Zeena M. Pliska’s picture book Egyptian Lullaby gives the reader a unique view of the vibrant city of Cairo. Every night for two weeks, Auntie Fatma sings the girl a lullaby to remind her of the place she came from. The sounds of Egypt are a poetic narrative that take the girl on an adventure that starts at the Nile then heads toward a city bustling with life – people waking to the sounds of the muezzin beckoning from the mosque, a donkey pulling a cart, vehicles zooming by, and the watermelon vendor shouting over the cacophony of horns. But the chaos is not discomforting; rather it gives a sense of connection, which is depicted exquisitely in Hatem Aly’s illustrations.
Pliska’s prose is poetic; her wordplay has an energy that ebbs and flows, creating a heartwarming lullaby. Pliska’s words combined with Aly’s illustrations immerse the reader into a frenetic world full of movement and colour that is lively and captivating. The narrative may resonate for the many immigrant kids who settle away from their original homeland.
Egyptian Lullaby is a delightful journey. Kids who’ve been to Cairo will love the walk down memory lane; those who haven’t will undoubtedly feel a warm tug in their hearts. The charming story and brilliant illustrations offer a glimpse into another world.