Arab Fairy Tale Feasts reviewed in Publishers Weekly

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From Publishers Weekly, 7 November:

Written for an older demographic, Arab Fairy Tale Feasts (Crocodile, Sept., ages 8–12), written by Karim Alrawi and illustrated by Nahid Kazemi, is the fourth entry in the Fairy Tale Feasts literary cookbook series for tweens. Previous titles delved into Chinese, Jewish, and European traditions. Alrawi, a playwright whose earlier children’s books include The Mouse Who Saved Egypt, pairs original stories that draw on Arab folklore with two dozen recipes, some of them contributed by Sobhi and Tamam Al-Zobaidi, who own a Palestinian restaurant in Vancouver.

The fairy tales, says Alrawi, who was born in Alexandria, are “very much modeled on the pattern of specific types of children’s stories, many of them oral modes of storytelling that I heard mainly from my aunts when I was a kid.” Recipes include several that may be less well-known outside of Arab homes, such as mehallabeyat qamaruddin (apricot pudding) and kushary (described as “lentil and noodle hodgepodge”). Food facts and history accompany the stories: for instance, the origin of the word tamarind—Arabic for “Indian dates”—and an explanation of the various types of bread from the Middle East.

Alrawi hopes that the book’s format entices young readers to explore the region’s flavors and find common ground. “We’re not very different when it comes to the food we eat and the kinds of stories we like to hear,” he says. “Nothing brings people together as well as food, and nothing is as effective at charming people as a good story. To be able to communicate that as early as possible to a child is the way of forestalling that kind of divisiveness that we seem to be living these days.”