Salma the Syrian Chef by Danny Ramadan illustrated by Anna Bron

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Salma the Syrian Chef by Danny Ramadan illustrated by Anna Bron

salma

This 40 page picture book meant for 4-7 year old children is full of diversity, community and love.  The only thing missing, is a recipe for the dish, foul shami, that Salma recruits everyone at the refugee Welcome Center to help her make to cheer up her mom. Possible flag is there is a gay couple featured in the text and illustrations.

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Salma and her mom are refugees from Syria living in Vancouver, and desperately missing Salma’s dad who still has not been able to join them.  When Salma shares her sadness with Nancy at the Welcome Center, she is encouraged to draw her good memories.  And then Salma has the idea to cook a dish from home for her mom. The other kids at the center mention foods they miss, Ayman from Egypt, Riya from India, Evan from Venezuela.   Then the translator, Jad, from Jordan helps her find a recipe online.

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Convincing herself that she can do this, Salma  draws a picture for each of the ingredients since she doesn’t know the names in English.  She then heads to the market with Ayesha from Somalia, an older girl that helps her cross the street, and get the needed groceries.

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Back at the Welcome Center to cook. Malek and Amir, a gay couple from Lebanon help her chop the vegetables and kiss away each others onion tears.  The spices make Salma sneeze, but she can’t find the sumac.

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Granny Donya from Iran has the missing spice and reassures Salma that she can do this.  That is until the olive oil bottle slips and falls and shatters.  With no more money and feeling discouraged, it takes Nancy and everyone else to convince Salma not to give up as the dish is made with love and Mama will love it.

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Everything is set up to surprise Mama with the dish, but once mama comes home and the door bell rings, it is Salma who is surprised with all her friends coming over to bring her olive oil.

Mama laughs and tells Salma her smile is home, and Salma dreams of riding her bike around the Vancouver seawall laughing with her friends and Mama.

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I love the sense of community that it takes to make the dish and that she finds love and support from so many.  I also like her determination to make her mother smile along with her willingness to accept help when she needs it.

I’m assuming the family is Muslim, the mom appears to remove a scarf when she returns home, Ayesha and Granny Donya also wear hijab.

 

 

4 responses »

  1. Hi. I don’t appreciate this review of my children’s book. It baffles me that you’d say the book “is full of diversity, community and love” then point out that a “possible flag is there is a gay couple featured.”

    Diversity includes queerness as an identity, and communities include queer folks, and love should be equal to all, including gender and sexual minorities. Refusing to modernize our understanding of Islamic teachings, king of them is to live and let live, is truly shameful.

    I am the author of this book, and I’m a queer man myself, married to my husband. I was honestly hurt to see your review, that otherwise loved my book. It tells me that you can appreciate my writing and my work and even my own messages of inclusion, but you can’t show me the same curtsy.

    • I am shocked by this review as well. Finding this book is rare in the niche area and genre that this children’s book falls into. This book should be celebrated. As one who is surrounded by Muslim friends and refugees, and works in the issues of forced displacement, I’m glad to have found this precious book via a recommendation of another children’s book author, and I’ll make sure to feature this for story time sessions and share with all.

  2. I’m a teacher with nearly five decades’ experience. I’ve read this to k and grade 2 children. It’s a lovely book in many ways and I love the illustrations. That said, I don’t understand why this book is flagged as for children 4-7. I’m altogether for not dumbing down to children. However, the sentence structure, extended text, and figurative language are better suited, I’d say, to older children, say 9-11. This is not a young children’s picture book, though, of course, if it’s read in an engaging way, they enjoy the experience. ,

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