This 48 page picture book shows the journey of a young girl from one desert to another. The soft water colors in this author illustrated book tell so much of the story and illuminate the prose. For me the most powerful part of the book was the backmatter. The learning why the family had to move from Kuwait to New Mexico was new and interesting and gave the story a lot of depth. I read it to my 6 and 3 year old and it couldn’t hold their attention, the book is not text heavy, but is is long. I think had I read the author’s note at the end first, before sharing it with my kids, we could have discussed the pages a bit more. I think the added framing and context would have increased connection and engaged them. The book shows one aunt in hijab, Allah swt written in Arabic and a picture of the kaba hanging on the walls of their home, a hand of Fatima as well. There is music and dancing and connections between family, strangers, cultures, and people.
The book starts by establishing the rich and loving life the little girl enjoys in her home: butterflies, swimming in the sea, family. It then fades to being held close and the stress of people saying they don’t belong. The next step is the family having to leave their extended family and say their good-byes.
They arrive in a new place, not talking like others, questioning the connections of their ancestors in this far away land. Eventually there are some similarities, and then the music of a guitarron is heard and people dance and there is joy.
The shift opens up a feeling of home, and connections are not lost, and a new comfort is felt in a place where hot air balloons fill the sky.
As an adult I appreciated the paradigm shift of not being welcome in their home elsewhere and being welcome in America, it is subtle but a nice change. I love a lot of details come full circle. I think the book would be a good tool not for the intended 4-8 crowd, but for older kids in a teaching setting. There are a lot of subtle story telling techniques that could be discussed, stereotype assumptions challenged in a nudging way, and offer social studies and political discussions.