Salma the Syrian Chef (Salma #2)

by Danny Ramadan (Author) Anna Bron (Illustrator)

Salma the Syrian Chef (Salma #2)
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade
Series: Salma

All Salma wants is to make her mama smile again. Between English classes, job interviews, and missing Papa back in Syria, Mama always seems busy or sad. A homemade Syrian meal might cheer her up, but Salma doesn't know the recipe, or what to call the vegetables in English, or where to find the right spices! Luckily, the staff and other newcomers in her Welcome Home are happy to lend a hand--and a sprinkle of sumac.

With creativity, determination, and charm, Salma brings her new friends together to show Mama that even though things aren't perfect, there is cause for hope and celebration. Syrian culture is beautifully represented through the meal Salma prepares and Anna Bron's vibrant illustrations, while the diverse cast of characters speaks to the power of cultivating community in challenging circumstances.

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Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review
This beautiful story grasps diversity, exploring resilience, love, friendship, and the meaning of home.

Publishers Weekly

Salma and her mother live in an apartment at a Vancouver Welcome Center, a home vastly different from their native Syria, where Salma's father still resides. When she thinks about him, "Salma's heart aches like a tiny fire in her chest." She notices, too, that her mother's characteristic laughter has disappeared since their move. After some brainstorming, Salma decides to make her mother a favorite Syrian dish. With help from the Welcome Center's community of refugees (a gay couple from Lebanon, people from Egypt, India, and Somalia), Salma translates a recipe, gathers ingredients, and--through some emotional trial and error--makes her mother a lovingly assembled foul shami that incites "a long, sweet laugh, like the echo of bells." Bron's angular illustrations, rendered in warm colors and patterns, depict the inclusive group, while Syrian-Canadian activist Ramadan writes with poetic immediacy about displacement, home, and family. Ages 4-7. (Mar.)

Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

K-Gr 2--Salma lives with her mother in a refugee center in Canada, hoping her father will join them. Salma misses her father and the life in Syria, and struggles seeing how unhappy her mother is. Determined to hear her mother laugh again, Salma tries to cheer her up with silly drawings and jokes, "but all she gets is Mama's sad smile, full of love but empty of joy." Remembering the last time she saw her mother happy, Salma decides to surprise her by making foul shami, a Syrian meal her family shared in their lost home. Salma seeks the help of many other people in the refugee camp to find a recipe, translate the foods, shop, and prepare the meal, showcasing the things all the immigrants have in common as well as the variety and uniqueness of the cultures. Despite all the help, Salma doesn't have the right spices to finish her dish, and her frustration opens a floodgate for all her feelings of displacement and sadness. The meal, of course, delights her mother, and their friends at the camp join them with the missing ingredients. The charming illustrations are notably framed by Syrian mosaic patterns, providing a beautiful framework for the story. Realistically, the happy ending is limited to the connection with her mother and a dream of continued happiness with their new community; no easy answers about the future are provided. VERDICT Truthful, hopeful, and relatable; a first purchase.--Anna Haase Krueger, Ramsey County Library, MN

Copyright 2020 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
Danny Ramadan

DANNY RAMADAN is an award-winning Syrian-Canadian author, activist, and public speaker. His work as an activist has helped provide a safe passage to dozens of Syrian LGBTQ+ refugees to Canada. He is the author of two novels for adults, The Clothesline Swing and The Foghorn Echoes, and a forthcoming memoir, Crooked Teeth. Danny lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

ANNA BRON studied traditional animation at Sheridan College. She illustrated the award-winning picture book Salma the Syrian Chef and the middle-grade novel Harvey and the Extraordinary. She has animated, designed, and directed commercials and short films. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Annick Press
Publication date
March 20, 2020
BISAC categories
JUV023000 - Juvenile Fiction | Lifestyles | City & Town Life
JUV039250 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Emigration & Immigration
JUV050000 - Juvenile Fiction | Cooking & Food
Library of Congress categories
Picture books
Cooking, Syrian
Refugees, Arab

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