Egyptian Lullaby

by Zeena M Pliska (Author) Hatem Aly (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

A rich, beautifully layered ode to the great city of Cairo, Egypt, its people, and culture.

Every night, my Ametti Fatma sings the sounds of Egypt to me as I fall asleep.

This is the Nile,

that flows through the city.

Swish, swoosh, swish.

This is the boat,

that glides on the Nile,

that flows through the city.

Swish, swoosh, swish.

Each night, a young girl's Auntie Fatma puts her to bed, singing a lullaby filled with rich imagery of her home in Egypt. As Auntie Fatma sings, we are given a glimpse of modern Cairo, from boats making their way down the Nile to gentle calls to prayer from the mosques to young children joyfully playing soccer in the streets.

Join Zeena Pliska and Hatem Aly on a vibrant journey to Cairo in this gorgeous, layered song.

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Kirkus Reviews

A lovely ode to geographic, cultural, and familial ties.

School Library Journal

A young Egyptian girl excitedly awaits the arrival of Egyptian Auntie Fatma, who "brings a little of our old life with her," every time she visits. Their time together includes lots of traditional meals, special Egyptian treats, conversation, and a lullaby, sung to her by Auntie Fatma each night. Based on the sounds of Egypt, the cumulative verse starts with the Nile, "which flows through the city. Swish, swoosh, swish." It continues aboard a boat; through the city; past the mosque; through the streets with their donkey carts, buses, cars, and trucks; and continues on by the people, dogs, and the children playing soccer. The story wraps with reassurance that her aunt will be waking up in Cairo as she falls asleep each night, so the song will always be with her. The repetitive refrain, reminiscent of The Napping House, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, and other cumulative picture books, will engage young lap listeners and story time attendees alike. Vibrant illustrations bring bustling Cairo to life. VERDICT A sweet peek into Egyptian family culture that is relatable to all. Purchase for picture book collections where representation of North African, Arabic, or, Egyptian traditions is lacking.—Jennifer Noonan

Copyright 2023 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"Resonant and stylistically unique." - The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Zeena M Pliska

Zeena Pliska is an author, educator, and blogger who has spent much time in Cairo, Egypt seeing family and exploring the ancient city. She lives in California.

Hatem Aly is an Egyptian-born artist whose work has been featured on television and in multiple publications. He is the illustrator of The Proudest Blue, In My Mosque, and the Yasmin series. He lives with his wife and son in New Brunswick, Canada.

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Roaring Brook Press
Publication date
April 20, 2023
BISAC categories
JUV013030 - Juvenile Fiction | Family | Multigenerational
JUV010000 - Juvenile Fiction | Bedtime & Dreams
JUV030010 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | Africa
JUV039280 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Religion & Faith
Library of Congress categories
Picture books
United States
Family life
Cairo (Egypt)

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