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Sitti's Secrets (Aladdin Picture Books) Paperback – October 1, 1997

15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Kindergarten-Grade 3-When Mona travels from her home in the U.S. to visit her grandmother's small Palestinian village on the West Bank, she must rely on her father to translate at first, but soon she and Sitti are communicating perfectly. With verve and a childlike sense of wonder, Mona relates some of the sights, sounds, and tastes she is introduced to as well as "the secrets" she learns from spending time in the wise, elderly woman's company. Upon her return home, Mona writes to the president describing the woman and expressing her concerns about the situation in her homeland. "I vote for peace. My grandmother votes with me." says Mona. The simple, poetic text is accompanied by exquisitely rendered mixed-medium paintings. They are suffused with the light and colors of the desert, and incorporate subtle and evocative collage touches. A story about connections that serves as a thoughtful, loving affirmation of the bonds that transcend language barriers, time zones, and national borders.
Luann Toth, School Library Journal
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Ages 4-8. Sitti means grandmother in Arabic, and in this lyrical picture book an American child misses her grandmother who lives in a Palestinian village "on the other side of the earth." The child remembers when she visited Sitti. They didn't speak the same language: at first they talked through her father, who spoke both English and Arabic, and then they invented their own language with signs and hums and claps. She remembers the house and the countryside, the culture and the clothes, and the intimacy of brushing Sitti's hair. She also remembers the painful leave-taking ("Even my father kept blowing his nose and walking outside"), and back in the U.S., she writes a letter to the President: "If the people of the United States could meet Sitti, they'd like her, for sure." Carpenter's paintings show the physical bond between child and grandmother when they're close and their imaginary connection when they're far away from each other. Like the human embrace, the pictures flow with soft curving lines of clothes and hills, birds and sky, all part of the circle of the rolling earth. There are too few books like this one about Arabs and Arab Americans as people. Nye edited the powerful global poetry collection for older readers, This Same Sky (1992); that title applies here, too, showing that "people are far apart, but connected." Every child who longs for a distant grandparent will recognize the feeling. Hazel Rochman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 5 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 590L (What's this?)
  • Series: Aladdin Picture Books
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Aladdin; Reprint edition (October 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689817061
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689817069
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 0.2 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #148,473 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Naomi Shihab Nye, poet, essayist, anthologist, has been a recipient of writing fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation and the Witter Bynner Foundation/Library of Congress. Author of more than twenty volumes, her recent books inc

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Janet Ma'ly on September 30, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I knew I'd love this book before I received it just from its description. It tells the story, based on the true-life experience of the author, of Mona, a little girl brought up in America in a Palestinian family who visits her parents' homeland in Palestine. She and her grandma (siti in Arabic) grow close although they do not speak the same language. I felt sad that this little girl had not received the rich gift of the language of her heritage. I taught my children to speak Spanish as their first language though I am American and we live in the USA. It is a gift I could not deny them as their fathers are of Hispanic origin. I never wanted them to find themselves in such a situation as little Mona, longing to share things with her distant family but struggling because of the barrier of language. With her grandma and with the neighborhood Arab children, Mona finds her own way of communicating and learns that sometimes it is not necessary to share a language to be able to share special moments with others.

This book depicts the peaceful life of a family in Palestine amid the turmoil that they have endured, but very subtly. When the little girl returns home, she writes a letter to the American president expressing her wish for peace and adds that she knows her grandma wishes the same. Each night, as she falls asleep, she connects with her grandma who she misses by thinking of the sun that leaves her side of the world now warming the land where her grandma lives. I wish we could all feel a connection with every human being on this earth as being just a sunrise away.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 21, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is an amazing book. While superficially it is a gentle childrens tale about a girl living in two cultures, it is, on another level, tremendously emotive. I am not given to being affected emotionally by poetry or films, but when reading this book to my daughter for the first time, I choked up halfway through and was unable to finish it until after I took a break. It is not sad,but really works at a deep level to evoke long dormant emotions. A truly 'magical' book-great illustrations, too.We have bought twenty or more copies of this book for family, friends, libraries...
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Charlotte E. Cerne on November 26, 2002
Format: Paperback
I bought Sitti's Secret about 10 years ago in D.C. I have read it to every one of my four children's kindergarten classes, crying each time. It shows the love of family and the misunderstanding of the world. The art work and the deepness of words are outstanding. I just read it to my youngest child's class and the emotions swelled again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Tammy Makoul on November 30, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book is an absolutely amazing literary work, as the words are so powerful and flow together so naturally. Not only does it tell an intriguing generational and cultural story for children, but reaches to the depths of any woman who has a "tayta" or "sitti" and their relationship of unconditional love and warmth.
I saw the title and took the book out with my daughters in the school library and we read it before bed. I got to the end, and the tears just started to flow as I remembered my grandmother, Jamilie, who looked a lot like the woman in the book. The most powerful picture is at the end with the sky and stars. This illustration shows how strongly our bonds are and how our spirits are always connected. Another poignant part of the book was when the girl wrote a letter to the president talking about peace. The author found such a gentle way to advocate for the Middle Eastern people. I had to call my aunt and talk to her about this book....we shared our memories as we always do, we cried and laughed, and remembered that a good children's book is not always just for children.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Noreen A. Thompsen on November 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was published in 1994 during the "peace process" overseen by President Clinton. My daughter was 6 years old---she is now 23 and it was one of her favorite books. The protagonist, a young American girl visiting her "Sitti" (grandmother) in Palestine for the first time gains cultural exposure to her father's country and family. At the end of the story she writes a sweet letter beginning "Dear Mr. President" and wishes him luck in his quest for peace in the region. It is telling that it is now 2011 and the letter could have just as easily been written to President Obama since nothing has been accomplished in securing peace. I purchased this book and hand delivered it to one of our Congressmen and asked him to pass it on to President Obama with a request that he make peace and justice for the Palestinians a priority. The illustrations and sentiments in the story are beautiful and touching and convey the values that we all should be instilling in our children---human rights and the humanity of all people. This book won the Jane Addams Children's Book Award (WILPF).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By S. Rohm on December 3, 2005
Format: Paperback
I read this book to my 7th graders when we studied Palestine and Isreal in social studies class. It touches on many issues such as differences and similarities, cultures, environment, and politics. I recommend it to all that are trying to make our world smaller and wiser.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A. J. Ishtayeh on October 7, 2005
Format: Paperback
My kids liked it and the message is beautiful. The ending is somewhat lost on younger children but may be a good discussion book for third grade and up.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A wonderful story for all children, but even more special for children of Palestinian descent. It tells the story of an American girl who visits her Father's mother ("Sitti" means "grandmother) in Palestine during a summer. It's likely the Palestinian reader will recognize some of the Arabic words the author uses to describe common foods ("mish mish" for apricot, for example). It's a lovely story and the illustrations are spectacular. It reminded me of my visit t the West Bank to visit my grandparents at age 11. The dresses with traditional needlework patterns, the outdoor oven to bake the traditional bread, picking lentils in the field, hanging out with the cousins....... it was as if the author and illustrator were telling my story. I have given this book as a gift to many family members with children. It is rare to have a representation of Palestinian culture that children can appreciate. I would recommend this book for all children as glimpse into another culture. More than that, it is simply beautiful to read and look at.
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