From School Library Journal
Grade 5 Up–Part children's book, part autobiography, part design treatise, this hard-to-categorize Egyptian import is full of wonders from start to finish. Ellabbad uses excerpts from his notebooks to discuss ways of seeing art from an artist's perspective and as someone from an Arabic culture. Printed like the Egyptian edition–read right to left–the pages are magnificently and surprisingly illustrated, juxtaposing Arabic script (English translations appear in the margins), watercolor paintings, pasted-in photos and pictures from comic books, and all manner of characters from Eastern and Western cultures. From the henna paintings on a woman's hands and feet, to a photograph of a village house decorated with a lifelike mural, to a reproduction of an Ottoman sultan's signature done in ornate calligraphy, Ellabbad contemplates different forms of expression and how these images spur the imagination and stimulate personal reflection. On a page featuring sketches of an Egyptian 10-pound note, he encourages readers to re-examine familiar things (…have you ever looked at the beautiful landscape that is drawn right in the palm of your hand?). Scrapbook memoirs are paired with a discussion of the importance of souvenirs (from ticket stubs to pyramids) for awakening memories and preserving the past. The warm and inviting prose goes beyond aesthetics and poses questions such as Who are our heroes? What is memory? Where do stories come from? The Illustrator's Notebook
presents a revealing introduction to Arabic culture and will appeal particularly to visually oriented youngsters.–Steev Baker, Kewaskum Public Library, WI
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