Review—Snatched by Asmaa Hussein and illustrated by Sviatoslav Diachyk

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Snatched is a really sweet picture book set in Egypt about a little boy named Omar who makes a mistake, but owns it, and makes amends with his mom’s help. 

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Literature is a low-stakes opportunity to practice for the real world, and there is nothing better for kids to see in literature than other kids not only making mistakes, but also feeling remorse, and figuring out how to make up for those mistakes. This book does that beautifully; Omar’s mother gives him exactly the advice I’d like to give my own children, and when Omar goes to make amends to Amo Mohamed, Amo Mohamed’s reaction reflects exactly what I want my children to believe about the world.

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But my favorite thing about this book is the setting. It’s set in Egypt, and it so perfectly captures Egyptian streets, Egyptian life, and even Egyptian doormen that it took my breath away to see it in a children’s book. From the very first page, I was 100% sure that this was happening in Egypt, not some other Arab country, but Egypt. I lived in Egypt for many years, and the combination of the textual references and the illustrations so perfectly captured it that I was transported back there. (Whether or not that’s a good thing is another story, ha ha.)

I really take my hat off to Asmaa Hussein for writing and publishing books like this one and like Bismillah Soup that give children the chance to experience another culture through a book. For children who don’t have the opportunity to travel, books are one of the key ways they can see how their peers around the world lead different and yet similar lives to their own. Egypt (or Somalia in Bismillah Soup) is such a wildly different place than Canada or the US, and yet Omar’s struggles are not different at all. In sharing a story, children can recognize their shared humanity, and this is one step toward raising responsible and aware global citizens. 

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If I have anything negative to say about this book, it’s about the illustrations. I personally didn’t care for this style of illustration at all. What was pictured was perfect; it’s the way that it was done that was lacking. For example, in many of the pictures, Omar looks like an old man’s face stuck on a little boy’s body. But I’m very picky about illustrations. 

I highly recommend Snatched for everyone who loves picture books and anyone who would like a peek at Egyptian life and culture. Snatched is published by Ruqaya’s Bookshelf (2018), and you can get your own copy here.

Thank you to Ruqaya’s Bookshelf for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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