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The Picture Book Buzz

The Great Banned-Books Bake Sale - Perfect Picture Book Friday#PPBF

I was so saddened by the increase in school districts and states banning books by or about people of color (including books on Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks), the nationality of the author, and even books solely due to covering loss and grief. Really? Like we haven't just gone through a world-wide health crisis that touched every family. Or trying to ban The Story of Ferdinand as too pacifist! Seriously? If you don't like a book, don't read it, don't buy it, don't let your own kid read it, but don't tell me what I can read or let my kids read!

This wonderful picture book tackles this problem head on and shows the emotional toll of banning books and a fun way for kids to fight back against the fear and discrimination of those who pull the books.

Book cover - kids holding signs protesting book bans.

The Great Banned-Books Bake Sale

Author: Aya Khalil

Illustrator: Anait Semirdzhyan

Publisher: Tilbury House (2023)

Ages: 7-10



Banned books, kid activism, bake sale, bravery, and fighting for books.


Kanzi, the immigrant girl of Aya Khalil and Anait Semirdzhyan’s bestselling picture book The Arabic Quilt, has come to feel welcome in her American school—that is, until an entire shelf of books about immigrant kids and kids of color suddenly disappears from the school library.

Upon learning that the books with kids who look like her have been banned by her school district, Kanzi descends into fear and helplessness. But her classmates support her, and together—with their teacher’s help—they hatch a plan to hold a bake sale and use the proceeds to buy diverse books to donate to libraries. The event is a big success; the entire school participates, and the local TV station covers it in the evening news. Prodded by her classmates to read the poem she has written, Kanzi starts softly but finds her voice. “You have banned important books, but you can’t ban my words,” she reads. “Books are for everyone.” The crowd chants, “No banned books! No banned books!” and the next week, the ban is reversed.

Aya Khalil appends a note about how The Arabic Quilt was briefly banned from the York, Pennsylvania school system, and the backmatter also includes a recipe for baklawa, the Egyptian pastry that Kanzi prepares for the bake sale.

Opening Lines:

Kanzi skips to the front of the line.

It is her turn to lead the class to the

library, and Kanzi loves the library.

What I LOVED about this book:

In this powerful sequel, Kanzi and her classmates' anticipated time in the school library comes to an abrupt and crashing halt when they discover all the diverse books have been banned by the school district. The bare shelves and confused, sad kids in Anait Semirdzhyan's muted illustrations beautifully drive home the effect of this decision. As the adults uncomfortably try to explain why - "Some books are so powerful that they intimidate people."

Internal spread - kids facing empty library shelves and  sadly facing their teacher and librarian.

Text © Aya Khalil, 2023. Image © Anait Semirdzhyan. 2023.

On returning to the classroom, the "roaring silence," Kanzi's worry "Is my voice even important?", and the kids frustration at not seeing books that represent them and their families, boils up into an excited enthusiasm to combine a bake sale with a protest. A special bake sale based on foods mentioned in their favorite banned books. A special fundraiser to put banned books into free little libraries.

Internal spread - kids in the classroom excitedly planning a bake sale protest.

Text © Aya Khalil, 2023. Image © Anait Semirdzhyan. 2023.

In a touching kitchen scene, Kanzi helps her teita bake baklawa and learns of Teita's role in the 2011 Egyptian uprising where she spoke out for "bread, freedom, and social justice." When the big day arrives, lots of people devour the treats, brandish signs, and chant "No banned books." The kids succeed in raising lots of money to buy banned books. As they are invited to speak out against banning books, Kanzi still doubts that her voice is worth being heard.

Internal spread - teacher with megaphone and Kanzi hestiant to speak to the crowd.

Text © Aya Khalil, 2023. Image © Anait Semirdzhyan. 2023.

The poignant and beautifully touching ending not only shows Kanzi finding her strength and her voice, but includes a cameo appearance of The Arabic Quilt. It is a very satisfying ending which is enhanced by the wonderful Author's note highlighting the current reality of the book banning and the protests occurring around the country in response. As well as a recipe for Baklawa.

This is a wonderful book for helping kids understand what book bans are, a little about why they are happening, and a great call to action for finding ways to raise our collective voices to protest and fight the fears behind banning books. It's a book that will hopefully encourage many kids to stand up and speak out for books.


book mark - Sad book with quote "Hey, I just me you, and this is crazy, but someone banned me so read me maybe?  ©

- some ideas for activities (such as trading cards, bookmarks, or a bake sale) to take during Banned Books Week, October 1-7, 2023 - Theme: "Let Freedom Read."

- write a letter to the school board or PTA arguing against banning books. Or organize your own protest or bake sale.

- check out the coloring sheets on Aya's website.

- a few more activities (mock debate, banned book guessing game, and crossword puzzles) to learn about Banned Books.

If you missed the interview with Aya Khalil on Monday, find it (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions and resources see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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