I came across this book at the Dearborn Arab-American Festival, the largest Arab festival in North America. And I'm so glad I did. Vivid illustrations, and an engrossing storyline. Heide reveals a very realistic Cairo street life, unknown to most Western adults, and here very easy for kids to relate to through the eyes of the young child, Ahmed. I smiled as I read and saw different scenes, like the rose-water man, and remembered walking through Cairo and seeing these very people. The scenes are gritty- not white-washed, yet also very relationally connected, with people caring for each other and showing true hospitality, the hallmark of Egyptian life. This child isn't a terrorist; it's a young child; it's real life. When he finally reveals his secret, it's the joy of a child first learning to read, just like any Western or American child. But he's also truly Egyptian- he presents his name in Arabic.
After we read this, I and the children in the library learned to write our names in Arabic, and then we *had* to get some rosewater ice cream, in order to fully immerse ourselves in the book. If you can get ahold of it, I highly recommend!