One day I was looking at my online reader copy list and said, “Today I read you.” Well, I never did read that book, but read Dounia and the Magic Seeds instead. I had no real intention of reading it. The cover art was cute, but was not “doing it” for me. I was sure Yvette Ghione was a lovely person, but that was not helping me get into it. But the day I looked at another book, yet clicking on Dounia, I knew it was time for me to give Ghinone’s work a chance. And once again, Do Not Judge a Book By Its Cover, rang true. Inside this story of a young Syrian girl, there was magical, poetic language, and even slightly romantic artwork. The colors popped, blossomed and were not “realistic” but not “cartoonish.” Filled with unique and lyrical details to the illustrations, things came alive.
The illustrations show the story Marya Zarif made as both companion and supporter, but also giving them life of their own. We follow Dounia in the days before war hits her grandparents’ doorstep. We have seen the smells, sights, and traditions of her home in Aleppo, Syria. We are also given a foreshadowing of things to come when the grandmother gives Dounia four seeds to hold onto, but does not give a particular reason. When they must flee the country, Dounia only has a soap bird and the seeds, which will create magic to help the family get through difficult times.
The entire book is magical. The seeds make magic happen. They are used in certain things to make sure they are not spoiled, and Dounia’s faith in them allows them to make their journey better. And you can believe that magic is real and the bird, like the seeds (that help stop the storm, make soldiers hearts melt) also is magical, or it is the imagination of a child and her hope, faith, and resilience.