Book Size: 8.5" x 11"

Pages: 48

Format: Hardback

ISBN: 9781623716608

Imprint: Crocodile Books

Illustrated by: Ahmed Abdelmohsen

Ages: 7+

Release date: Fall 2024


Umm Kulthum

The Star of the East

By • Illustrated by Ahmed Abdelmohsen

$ 19.95

About this book

A picture book about the life and career of an unforgettable Arab icon, Umm Kulthum, the most powerful voice in the Arab world.

Umm Kulthum was an Arab icon, whose powerful voice defined an entire region for more than five decades. The famous Soprano Maria Callas praised her voice as "incomparable." Bob Dylan, Robert Plant and Bono are said to be among her many fans.

The daughter of a poor Egyptian village sheikh, Umm Kulthum rose to fame at a time when young girls didn't go to school and when "respectable" girls did not perform on stages. But Umm Kulthum was no ordinary girl. As a little girl, she convinced her parents to send her to school so that she could learn to read and recite the Qur'an. When her father discovered her powerful voice, he dressed her as a boy and toured the Egyptian countryside, performing at religious ceremonies to make extra money for the family. When she could no longer hide the fact that she was a girl, Umm Kulthum shed her costume and became known throughout the Nile Delta as the little girl with the powerful voice.

As she grew older, Umm Kulthum knew her future awaited her in Cairo. But her father still worried about her reputation. City theaters were definitely no place for a sheikh's daughter. Stubborn and persistent, Umm Kulthum convinced her father to move Cairo. But life in the big city wasn't easy. The city elite mocked the village girl and her religious folk songs. Umm Kulthum, nonetheless, persisted and worked harder than she had ever worked before. With help from famous singers, she learned to control her powerful voice and taught herself how to play musical instruments. The most important poets and musicians in Egypt and the Arab world wrote lyrics and composed music for her. Soon, record companies competed for her contracts. She held sold-out concerts that ran late into the night, and she sang songs that often lasted more than an hour.

Umm Kulthum was more than a singer. She helped reclaim the story and voice of an entire region. People took pride in her perfect pronunciation of the Arabic language, which they attributed to her knowledge of the Qur'an. More than a century after her birth, Umm Kulthum's music can still be heard in taxis, cafes, and homes from Rabat to Baghdad and Damascus to Sana'a, giving her the nicknames The Lady (Al-Sit), Egypt's Fourth Pyramid (Al Haram al-Rabe'), the Mother of the Arabs (Umm al-Arab)--and, unequivocally, The Star of the East (Kawkab al Sharq).

With stunning illustrations by renowned Egyptian artist Ahmed Abdelmohsen, Umm Kulthum is brought to life with each spread that sings in honor of the voice of this unforgettable icon.


About the authors

Rhonda Roumani is a Syrian American journalist who has covered the Arab world and Muslim issues for more than two decades. She is the author of the Middle Grade novel Tagging Freedom (Union Square) and the picture book Insha’llah, No, Maybe So (Holiday House). She lives in New Haven, CT with her family.

Ahmed Abdelmohsen is a freelance illustrator, graphic designer, comic artist, caricaturist, and typographer based in Cairo, Egypt.

About the Author

Ahmed Abdelmohsen is a freelance illustrator, graphic designer, comic artist, caricaturist, and typographer based in Cairo, Egypt.


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