By Antoine du Rocher
NEW YORK, 22 November 2006 —Karen Shariati's Meet Arzeen Citizen of the World
is a children’s book written for independent readers or for adults to read to early
readers. The central theme of the book is to introduce
children to the world around them through the eyes of a child
named Arzeen, as he and his bird travel the world.
The concept of the book is a great idea but it fails in the opening to
engage young readers by introducing the central character who proclaims
himself as Citizen of the World. The message in the language and the
illustration of Arzeen dressed in business attire sitting behind a big
desk in the first two pages of the book fosters images of superiority and
teacher; this tone is not child friendly or engaging. Then as we
travel with Arzeen and his bird, we are provided with a look into each
continent using a tourist approach. Dr. Lousie Derman-Sparks, diversity
and social justice scholar, writes "Tourist curriculum is both
patronizing, emphasizing the "exotic" differences between the cultures,
and trivializing, dealing not with real-life daily problems and
experiences of different people, but with surface aspects of celebrations
and modes of entertainment."
The other flaws with this book are:
- The story is told through the eyes of a male character and girls /
women are depicted serving food, participants in marriage ceremonies or
- The illustrator does not show the diversity of the people in many of
the places that we visit– e.g. South Africa, India and
- The illustrations on each page capture too many items, trying to
present the whole continent in limited space. This is further
complicated by labeling the sites or objects combined with the text
creating a layout which is not child friendly.
- The ending where Arzeen has children from around the world circle
around him and he tells us they are his friends. The illustration
reinforces his superiority by him being in the center instead of part of
the circle plus projects a stereotype of the Native American with his
hand over his mouth.
Parents and teachers who are interested in
providing their children with excellent books which provide them with
opportunities to learn about children around the world, should:
- Visit the International Reading Association website.
- Read the following books: Children Just
Like Me by Barnabas and Anable Kindersely, DK Publishers and any
book written by Ann Morris (On the Go, Weddings, Hats Hats Hats,
Quote from: Anti-Bias Curriculum Tools for Empowering
Young Children by Louise Derman-Sparks and the A.B.C. Task Force
published by National Association for the Education of Young Children,
1989, page 7.
Meet Arzeen Citizen of the World
By Karen Allison
Illustrations by Jay Jiyeon Kim
Arzana, Inc., Potomac, Maryland, USA (2006)