The Roses in My Carpets


32 pages
ISBN 0-7737-3092-3
DDC jC813'.54




Illustrations by Ronald Himler
Reviewed by Lisa Arsenault

Lisa Arsenault is an elementary-school teacher in Ajax, Ontario.


Don’t let the “flowery” title of this picture book deceive you.
There’s nothing saccharine in these pages.

The first page describes the narrator’s memory of a nightmarish
attack by fighter bombers. He and his family are wartime refugees living
in a primitive camp. We follow him through a typical day in this village
of mud shanties. The only activity to yield some joy is learning to
weave carpets, a skill made possible by a foreign sponsor that may save
the young boy and his family from a life of poverty. (The roses in the
title refers to the roses the narrator weaves into his carpets to create
some beauty in the midst of squalor.) Tragedy strikes yet again when the
narrator’s little sister is hit by a truck and her legs are broken.

This book is an excellent springboard for discussions about war,
refugees, survival, and cultural and religious differences. The author
does not downplay the horrific aspects of life in a refugee camp, and
she conveys clearly the general dreariness, poverty, and constant
shortage of food. The excellent illustrations, with their muted colors,
blurred outlines, and depictions of sombre, unsmiling people, reinforce
the pervasive feeling of sadness. Bright spots relieve the general air
of tragedy and provide a necessary message of hope: the sister will
eventually be able to walk again, and the nightmare relived at the
beginning of the book concludes the story but has a happy ending. While
running for their lives the family finds a symbolic space “the size of
a carpet where the bombs cannot touch me. Within the space there are
roses.” There is hope for the future. The Roses in My Carpets is
highly recommended for its effective treatment of difficult subject


Khan, Rukhsana., “The Roses in My Carpets,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 25, 2024,