NEW YORK // "It all began with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich ? and it ended with a hummus and pitta sandwich." So begins the new children's book co-written by Queen Rania of Jordan, The Sandwich Swap, which presents a tale of classroom rivalry to young readers that seeks to mirror grown-up disputes such as the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The narrative begins with school chums Lily and Salma who find the other's packed lunch disagreeable. The latter's Middle Eastern "icky chickpea paste" looks "weird and yucky" compared with Lily's own standard American snack. The row escalates into a full-blown dispute involving the whole class that leads to a messy lunchtime food fight, but ultimately ends in a rapprochement between the two girls when they trade sandwiches and sample the other's cuisine.
"It does represent and reflect what happens in the grown-up people's world and how easily we can misjudge one another and how things that should be common sense are not," Queen Rania, 39, said while launching the hard-cover picture book at UN headquarters in New York on Tuesday. "Despite all our differences, we are all very much alike." The royal read aloud to schoolchildren at the UN's bookshop in Manhattan, as diplomats from the world body's 192 members grappled upstairs with thorny issues such as Iran's alleged nuclear weapons programme and the stalled Middle East peace process.
The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said the book "shows how easily people can misunderstand each other and how easily they can hurt each other's feelings - sometimes causing real conflict. In other words, it shows what can often happen in the real world." Queen Rania's co-author is Kelly DiPucchio, the author of several children's books, among them Grace for President and How To Potty Train Your Monster. The queen, who has four children, said she co-wrote the book to parallel her own childhood school lunch experience, which taught her to "listen to a different point of view" and "learn something wonderful about someone else and about ourselves".
Featuring colour illustrations by Tricia Tusa, the book is endorsed by the former US president Bill Clinton and Bill Gates, the software tycoon and philanthropist. According to Queen Rania, the English-language text will - "inshallah" - soon be available in Arabic. firstname.lastname@example.org