Review: Saints and Misfits

“I stand and cringe at the sucking sound as my swimsuit sticks to me, all four yards of the spandex-Lycra blend of it.” page 2

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Saints and Misfits: a novel by S.K. Ali.
Salaam Read, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2017.
YA contemporary, 328 pages.
Not yet leveled.

Janna just wants to live her life – hang out with her friends, study, work her very part-time jobs, pray, and maybe dream a little about her secret haram crush.  But something has changed her world, something unthinkable, horrible, and so big she doesn’t know what to do.

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For some reason I thought this was a light and fluffy read.  However, I completely misunderstood, because by chapter two we’re reliving one of the worst moments of Janna’s life, when she is assaulted by a man who is supposedly holy, the man she calls the Monster.

Indeed, the title of each short chapter (Saints, Misfits, or Monsters) relates to how she sees the main people she’s interacting with in that chapter.  Some chapters contain more than one category, or a comment as she begins to realize that some of those she sees as Saints are really Misfits, etc.

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Review: Dressmaker of Khair Khana

“To him it was his highest obligation and a duty of his faith to educate his children so that they could share their knowledge and serve their communities.” page 27

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon.
Harper Perennial, Harper Collins, New York, 2012 (first published 2011).
Nonfiction, 270 pages including extras.
Lexile:  1090L  .
AR Level:  not leveled

The story of one young woman and her five sisters who stayed in Kabul and started a home dressmaking business under Taliban rule that not only provided for their family, but also allowed them to teach other women sewing and positioned them to be leaders in Afghanistan’s economy.

Dressmaker of Khair Khana
The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon.

I’d been traveling and was hoping to visit a specialty gift shop to pick up some diverse books, only to find it closed, so I found a nearby library.  The library wasn’t so diverse, but had extremely cheap books, so I purchased a bunch for under $1 total, including this one.

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Graphic Novel Review: Malcolm X

“In the end, the only certainty may be that America had lost one of its most original and outspoken leaders.” page 101

Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography by Andrew Helfer, art by Randy DuBurke.
Serious Comics, Hill and Wang, Farrar Straus and Giroux, New York, 2006.
Graphic novel biography, 102 pages plus extras.
Lexile:  not leveled
AR Level:  6.6 (worth 3.0 points)  .

A black and white comic-style graphic novel biography of Malcolm X.

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Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography by Andrew Helfer, illustrated by Randy DuBurke.

For some time now, I’ve been trying to find a great middle grade children’s biography of Malcolm X.  I’ve gotten some from the library, and purchased a few.  So far none have greatly impressed me, which is why I’m just now getting around to reviewing them.  Children’s biographies of Malcolm X have a tricky balance to strike.  Islam must be included, since it was an important part of his life and work.  His militant views (and later ideas about a more hopeful society) can’t be left out, but should be presented in a way appropriate for children.  It’s a tall order.

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Review: Highly Unusual Magic

“In the United States, people thought of Leila as Pakistani. But here, people thought of her as American.” page 45

A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic by Lisa Papademetriou.
Harper, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2015.
Modern fantasy, 297 pages.
Highly Commended by the South Asia Book Award.
Lexile:  710L  .
AR Level:  4.9 (worth 8.0 points)  .

Two girls, each living with extended family for the summer, find a book entitled The Exquisite Corpse, surprisingly blank until one writes in it.  Then the book itself starts filling in a story, a story which has interesting ties to the real world, a story which both girls are anxious to read the ending to.

Tale of Highly Unusual Magic

I generally dislike books with two narrators.  Often one is stronger than the other, and the author struggles to give them equal screen time while keeping our interest in the story.  However, when this method works, it can be very strong.

Highly Unusual Magic starts with Kai, who is staying with a quirky older woman, a distant cousin whom she calls Aunt.  Leila is visiting relatives in Pakistan alone and realizing that she doesn’t speak the language, and knows little about Islam although her family is nominally Muslim.

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Wisconsinite Review: Amina’s Voice

Amina’s Voice is a great new Muslim #ownvoices MG novel. Here’s my take on the Wisconsin references in the book.

Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan.
Salaam Reads imprint, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2017.
Middle grade realistic fiction, 197 pages.
Lexile:  800L .
AR Level:  Not yet leveled.

Amina is shy and a little afraid of some of the big changes coming with middle school, like a chance to enter a singing contest or her uncle coming to stay.  Her best friend is Soojin, a Korean immigrant who’s finally becoming an American citizen and wants to change her name.  They find that their different cultures have some cultural norms in common, and they bonded over having unusual names.  But if Soojin changes her name, is she also going to change her best friend?

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There are going to be lots of reviews of this book, so I thought for my review, I’d take a different perspective. Kirin at Notes from an Islamic School Librarian reviewed Amina’s Voice and had only one issue with it, which confirmed my idea that this #ownvoice novel is a great representation of Muslim culture.

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Review: The Buried Bones Mystery – Clubhouse Mysteries #1

“School was over and the summer morning stretched ahead like a soft, sweet piece of bubble gum.” p. 1

The Buried Bones Mystery (Clubhouse Mysteries #1) by Sharon M. Draper, illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson.
Aladdin, imprint of Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, New York, 1994, my edition published in 2006.
Elementary/middle school mystery fiction, 94 pages + excerpt from book two.
Lexile: 700L
AR Level: 4.3 (worth 2.0 points)
NOTE: Previously published under the title Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs.

Rico and his three best friends have nothing to do this summer now that the closest basketball court is ruined.  So they’re going to start a club, first building a clubhouse.  But then they discover a mysterious box, and something important turns up missing.  What could be going on?

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The Buried Bones Mystery (Clubhouse Mysteries #1) by Sharon Draper.

This book was something of a leap of faith for me.  I had never read a book by Sharon Draper before, although several were on my TBR list.  So many of her novels have come so highly recommended, that I went ahead and ordered this book in hardcover, sight unseen.  I’m so glad, because I foresee it getting a lot of use.

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Web: Kitaab World

There are several areas of diverse lit that I have very little knowledge about.  I don’t know much about Islamic books, so I rely on bloggers like Notes From an Islamic School Librarian to point me towards good reads or point out flaws in books that I might not notice.  I’m sadly ignorant about indigenous culture, but Debbie Reese from American Indians in Children’s Literature is helping educate all of us about good Native representation in literature.

But until very recently, I didn’t have many ideas about good South Asian books.  Enter the new website Kitaabworld (kitaab means book in many languages).  They curate books and some other children’s items from South Asian cultures, including bilingual and religious books.

In addition to selling South Asian books right there on their website, they offer a lot of helpful content for the clueless but well-meaning non-South Asian, such as their guide to the best books of 2016.

I had only heard of four books on this list before, although Save Me a Seat was one of my favorite books of 2016.  However there are now several I would like to read, including One Half from the East and YA novel Rani Patel in Full Effect.  Mirror in the Sky also looks intriguing.

I hope you are also able to find some new reads from this awesome website!