Amina's Voice, Crescent Moons, Round is a Tortilla
Half of what I've read in the past week or so has been books for other people. I do this too often, probably: I'm reading a draft of my friend's sister's novel, I'm reading some short stories for critique group, I'm reading YA novels to make sure they're a good choice for books to make my nieces read, and I'm reading picture books to my nephew. It's kind of a lot, and doesn't leave that much time for other, more selfish kinds of reading. But I got lucky this time: the latest batch of books I'm reading for the kids has been really great.
Amina's Voice was one I picked out because various events spurred me to make sure the kids are educated about Islam and the Muslim experience in the US, from the point of view of Muslims. Hena Khan, who is a Pakistani-American Muslim, captures this in a lovely middle grade novel with one of the strongest, most individual protagonists I've read in a long time. Amina is a gentle soul, full of talent and nervousness and a desperately youthful desire to please and do the right thing that reminded me painfully of both my niece and my own young self. Her conflicts with her friends at school are relatable but completely convincingly unique, as are her family dynamics.
I ended up rooting for basically everyone in this book to be successful and happy. I cried at the final conflict, which I won't spoil except to say that it is hard to be Muslim in America. I felt certain that everything in this book was true and none of it was exaggerated or minimized. This feeling of honesty and vulnerability is what made me love it. And the fact that I was able to read it in two hours while sitting in an armchair in direct sunlight probably also helped.
Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets, also by Hena Khan: My early reader loves this book. The writing is simple and clear, the art is gorgeous and colorful, and his ability to read along creates a sense of accomplishment and joy. Plus, I get to feel like a great aunt because I'm exposing him to the world beyond Tacoma. Win.
We'll be putting more of Khan's picture books on hold at our library for sure.
Round is a Tortilla: A Book of Shapes, by Roseanne Thong: The best thing about this book is the way the illustrations for each shape have more shapes hidden inside them, which turns reading this book into a game. My early reader and I really enjoyed reading through it and then finding all the shapes in the pictures. The artwork is very pretty, and I appreciate being able to add this to my ongoing quest to teach the kid to speak a little Spanish. Everyone should know a little Spanish these days!