By Farhana Zia
Realistic Fiction / Grades 4-7
* * * * Stars (Great!)
Aliyah, fifth grader, is having a difficult year. She’s got two big projects to complete – one for elementary school on the topic “Respecting Ourselves and Others,” and another for religious school on self-improvement. Her biggest problem is that she’s still figuring out and getting comfortable with who she is – particularly as a Muslim. Although Aliyah’s parents aren’t all that strict, there are a lot of things about being Muslim that she has difficulty explaining to her friends. When another Muslim girl – Marwa – joins the 5th grade class, Aliyah finds herself making comparisons – how is Marwa so strong in and certain about her faith? How can she stand up to the same kids who make Aliyah feel small? As Aliyah gets to know Marwa better, she discovers a similar confidence and self-assurance.
Aliyah’s personal growth is heartening as it unfolds throughout the pages of this story. Most readers will be able to identify with her insecurities, and those who are unfamiliar with the Muslim faith will discover that there are all sorts of Muslims (just as there are all sorts of people of other religions). Rich in culture and language, and addressing issues of religious persecution, friendship, and family, this title is an ideal choice for discussion.
Reviewed by YA Librarian