When Wings Expand, by Mehded Maryam Sinclair, was loaned to me by a friend who knew I was looking for books that might appeal, positively to 7th and 8th grade Muslim girls. While this book would definitely appeal to that demographic it would not be limited to such a small population. I plan to open it up to all the girls 5th – 8th grade for the Book Club, and recommend it to parents with older daughters to read together. While the book is an easy read in terms of grammar, vocabulary and style, (150 pages written as journal entries), the content is emotional and religious. The book is not AR, so I will have to make a quiz, but I would assume it would be about a 5th grade reading level.
Canadian teenager Nur, chronicles her mother’s onset of cancer, her death, and life after the loss of her mother through journal entries. Using simple symbolism of a butterfly’s life cycle, Sinclair shows how Nur must not only grieve and accept her mother’s death, but also reaffirm her faith and trust in Allah (swt) and His plan.
WHY I LIKE IT:
I love that at it’s center the book is about two relationships; a young girl and Allah (swt), as well as a young girl and her Mother, both dear to her heart, neither tangible. Any one with a heart can imagine the immense pain in losing one’s mother. Teenage girls particularly need to be reminded that while they may constantly butt heads with their mothers, to lose their mom would be devastating; the book makes that point abundantly clear. Nur and her mother seem to have a “perfect” relationship, at least in that Sinclair doesn’t detail any strain between the two of them, but I think the readers can supply their own baggage and imagination and still be able to connect with the character. I like that Nur’s mom is Turkish and that her Father is a convert, I think that so many youth today are from mixed backgrounds and the juggling and sorting of customs is something they can relate to as well. The book is clean of boy/girl issues, language, violence etc. In some areas it is a bit too “perfect” so to speak, in how understanding Nur’s father always is with her and her brother and how readily their uncle swoops in to take them hiking or on a picnic, but it some ways the simplicity of it all is also it’s charm. As the book progresses Nur, must help a cancer patient with some of her own faltering faith issues, and with strong Quranic examples, seerah examples, prayer, and love, the reader is able to reflect on the message, rather then getting caught up in some fast passed action sequence. I think the book has a place, and I hope that it reminds the girls how short this life is, the value of their mothers, the pain associated with loss, strength of family, and Allah’s mercy.
TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:
A box of tissues
Honestly because the cycle from sadness, to anger to acceptance to peace is fairly universal, I plan to simply let the students talk about the book, to see it through their perspective. I don’t think much prodding will be needed.
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