This book is part of First Novels, a collection of books in Canada that focuses on easy to read early chapter books that encourage kids to transition from leveled readers, while getting to know a single character in a realistic contemporary world. There are a lot of Lilly books, but this one caught my attention because of the hijab wearing girl on the front, presumably the “new girl.” At an AR 2.8 this 64 page book is great on so many levels, and really does meet the First Novel goal of presenting a simple theme and showing the main character grow.
Lilly is changing soccer teams, and only finds solace when many of her school friends will also be joining. While each of the girls has different opinions and levels of enthusiasm about the team, they all are committed to one another as the “Wolves” stick together in a pack. This loyalty is tested when a new girl is brought in to fill in for an injured wolf. The foreigner, from America, wears a scarf, and just like with soccer, there are a lot of differing thoughts on the matter. The reader see what Lilly feels as it is told from her perspective, which makes the issue not so much about the hijab itself, but about how a 9 or 10-year-old thinks and processes new concepts. Ultimately, the Wolves as individuals and a team, have to decide what to do when an opposing team says that Sara has to take off her hijab if she wants to play.
WHY I LIKE IT:
I love that the book is real, with strong independent girls. The side characters aren’t cookie cutters of each other, they all have personalities and quirks, and I love that they don’t all agree, yet they all can make it work. The book’s catalyst is the hijab, but it isn’t preachy and it is presented and understood through a non-muslim elementary-age character. I don’t think Islam or Muslim is even mentioned, nor any culture, she is American, and the book takes place in Canada. It addresses safety regarding the hijab, comfort in wearing sweats and not shorts, and being hot in a long sleeve shirt, issues that any reader can understand and ponder about. The book isn’t gripping, but for the age group and the intent, it is spot on. The font, spacing, size of the book, and simple illustrations, urge kids to read a “chapter book” and think about something they may not have ever thought about before.
Clean, it does say words like “suck,” but it isn’t disrespectful.
TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:
I wouldn’t use this as a Book Club book, because the kids can read it fairly quick, but I would probably read it aloud to kids and have them discuss, or have them somehow read it in groups and discuss. There are a few websites that can help facilitate the discussion, but kids would definitely have opinions on how the situation was handed, how they might handle it, and what they think of the team’s sponsor.