I had really wanted to love this book about a young Pakistani girl living outside of Pakistan learning to love all her different parts. Unfortunately, the book was so scattered that no point was made, no message conveyed, and sadly, no excitement at being represented in literature really felt, .
This 32 page book isn’t bad, it just really isn’t memorable. It starts out with Leila arriving at her Naani’s house for dinner as her parents and her do every Friday. Her maternal grandmother comments that she likes Leila’s saffron buttons. Leila beams at this because she doesn’t know that she always likes being herself.
Tonight, they are joined by lots of extended family and Leila is on the lookout for parts of herself that she likes. She feels safe with her family, and likes being told she looks like her aunt when she smiles.
The book then kind of abandons the theme of finding parts of oneself to like, and moves on to cultural trinkets to enjoy. She identifies camels on shelves and Arabic books too, and can’t wait to go on her first trip to Pakistan someday to get her own “Arabic books” and “special ornaments.” I’m not sure why they books aren’t in Urdu, but none-the-less without any written connection to Islam, they are in Arabic, thus giving, erroneously, the reader the impression that is the language of Pakistan.
Leila then helps her Naani cook which almost seems like an additional theme of the book: the passing on of traditions. The book doesn’t really stay here though either, and has Leila running outside to get cilantro from the neighbor Miguel. Possibly another theme in addressing multicultural neighbors or just how to be a good neighbor, is now being brought up, but nope, the book bounces back to dinner with the family.
When it is time to leave, Naani invites Leila upstairs while her parents wait to leave. Here she goes through fabric and scarves rich in color and textures and likens them to ethnic foods. She then tries on her favorite one, but acts like she has never tried it on before or seen it before, I’m really not sure, the language is a bit awkward to me. Anyway she opens her eyes in a surprise and likes what she sees, she likes her self, all her parts.
I wish this book for preschool and kindergarteners, would have streamlined the message it wanted to convey most. I like finding pieces of yourself and liking the completed you, but I don’t know what the pieces really are in the book. Yes I could assume and figure it out, but I’m not 5 years old. The book should have articulated it clearly. Or if the book wanted to celebrate culture and family traditions, it should have stuck to that. It really seems all over the place no matter how many times I read it.
The illustrations are rich and vibrant. They definitely give a lot to look at and the expressions on the characters faces will probably make the little ones giggle. There are a few Urdu and Arabic words used in the story that are defined on the back cover.
The characters aren’t identified as Muslim, none of them wear hijab, but they say Salam and have Arabic books, so one can assume. I picked up the book at the library and don’t regret it, but I probably wouldn’t buy it or unfortunately, check it out again.
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