Fairness aside, any book about a genuine Muslim British boy written in first person with doodles, lists, and hilarity for middle grade readers is going to be compared to the Planet Omar Books, and not only do they have the advantage of being first, but they also have set the bar really high. This 266 page book is decent and fun, and if your children enjoy Omar, they will enjoy this, but even my kids compared the two and found this one just a bit lacking. The story is outrageous and funny and has a lot of heart, the writing is sufficient, it just feels like the story gets away from the author. Information is given for no reason and to no purpose, the story loses its way and fumbles around for a bit in the middle, seems to get off track at points, and is a bit weak in character development. That being said, would I purchase and read future books in the series? Absolutely! I love that the standard and quality for books with Muslim characters by Muslim authors for our children are at this level. There is no apologizing for Islamic Bangladeshi culture in this book, and the mainstream publication means Muslim and non Muslim children are seeing a nutty, loving family that they can relate to in a myriad of ways, alhumdulillah.
Yusuf’s much older sister is getting married, and she remarks that he now needs to be the man of the house. Unsure of what that means, he asks Sheikh Google, and is not prepared to do what it entails. Not at all, he is only nine, but rather than discuss it, he decides instead that he must stop the wedding. So, with a bit of help at times from his cousin Aadam, it is full steam ahead to sabotage the upcoming nuptials. With little time, he attempts to make his sister unwanted in her inability to cook, keep her hidden in her room by removing all the hijabs in the house, spreading rumors that she has died, ruining her wedding dress, and more, so much more. It is cringe worthy at times, and hard to put down at others, but alas there is a happy ending, and lucky us, we get to read all about it in Yusuf’s year five what I did over summer vacation essay.
WHY I LIKE IT:
I love that the family dynamic is a single mom, her mom, and the two kids. I think it is important to show some diversity that reflects the family situations of many Muslim children that have thus far been a bit down played. The book is relatable and contemporary with Marvel references, while tossing in everyday cultural references too. The family prays, does tasbeh, memorizes Quran, covers, etc. The book tries to give some depth to the characters, such as Yusuf’s eczema, but it kids don’t get it and the text muddles it to the point, that it misses connecting to the readers. Also, even kid readers get that a simple conversation could have prevented most everything in the book. Time is tight, but not that tight for things to get so outrageous. The book is a British, but I think US readers can handle it, they may, like me, have to Google Jaffa Cakes, but I think they will be fine.
Deceit, sneaking, lying, gossip, destruction of food and property.
TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:
I don’t think the book would lend itself to a book club, but I think home and classroom and library shelves will benefit from hosting this book.