If you are a long time fan of Ayesha Dean and you have been waiting for some children in your life to grow up just a little, so you can share the strong Muslim detective books with them, you are in for treat. This book is a short novelette for middle grade readers! It isn’t a prequel detailing her personal backstory, but it does show how she got her first taste of sleuthing at age 13. If you are new to the series: the book like all the others is Islam centered, fast paced, authentically voiced, and an overall fun read. Unique to this book is that it is for ages 8 and up, and takes place in Ayesha’s home country of Australia.
Ayesha is at a new school, she has recently started wearing hijab and she just wants to settle in to it all with friends Jess and Sara. Things have been going missing from year eight lockers, but it isn’t until Ayesha is a victim does the concern really hit home. Add to that getting paired with the jerk Dylan Wyley for a project in Indonesian class, and Ayesha is not having a good day. When she senses some suspicious activity, she is on the case: ready to get her stolen book back, take down a bully, put her Tae Kwon Do training to use, and make it to the library to pray her salat on time.
WHY I LIKE IT:
I really enjoyed the relatable voice of young Ayesha, having read all of the other books in the series, it was sweet to get a peek of her in her younger school days. I love how much Islam is in the book, and not in a preachy way, but rather in a ‘I’m Muslim and this is how I see the world and this is what I do’ sort of way. I’m not going to lie though, I wanted more backstory on how she became friends with Jess and Sara, how she settled in to living with Uncle Day when her parents died, and all the backstory four books solving crimes around the world just couldn’t get to. But I fully realize, that is just something I may never get (hint, hint) and will have to be content with the fast paced, culture and Islam rich stories that we thankfully get. I’m not complaining, I just get overly invested.
To all my arrogant ignorant readers out there, that like me, might be a bit confused about Australian schooling and culture- I embarrassed and humbled myself and annoyed the ever gracious author to learn more about Ayesha’s world. In Australia the lockers are located in the students’ homeroom classrooms (tute rooms), hence they don’t often padlock them. High school refers to ages 12-17, and sometimes 11th and 12th grade are called senior school, and “How did you go” is a phrase in Australian English. See, aren’t you glad I asked, now we know, and can widen our view together.
The only thing that I think I would have liked to see would have been a bit of pause before Ayesha got into a fight. It is high energy, and she does it to help someone, but I feel like at 13 years old, in a book for 8 year olds, and as someone familiar with Tae Kwon Do, it should have been more articulated that she was nervous to engage in a physical altercation, and was only doing it because she could not diffuse the situation, get the victim away, and thus had to step in. I recognize that pulling out of the scene might have made it lose momentum, but I felt a little off celebrating a school fight without that pause of introspection.
Fighting, stealing, bullying, Islamohobia, racism, bigotry.
TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:
The book is short and for a younger age than I meet with, but I look forward to purchasing the book on February 20, 2022 to have available in the school library for anyone to pick up and read, inshaAllah.