This early chapter book packs a lot of personality, growth, and fun into 127 pages. The writing quality is engaging and the characters relatable. If you have read the Zayd Saleem books you will recognize the family in this new stand alone series. Either way though, from the surprising Naano to the fun Mamoo, the neighborhood children and the desire to maintain her reign as Queen of the neighborhood, the book may be meant for 7-10 year olds, but based on the kids in my house, anyone that picked it up, read the entire book before putting it back down. The grandma covers her head, it mentions she reads Quran, there is a Salaam or two, an InshaAllah, and desi cultural foods mentioned. The focus is not on religion or culture, but the layer adds depth to the characters, and normalizes names and practices in a universal plot.
Zara’s neighborhood has a lot of kids in it, and Zara has the reputation of being the leader who rules with grace and fairness. It is a position she takes very seriously. When Mr. Chapman moves out and a new family moves in, Zara fears losing her place. The new girl Naomi has a lot of ideas and everyone seems to like them. Zara has a grand idea to set a Guinness World Record, but with her little brother Zayd messing her up, nothing is going as planned for the summer.
As she finds her self alone a lot and not having much fun, she decides to change things up. She works to be less bossy, less controlling, more willing to to share her crown. With a lot of heart, internal growth, recognizing her strengths and weaknesses, the neighborhood kids just might have a record-breaking summer.
WHY I LIKE IT:
I love that the story wasn’t just surface level, it acknowledged some emotions and stresses and introspection, that I was pleasantly surprised to see played out in an early chapter book. I really just enjoy the family, they read relatable and fun. The Nanoo’s surprise ability to hula hoop and her pettiness over a cooking competition genuinely made me smile. The neighborhood kids and the politics of the different aged children having to find ways to compromise reminds me a lot of my summers as a kid, and the nostalgia was sweet. I like the Islamic touchstones, I would have loved if they had to go in at sunset to pray or something of the like, but I was glad that at least that Nanoo reads Quran and an inshaAllah in the text made me feel seen.
Music, dancing, frustration, jealousy
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