This 32 page early reader is part of Mr. Grizzley’s class, a series that sets out to help promote social and emotional skills in real life settings for ages five to seven. The diverse class is featured in all the books with one student being the focus of each individual book. This book highlights Rahma, a visibly Muslim girl of color, who has a gift of helping others with their problems. The richly illustrated story shows what happens when she is having troubles with a friend, and what Mr. Grizzley and fellow classmates can do to help her find a solution. I like the premise, I like the focus, I like the illustrations, but I did not understand the messaging. I don’t understand why Rahma had to own the entire apology. Sure, friendship is more important than a small misunderstanding and moving on by saying your sorry, even when it isn’t all your fault, has merit- but the book doesn’t take all that in to consideration. It has Rahma taking responsibility for Madison not talking to her, Madison misinterpreting something Rahma did and getting jealous, and Rahma owning all the lacking communication, when clearly both of them failed to do so. I found myself confused reading the book the first time, clearly I must have missed something, right? No. And now writing this, I’m actually quite upset. So, while the idea of the book and series might be sweet, I don’t feel like this particular book was well executed. I have not read any others in the series, and thankfully checked this out from the library. There is nothing particularly Islamic or religious in the book other than the hijab Rahma wears.
The book starts out with Rahma nearly late for class because she was helping other kids resolve an argument. It is a gift of Rahma’s to help others work out their problems. When she tries to tell her best friend Madison about it, Madison doesn’t respond. When Rahma tries again, Madison says, “I’m not speaking to you.”
As a result when they pair up for math, Rahma works with Annie. She tells Annie she isn’t working with Madison because she is mad at Madison for not speaking with her. Annie prods a bit and Rahma says, “I’m not talking to her if she won’t talk to me.” Annie encourages Rahma to find out what is wrong.
Mr. Grizzley is then told, and he also tells her to find a way to find out why she is mad. At recess, Chad comes to thank Rahma for helping him and Ashok, and when she tells him her problem he gives her, her advice back, “listen to the other person.”
Rahma definitely is in a pickle since Madison won’t talk to her, but with incredible maturity she tells Madison she doesn’t know what she did to make her angry, but she is sorry that she feels bad. Madison caves and tells her she is jealous because Rahma made a necklace for Semira and she understood it to mean that because she didn’t make one for her, she didn’t want to be her best friend any more. Semira and Rahma explain that Semira’s dog was sick and she was sad, so Rahma made it for Semira to cheer her up. The girls hug and all is well.
The book concludes with directions on how to write an apology letter, a glossary, questions to talk about, and prompts to write about.
I loved Rahma’s phrasing of her verbal apology and wish that would have been the focus of the book: how to take someone’s feelings in to account even if you don’t know how you contributed or even if you feel you did not do something wrong. As it is written with the two page spread at the end on how to write an apology note though, I feel like Rahma took on a lot of the blame unnecessarily. I know I’m reading in to it a lot, but I don’t like the vibes that the book gives. Madison in my opinion was in the wrong multiple times throughout, and Rahma each time took ownership and worked through it. Yes, truly that is a gift, but I really hope people don’t take advantage of Rahma in the future.