Friday, February 26, 2021

The Proudest Blue Ibtihaj Muhammad, S.K. Ali, Hatem Aly



emergent readers, Key Stage 1,  pre-school, picture book, ages 4-6, Muhammad Ibtihaj, Ali  S KL, Aly Hatem,  bullying, prejudice, otherness

Asiya, her sister and mother go to the shop to buy Asiya her first grown-up hijab. Previously she has only worn one for special occasions and then gradually at school if she has no sports lessons. Now she must start wearing one all the time.  Her mother wants her to have a pink one but she chooses a vibrant blue one.     

The story is told form the point of view of her younger sister who is very proud of her sibling in her new hijab. Unusually the story for this reader the story is told in a first person narrative. Asiya’s younger sister makes the comparison between the hijab and themselves; the blue is how the ocean meets the sky and in the same way that there is no line between her and her sister. One day others will understand the hijab. There is some bullying and lack of understanding but the two girls stay strong.  

The text is not too dense. It is printed in an adult but large font.  There is information about the writers and the illustrators at the back and also a note from Ibithaj Muhammad, an Olympic fencer. Muhmmad describes her experience of wearing a hijab and what it means to her.   


Friday, February 12, 2021

Beauty and the Bin by Joanne O'Connell


Laura Larskie is proud of her parents and ashamed of them at the same time. They are well on their way to saving the planet. They grow their own food – hydroponically because they weren’t allowed an allotment. They have fruit, vegetables and herbs gowning all over the house. Her parents’ latest venture is raiding supermarket bins for perfectly good food that is being thrown away. Whilst Laure agrees with her parents’ values she knows her peers will find them eccentric. It is all very embarrassing. She doesn’t invite her friends to the house as she is ashamed of it. She never has any money to buy anything new.
Students at her school are invited to become entrepreneurs.  She teams up with sophisticated Year 9 Charley to produce a range of beauty projects that can be made from what you find in the kitchen - or in Lara’s case, in the bins at the back of the supermarket.
There are moments that make you chuckle. But there are also some graver notes. Joanne O’Connell helps to increase the readers’ awareness of the damage we are doing through our over uses of plastic and how the fashion industry exploits workers.
There are also some glimpses of a tender family life.  Laura is particularly close to her younger sister Fern who helps her to make the products. The family members all support each other. 
The ending is upbeat and there are also some delicious recipes for beauty products that you can try at home.
This book is labelled as suitable for 9-11. Lower secondary students would also enjoy it.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

South & North, East & West by Michael Rosen



Michael Rosen has collected folk tales here and retold them in his great story-teller voice.  There are twenty-five stories in total and they come from all around the world.  Each story is illustrated by a different artist. This particular edition of the book supports Oxfam.    

It’s a little hard to identify the reader exactly. The stories resemble those for younger children but the text is tightly packed and on most pages in two columns which suggests an older reader. It uses a sophisticated adult font and is blocked.

The stories would work well read aloud but the “reader” ought to see the delightful illustrations.

There is a blurb for story at the beginning of the book.  These often tell us where the story comes from and how it was collected as well as enticing us to the theme.   Each story anyway as you make your way through the book is labelled with its origin.

At the end of the book there is some information about how Oxfam works. This and the blurbs at the beginning of the book are perhaps aimed at adults rather than the young reader.      

Find a copy here


Monday, January 18, 2021

Fairfield Amish Romance: 15 Story Amish Romance by Diane Burkholder, Elanor Miller, Susan Vail and Isabell Weaver

 Grab your copy by clicking on the image


These are very gentle, heart-warming romances.  They also give some insight into the Amish way of life.  For many readers the stories will be too simplistic. For some they will come as escapism and reassurance. There is also a suggestion that life is predestined by an omniscient God though the way the stories unfold suggest rather a God  who had ideas for us but who leaves us to choose  whether  or not to go along with his suggestions.    

There are a lot of grammatical and punctuation errors in the text but not so many that they detract from the progression of the stories.  Neither does some loose writing or that fact that in one story two characters’ names are confused. The stories retain their value anyway as they show us an alternative way of life.  

The chapters within each story are short and the stories themselves are not too long.

This comes as a Kindle book only. The Amish may have a simple way of life but they are quite enterprising. A newsletter and other books are offered at the end of the book.  

Thursday, January 14, 2021

The Silver Chair


2009, first published 1953

Jill and Eustace attend an experimental school where they are bullied and are not learning a lot.  They escape through an open door in a wall and find themselves in Narnia.  Aslan, the Christ-like talking lion,  meets them and gives them their mission:  they are to find the lost Prince Rilian.

Eustace has been to Narnia before and is shocked that the king he had known as a young man has become old.  Our world and Narnia exist on different time scales.

They are lulled into a false sense of security when they visit the castle of the gentle giants – and just manage to escape before they are eaten for dinner.

They must have their wits about them and remember the four signs which Jill almost forgets at one point as she has stopped reciting them to herself each evening.  

Do they have free will or is everything predestined? Aslan has to prompt them so is he really orchestrating everything?   

They succeed and when they get back to their own world there is a delightful joke for any adult reading the book: the head teacher is dismissed and joins the inspectorate but she is not very good at that and has to go into politics.

The language is a little old-fashioned but that reflects the time it was written. The Prince can seem pompous at times. The book is It is quite long for this reader – 272 pages though it uses a large font. There are a few line drawings – artist’s impressions of some of the characters.    

The Proudest Blue Ibtihaj Muhammad, S.K. Ali, Hatem Aly

  2020 emergent readers, Key Stage 1,   pre-school, picture book, ages 4-6, Muhammad Ibtihaj, Ali   S KL, Aly Hatem,   bullying, prej...