Real Friends

By Shannon Hale

From the back cover

When best friends are not forever…

Shannon and Adrienne have been best friends ever since they were little. But one day, Adrienne starts hanging out with Jen, the most popular girl in class and the leader of the circle of friends call The Group. Everyone in it wants to be Jen’s #1, and some girls would do anything to stay on top…even if it means bullying the others.

Now every day is like a roller coaster for Shannon. Will she and Adrienne stay friends? Can she stand up for herself? And is she in The Group — or out?

My thoughts…

As a strong advocate for educational and beneficial children’s books, I would not recommend this book to be read by Muslim children. Although the positive message in the book is important but it has become redundant. There are countless other children’s books that encourage young girls to be themselves and to choose their friends wisely and hold much stronger positive messages than this one.

In a gist…

Extramarital Love/Relationship

Pages 19 & 22 A boy forcefully kisses a girl. The girl later admits that she wanted him to kiss her but her friend tells her that he should have asked her first. These girls are in second grade.

Page 157: Shannon learns about her friend’s mother’s boyfriend and her other friend tells her about her brother’s “flirty” friends.

Page 205: Shannon’s older sister asks her to promise that she would be the first to know about Shannon’s first kiss.

 

Violence

Page 61: Shannon’s older sister is illustrated smacking her across the face and again on page 83 she hits her with a shoe on her head.

Profanity

None.

Smoking/Intoxicants

None.

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

Pages 26 &127 Shannon prays to the “Heavenly Father”.

Page 59: a quick mention of stories of Joseph from the Bible.

Page 88: A group of girls anonymously call boys in their class to ask how they rated them out of 10 based on looks and personality. I am disgusted by how degrading this is. Allowing girls to accept a rating based on their appearance by boys. Shannon, the protagonist, gets the lowest ratings and ends up changing her looks completely!

Page 94: Mention of Christmas.

Pages 120, 121, &123: illustrations of Jesus and referral to him as god.

 

Positive messages

Page 60: Shannon says that she wanted to be perfect like the prophets and forgives her older sister for being mean.

Shannon leaves her friends and decides to be by herself when she realizes how miserable her circle of friends make her. She ends up finding real friends that accept her for who she truly is.

Final Verdict

The book is vain. It lacks quality and the characters lack personality. The positive message of finding one’s self may get lost to young minds since Shannon does change her appearance at one point after hearing boys “rating” her. We would definitely NOT recommend this book to young Muslims.

The Breadwinner Trilogy

By Debora Ellis

Book Description from Barnes and Noble

Debora Ellis’ trilogy has been a phenomenal success, both critically and commercially. Now young readers can experience this entire epic story in one volume. The Breadwinner is eat in Afghanistan, where 11-year-old Parvana lives with her family in a bombed-out apartment building in Kabul. When her father is arrested for the drive of having a foreign education, the family is left with no money or resources. Forbidden to earn money as a girl, Parvana must transform herself into a boy and become the breadwinner. In Parvana’s Journey, her father has died and the family has scattered. Parvana, now 13 years old, is determined to find them. Again masquerading as a boy, she joins a group of wandering children, all refugees from war, who exist mainly on courage. In Mud City, the focus shifts to 14-year-old Shauzia, who lives in the Widow’s Compound in Pakistan and dreams of escaping to a new life in France. Debora Ellis uses simple, compelling language, memorable characters, and a wealth of imaginative detail in this wrenching look at the human cost of war that is also a surprisingly hopeful story of survival.

My thoughts…

The Breadwinner trilogy is an important read to young children all over the world. For children living in first world countries, grasping the concept of living in a war-torn country is very difficult to understand or fathom. Most children nowadays seem to have a sense of entitlement that prevents them from fully sympathizing with less-fortunate children around them. Reading The Breadwinner trilogy is surely to become an eye opener to children and their parents alike. If you have never lived in a war-torn country, this book will definitely give you plenty to think about and be thankful for.

In a gist…

Extramarital Love/Relationship

None.

Violence

  • The overall feel of the books is very sad and heart wrenching. The struggles of families and children are displayed in great detail. Children have no hope, their dreams are continuously crushed, and are in a long struggle for survival.
  • In the first book of the trilogy, The Breadwinner, Parvana sees a public prosecution where men accused of stealing have their hands chopped off by the Taliban.
  • In the second book of the trilogy, Parvana’s Journey, Parvana’s father dies of illness and deteriorating health.
  • Also in the second book, Parvana finds a baby under the rubbles of a bombed house crying while his mother lays dead beside him.

Profanity

None.

Smoking/Intoxicants

None.

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

  • Parvana’s older sister is mean to her and continuously puts her down. Her mother also seems to be going through some sort of war-related depression and treats her poorly. Parvana at the beginning of the book states that she hates her sister and she would hate her mother too if she weren’t her mother.
  • In Parvana’s Journey, the kids steal food from a man out of starvation after the man treats them unfairly.
  • Also in Parvana’s Journey, Parvana and another girl start putting some of their food in the ground to “feed” earth believing that feeding the ground would prevent land mines from hurting them.

Positive messages

The Breadwinner is a true masterpiece depicting a little girl’s journey through Afghanistan during war. Each page of the trilogy portrays examples of courage, strength, and resilience. The books demonstrate invaluable messages of empowerment, empathy, and strength present.

Final Verdict

The Breadwinner‘s Parvana has left many readers in awe over her strength and resilience. Reading about the power and resilience of a girl in a war-struck country is sure to be of inspiration to girls around the world. Parents should be aware that the acts of the Taliban in the book are merely those of their ideologies and is far from the teachings of Islam. Children should be able to distinguish between the Taliban ideologies and those of the true Islam. The girls in the book are taught that they are not allowed to leave their homes without a man (Mahram), that they are not allowed to be educated, or work outside their homes. The Taliban also chops of the hands of thieves in public persecutions. A long discussion of Islam’s standing on such behaviours is encouraged in Muslim households.

Wonder

By R. J. Palacio

From the back cover

My name is August.
I won’t describe what I look like.
Whatever you’re thinking,
it’s probably worse.

My thoughts…

August Pullman was born with a disease that caused facial deformity. But otherwise, he is a regular fifth grader. He had been homeschooled his entire life due to the many surgeries he had undergone as a result of his illness. In this book, we go on an incredible, heart moving journey of August’s first year of school. Middle school is especially difficult for kids to adjust into, but for August, it is even more challenging.
This is a wonderful book in the sense that it teaches empathy and delivers messages of strength and perseverance as we watch August grow and help everyone around him grow in one way or another. The Pullman family is full of love, happiness, and acceptance of predestination, which leaves readers in awe.
Parents need to note that there are mild mentions of crushes between male and female students in the fifth grade, as well as a kiss between August’s teenage sister and her boyfriend.

In a gist…

Extramarital Love/Relationship

  • August’s teenage sister, Via, states that she had an “instant’ crush on a boy she met at school in the chapter titled “Out with the Old”.
  • In the chapters narrated by Summer, there are some mentions of boy-girl attractions and dating. A boy sends a friend to see if Summer is interested in him so he can ask her out. Summer describes herself as “flat”.
  • A main character urges a boy to ask a girl out on a date because she likes him. He doesn’t end up asking her out though.
  • Via and her boyfriend kiss once.

 

Violence

  • August undergoes major bullying at school. From name calling like “freak” and “orc” to someone stating that he should kill himself because of his face. The kids at the school also avoid touching him or anything that he had touched afraid of catching his disease. August also faces some bullies that shove him and rip his sweater apart.
  • The Pullman’s family dog dies.

Profanity

Some name calling like “freak” and “orc”.

Smoking/Intoxicants

Miranda, Via’s friend, states that she smoked during summer camp of grade 9 and used to escape at night to meet with boys.

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

  • A boy refers to August’s teenage sister as “hot” and also refers to one of their classmates as “hot” as well and that he has a crush on her.
  • Statement: “The universe was not kind to Auggie Pullman”. Allah is fair, and his love is all encompassing. Children should be constantly reminded that we are all tested in different ways and this world is nothing but a big test for all of us.
  • Ideology of incarnation in the following statement by Summer in the chapter “Warning: This Kid is Rated R”:”I think when people die, their souls go to heaven but just for a little while. Like that’s where they see their old friends and stuff, and kind of catch up on old times. But then I actually think the souls start thinking about their lives on earth, like if they were good or bad or whatever. And then they get born again as brand-new babies in the world.” To which August answers “I really like that, Summer. That means in my next life I won’t be stuck with this face”.
  • Some mention of ancient Egyptian gods when the kids work on a school project.
  • In one of the chapters narrated by Via, she remembers her late grandmother and questions herself: Will I really ever see her again or is that a fairy tale?
  • The author makes a number of references to the “face of God” being shown in the kindness of people. Towards the end of the chapter, the school principal also makes the reference to the face of God shown in humans and then he pauses and says “or whatever politically correct spiritual representation of universal goodness you happen to believe in.”

Positive messages

This book is full of positive messages. It gives the reader a glimpse into the struggles of people living with a certain disease or disability. The reader gets to experience a year in the life of Auggie with its struggles, endless bullying, but most importantly, empathetic helpers along the way. Seeing life through Auggie’s perspective will surely harbour empathy, compassion, and surely, some humility. One of the book’s main mottos is “When given the choice between being right, or being kind, choose kind”.

Aside from empathy and kindness, this book also portrays the following:

  • Summer calls her mom to pick her up from a “popular” group’s party, due to her feeling uncomfortable with the atmosphere of girls and boys partying together in a basement where a girl tells her that a boy is interested in her and wants to ask her out.
  • Summer states that her mother believes they are too young to date and says that she agrees.
  • Justin, Via’s boyfriend gets a glimpse of August’s struggles in life and tries to make sense of life:

“My head swirls on this, but then softer thoughts soothe, like a flattened third on a major chord. no, no, it’s not all random, if it really was all random, the universe would abandon us completely. and the universe doesn’t. it takes care of its most fragile creations in ways we can’t see. like with parents who adore you blindly. and a big sister who feels guilty for being human over you. and a little gravelly-voiced kid whose friends have left him over you. and even a pink-haired girl who carries your picture in her wallet. maybe it is a lottery, but the universe makes it all even out in the end. the universe takes care of all its birds.”

Final Verdict

The positive messages in this book are extremely valuable. Especially in today’s world of selfishness and vanity. The book emphasizes on the importance of love, acceptance, kindness, and finding happiness no matter what is thrown at you in this life. The concepts of life/death, predestination, and boy-girl interactions in Islam should be solidified in children’s minds before reading this book in order to protect them from unnecessary doubts.

Smile

By Raina Telgemeier

From the back cover

Family, Friends, Boys… Dental Drama?!
A True Story

Raina just wants to be a normal sixth grader. But one night after Girl Scouts she trips and falls, severely injuring her two front teeth. What follows is a long and frustrating journey with on-again, off-again braces, surgery, embarrassing headgear, and even a retainer with fake teeth attached. And on top of all that, there’s still more to deal with: a major earthquake, boy confusion, and friends who turn out to be not so friendly. Raina’s story takes us from middle school to high school, where she discovers her artistic voice, finds out what true friendship really means, and where she can finally…smile.

My thoughts…

This a graphic novel illustrating the author’s middle school through to high school years. The storyline revolves around the main character’s struggles with broken front teeth leading to surgery and a headgear, to boy crushes and true friendship. It touches on important ideologies for young minds including concerns with outer appearances and choosing friends wisely. Parents may appreciate the positive messages displayed in the book but should be aware that, like many young girls in the West, Raina is very interested in boys and is continuously on the lookout for “hot boys”.

 

In a gist…

Extramarital Love/Relationship

  • Pages 51-52: Raina talks to her best friend about wishing boys would like her. She names a number of boys who like her but says she wants cute boys to be interested in her. She asks her friend if her father can drive them to the mall so they can hang our with boys.
  • Raina is continuously concerned with boys.
  • Raina stops liking one boy and starts liking another in a matter of days. Her friend suggests she ask him out on Valentine’s Day. She refuses because she wants to boy to ask her.
  • Pages 60-61: Raina meets a boy in class. Attraction is clearly portrayed with flowing hearts as she describes him as “cute”.
  • Page 132: Raina fantasizes over her crush during class and is illustrated kissing him on the lips.
  • Her friends “glam her up” on her 13th birthday telling her that’s how her crush would start noticing her and would kiss her. They tell her to shave her legs and wear her shortest skirt with fishnet stockings and a tube top. Which she does in her home to demonstrate, but then she realizes her friends are planking her. She starts questioning whether she really should change her appearance for him to notice her but she only resolutes to letting her hair down but sticks to the same wardrobe.
  • Raina tries out for the basketball team to get her crush to notice her.
  • There are mentions of puberty and some Boyd changes as in bigger chest, wider hips, acne, and mood swings.
  • “Practice-flirting”: a term used to practice flirting with non-cute boys to be ready for the “cute” ones.

 

Violence

None. Raina slips and falls and breaks her two front teeth but the accident is not illustrated graphically.

Profanity

None – the word jerk is used.

Smoking/Intoxicants

Raina is given drugs to ease her pain during and after surgery.

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

  • Preparation of Easter Eggs
  • Raina celebrates her birthday
  • A celebration of Christmas is portrayed and she wishes her crush a Happy Hanukkah
  • Raina saves her teeth for the Tooth Fairy

Positive messages

The story teaches girls not to worry about their appearances and to value themselves regardless of how they look.
Raina eventually lets go of her friends when she realizes that they’re only putting doubts about herself in her mind and are continuously putting her down to hide their own insecurities.

Final Verdict

Although this story contains very important positive messages for our youth, parents should keep in mind that one of the book’s main themes is boy-girl attractions and relationships.

The Land of Stories: The Enchantress Returns

By Chris Colfer

From the back cover

ENTER THE LAND OF STORIES
WHERE FAIRYTALES ARE REAL

The evil Enchantress, who cursed Sleeping Beauty, is back with a vengeance. Can Alex and Conner Bailey save the fairy-tale world from the greatest threat it’s ever faced?

My thoughts…

Did they really live “happily ever after”?
Alex and Conner manage to escape into the world of fairytales a second time and catch up with many characters we’ve read about during our childhoods. They find that The Enchantress has returned and begun casting spells on different kingdoms in order to take over both worlds, the fairytale world and our world.

Since this book is a continuation of the fairytale stories of characters like Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Little Red Ridinghood, Repunzal, Jack (from Jack and the beanstalk), and some more, parents should note that some kissing between male and female characters occur as well as romantic relationships and jealousy leading to tremendously evil deeds are carried out.

In a gist…

Extramarital Love/Relationship

  • Alex and Conner’s mother has a boyfriend. She receives a bouquet of red roses with a card saying “Happy six months, xoxo” from her boyfriend. The kids read it and ask their mother about it where she admits that she had been dating him for six months. Bob, the twin’s mother’s boyfriend tells them that he wants to propose to their mother and talks to them about how much he loves her and that he’d never been happy before meeting her.
  • Mother Goose tells the twins that her and Leonardo Da Vinci had a “fling” and that they dated.
  • Chapter 2: The twins’ mother says that she fell in love with their father and dated for 2 months before they got married. Conner then wonders if it would be awkward for both his dad and his mom’s boyfriend to be all together in heaven.
  • A villain tells a story of a girl that became pregnant out of wedlock and agreed to give her baby away for money.
  • Chapter 11: while the kids are in fairytale land, one of the characters tells them that he’s in a romantic relationship with Red Riding Hood and they’re living together. He talks about her ex and how she still has emotions for him but doesn’t doubt her affection towards him.
  • Red Riding Hood goes through an emotional turmoil after going on an adventure with her boyfriend and ex at the same time.
  • Chapter 13: The Enchantress recounts the stories of 5 men she either fell in love with or had fallen for her. These stories of broken hearts are what changed her into a villain. She began hating helping others and looking for vengeance.
  • Chapter 21: two characters (male and female) share a long intimate goodbye kiss.
  • Chapter 26: Red kisses the Frog and it is sated that she was not repulsed by his slimy lips.

Violence

  • The Enchantress sends vines around a Kingdom and tortures characters with them. She creates fires that consume villages.
  • Some polar bears attack the main characters but they escaped. A polar bear falls into ice water.
  • The Enchantress floods the village of the Trolls while some characters are under ground and escape death.
  • A mother is threatened that her baby will be thrown into the fire if the king does not surrender his land to The Enchantress.
  • The Enchantress disintegrates at the end.

 

Profanity

None

Smoking/Intoxicants

  • Mother Goose gets drunk on the first night she arrives at the twins’ house leading Conner to exclaim that she’s his favourite fairytale character for getting drunk. She also offers the drink to the twins but they refuse saying they’re not legally allowed.
  • Mother Goose continues getting drunk with some soldiers every night.
  • Mother Goose tells the kids that Humpty Dumpty had a great fall because he couldn’t hold his gin.

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

  • The story includes magic, fairies, and immortal beings.
  • The characters in Fairyland live eternally. Only Allah lives eternally.
  • In chapter 7: Mother goose sings drunkenly “I haven’t had this much fun since I was so very young, and used to rub-a-dub-dub with the three men in the tub”.
  • Mother Goose keeps getting drunk and makes some inappropriate references.
  • Mother Goose gambled and won the giant goose she rides on.
  • The Enchantress has the ability of collecting souls and placing this inside glass jars.
  • Two main characters boast about stealing.
  • The Snow Queen controls the weather and tells prophecies.
  • Chapter 19: A character proclaims “what in the name of Mother Goose is going on?”
  • A statement describing severe winds and thunder “it was as if Mother Nature was mourning”.
  • The villain has to master the “seven deadly sins of this world and conquer its past, present, and future” to take over the fairytale world as well as our world. In Islam, it is believed that communicating with jinn and receiving aid from them requires committing a number of great sins as well, including some demonic rituals. Is the author blending “Fairytale world” with what we know as the world of the jinns? The fairytale characters have superpowers, live long lives (sometimes immortally), and some of them can travel to our world and be seen by humans.
  • A story is narrated about a character that was born out of wedlock.

Positive messages

The twins love their mother and go to great lengths to save her. Their mother also works hard to take care of them on her own after their father’s death. The children protect and take care of each other. They also remember their late father fondly.
The book also displays the extremes to which jealousy may lead. And finally, that the villain is always destroyed at the end.

Final Verdict

The plot is interesting and funny at times. Children would find joy in reading a continuation to the stories of their favourite characters from their childhood. However, like most, if not all, fairytales, some of this story’s main themes is love, relationships (including kissing), magic, and maliciously evil characters

Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face and the Badness of Badgers

By John Dougherty

From the back cover

Welcome to the kingdom of Great Kerfuffle!

Great Kerfuffle is really great. And there’s usually a kerfuffle (the clue’s in the name really). This particular kerfuffle started the day Stinkbomb’s twenty dollar bill went missing. Stinkbomb and his little sister Ketchup-Face know exactly who took it: the badgers. After all, they’re called badgers because they do bad things; otherwise they’d just be gers.

They bring news of the badgers’ treachery to King Toothbrush Weasel (don’t get us started on the story behind his name…), who sends them on a quest to rid the land of badgers. What follows is a full on kerfuffle-fest, containing: one deep dark forest, a grocery cart in distress, a song about jam-and, of course, a band of very tricky badgers.

Be prepared to laugh your socks off, and maybe your ears, too.

My thoughts…

This was a very funny, cute read. The plot goes in many random directions while maintaining a light, silly atmosphere. As an adult, I am not ashamed to say that I found myself giggling sometimes while reading it.

In a gist…

Extramarital Love/Relationship

None

Violence

None

Profanity

Ketchup-Face calls her brother an idiot and a “stupid frog-flavored envelope” in chapter 21.

Smoking/Intoxicants

None

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

None

Positive messages

A nice big brother-little sister relationship is portrayed where they go on a silly adventure and work towards the same goal.

Final Verdict

The funny, easy-to-read nature of the book makes it a great choice for reluctant readers and young children in general.

The Scorpions of Zahir

By Christine Brodien

From the back cover

Zagora Pym has always wanted to be a desert explorer. Her father, Charlie Pym, is exactly that, and she’s always loved to look over his maps of far away exotic places. One day she’s be trekking through the deserts of Africa and China, discovering hidden treasures from lost tribes. But Zagora would never have guessed that her chance to prove herself would come so soon. Like most adventures, it starts with a mysterious letter. The question is, how will this adventure end?

Zagora’s dreams of desert exploration are about to come true, but are she and her father and brother being followed? And will they ever make it back to civilization?

My thoughts…

A seemingly harmless trip to Morocco to return a stone turns out to be a very dangerous one for Zagora and her brother Duncan. Young readers will follow the young duo along with their father into the mysteries of the Moroccan desert while learning about Bedouin culture and Moroccan food. Parents should note, however, that the story contains magic, some mentions of omens, and a magic stone that possesses unworldly powers.

In a gist…

Extramarital Love/Relationship

Zagora meets a Moroccan boy that she gets close to but only as platonic friends. A hug between the two is portrayed but only to show gratefulness for helping her.

Violence

The characters fight giant scorpions across the dessert.
A snake wraps around one of the characters feet in preparation for attack but gets swept away before harming anyone.
A villain gets stung by scorpions to find her demise.
Hyenas attack some characters but they manage to flee without harm.

Profanity

None

Smoking/Intoxicants

None

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

  • The kids’ mother is dead. Not much mention of her, but Zagora seems to be fond of her. The father does not remarry.
  • The father is regarded highly by the children although he seems to be too distracted by his work away from his children.
  • There are several mentions of good and bad omens.
  • Among Zagora’s description of nomads she states that they know spells that give you bad luck for the rest of your life.
  • Zagora mentions that one days she’ll get a tattoo of Arabic letters intermingled.
  • There are mentions of sorcery, magic spells, and prophecies.
  • Zagora performs some acts behind her father’s back but realizes they are wrong and apologizes to her father thereafter. Some of those acts include:
    • She takes a valuable stone and wears it without her father’s permission.
    • She hid her father’s book because she found it fascinating and wanted to read it but kept quiet when her father started searching for it.
    • She decides to strolls around Marrakech secretly on her own because she was growing too curious to wait for her father to give her a tour.
  • A mention of a “desert prophet” is portrayed a number of times. Sometimes in reference to the Azimuth King in the book – as Zagora looks through some old glyphs on a cave wall she sees a picture drawn of a man with long flowing hair and a braided beard “exactly the way she [Zagora] imagined a desert prophet” is written.
  • The magic stone has the ability of bringing extinct creatures back to life.

Positive messages

The author is obviously fascinated by the desert and Arabic culture. Zagora and her father are passionate about the desert and it’s people. I think Muslim readers would be delighted by all the positive messages sent about the desert life and Bedouins. All the Arabic characters are harmless and very helpful at times; contradictory to what we see in the mainstream media nowadays. Zagora and her father love the sound of the Arabic language and the author’s description of Arabic writing makes the reader fall in love with the language all over again.

Final Verdict

Both, Zagora and her brother Duncan have high regards for their father. The book takes the reader on an exciting journey along the Moroccan deserts on a mission of restoring peace to a long lost city. Arabic culture is portrayed in a beautiful manner along with the heroism of some of the Moroccan children present in the book. References to magic and omens are present.

Princess Siyana’s Pen

By Zainab Merchant

Description by amazon.ca

When evil Shargor captures the baby Princess Siyana and leaves her in a barren land, he thinks his dreams have come true, and that the kingdom of Lusitania is his to rule forever. But as the beautiful and talented princess grows up at El Sol Orphanage in Baetica, her deep connection to God is strengthened with every letter she writes, using her special pen. It seems Siyana never knows her true purpose, until the day of the tornado…

Share in Siyana’s epic journey home, as she learns to put her truest and faith in God alone!

My thoughts…

This book would be a favourite among young readers. After the kidnapping of Princess Siyana, the Kingdom of Lusitania falls into chaos and the evil advisor imprisons the King and Queen. Siyana grows up in an orphanage where she is taught about Islamic values and wears the hijab. One day, a tornado hits the land and forces her back to her hometown of Lusitania. There, she learns about her past and vows to restore peace to her land with the help of Allah SWT.

In a gist…

Extramarital Love/Relationship

None.

Violence

Princess Siyana gets kidnaped a few days after her birth.

Profanity

None.

Smoking/Intoxicants

None.

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

None.

Positive messages

Princess Siyana “always wore hijab since she was 9 years old”
There is an emphasis on the attributes of Allah throughout the book: “All Knowing” , “Most Merciful”, “Great Creator”, “helped anyone that called on Him” etc.
There is also an emphasis on the wisdom of the hijab “You don’t have to look pretty for other people. Just as we wouldn’t judge a book by its cover, we shouldn’t judge people by the way they look. What is on the inside and the way you act is much more important. Hijab reminds us that we should have an outstanding character”. “God is very happen when we wear the hijab!”

Final Verdict

This is a wonderful book for young girls to read and be inspired by a fictional, but well-mannered Muslim character. A number of paragraphs inserted to instil awareness of Allah and His attributes as well as the importance of wearing a hijab for girls. The book ends with a nice recipe for coconut macaroons (Which are referenced in the book as the parrot’s favourite treat), a maze to help Princess Siyana get home, and a blank page titled “My Letter to God” to inspire young kids to write down their Dua’s and wishes.

Secret Agent Jack Stalwart: The Escape of the Deadly Dinosaur

By Elizabeth Singer Hunt

From the back cover

Meet Jack Stalwart, Code name COURAGE. Jack is an ordinary kid who becomes a secret agent by night, thwarting evil all over the world as he searches for his missing brother, Max.

DESTINATION: UNITED STATES

An eager young scientist has brought to life a dangerous flesh-eating dinosaur by crossing its DNA with that of his pet dog, Freddie. Can Secret Agent Jack Stalwart capture the dinosaur before it destroys New York City?

My thoughts…

There are 14 books in this series. This is a review of the first one.

I like this type of books for the thrill it provides young readers and the ideologies it instills that they can achieve so much more with knowledge and courage. It gives children the feeling that the world is truly at their fingertips and all they have to do is work hard towards their passion. Jack Stalwart learns about geography and the species of dinosaurs in the midest of an exciting adventure. Jack Stalwart’s adventures are fascinating and educational at the same time, but they are carried out without the knowledge of his parents.

 

In a gist…

Extramarital Love/Relationship

None.

Violence

None. There’s a dinosaur that destroys streets and scares people but does not lead to any casualties or physical human harm.

Profanity

None.

Smoking/Intoxicants

None.

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

None. With the exception that the main character has joined the Secret Agency without the knowledge of his parents and is transported to different destinations around the world at night to carry out his missions.

Positive messages

  • Jack Stalwart risks his life by joining the Secret Agency in an attempt to find his missing older brother.
  • Jack Stalwart is very well-mannered among adults
  • This book provides a brief introduction to New York City, and it seems that each book in the series focuses on a country/city with some information provided.
  • A nice lesson on dinosaurs is presented in an interesting manner.

Final Verdict

Children would find this book exciting for it’s adventurous content and parents would be delighted for the history and dinosaur lessons interwound within the storyline. There is, however, a number of grammatical and spelling mistakes that left me wondering where the editor was at while editing the book.

The Baby-sitters Club: Mary Anne saves the day

By Raina Telgemeier

From the back cover

When The Baby-sitters Club gets into a huge fight, Mary Anne is left to her own devices. She has to eat by herself in the school cafeteria, figure out how to make new friends, and deal with her overprotective father. But the worst happens when she finds herself in a baby-sitting emergency and can’t turn to her friends for help. Will Mary Anne solve her problems and save The Baby-sitters Club from falling apart?

My thoughts…

This is the third book in the graphic series The Baby-sitters Club. A fight strikes between the girls of the baby sitters club resulting in a near collapse of their business. Mary Anne starts questioning her father’s strict parenting from the way he makes her wear her hair to how late he allows her to stay out on weeknights and weekends. At the end of the book, Mary Anne and her new friend from school discover that their parents used to be high school sweethearts.

In a gist…

Extramarital Love/Relationship

Mary Anne’s father has been a widower since Mary Anne was 2 years old, and Dawn’s mother has been recently divorced. The girls discover that their respective parents used to be high school sweethearts and start speaking to each other about how “dreamy eyed” their parents get when they mention one another. Towards the end of the book Mary Anne’s father asks Dawn’s mother out on a date and she accepts, their daughters get excited.

Violence

There’s a mention of one of the character’s mothers to have died when the girl was 2 years old.

Profanity

None

Smoking/Intoxicants

None.

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

  • A girl from the babysitters club fights with her father and raises her voice at him for being too strict with her (not allowing her to stay at babysitting jobs until 10 PM like her friends and watching over her clothes and hair style). She states that she feels bad for treating her father this way but does not apologize. Her father comes to terms with the fact that his daughter has grown up at the end of the book and gives her some leeway.
  • A woman hopes the groundhog sees his shadow referencing a prediction to an early start to spring.
  • The girls toast with pizza at the end of the story.

 

Positive Messages

  • Mary Anne introduces the reader to her friend Stacy where she states that Stacy is so “glamorous, she even manages her diabetes in style”. This statement could possibly impact kids with diabetes in a positive manner, helping them realize that it is possible to manage such disease and live your life normally.
  • Mary Anne and her father say a prayer before dinner and pray for Mary Anne’s dead mother. Mary Anne mentions that her father prays for her mother before every meal.

 

Final Verdict

This may be a fun read among pre-teens. The idea of forming a babysitting club may give some inspiration for hard work and entrepreneurship. Two of the characters’ parents (now single) reconnect after many years of separation and agree to go on a date to rekindle their old love relationship. This part of the story is not the main theme but it is however emphasized on several occasions.