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.

Jaden Toussaint, The Greatest. Episode 1: The Quest For Screen Time

By Marti Dumas

From the back cover

GIANT AFRO. EVEN BIGGER BRAIN.

Jaden Toussaint is a five year-old who knows it all I mean, really knows it all. Animal Science. Great Debater. Master of the art of ninja dancing. There’s nothing Jaden Toussaint can’t do. The only problems is that grown-ups keep trying to convince him that, even though he’s really smart, he doesn’t know EVERYTHING. The thing is…he kind of does.

This time our hero must use all his super-powered brain power to convince the grown-ups that he needs more screen time.

My thoughts…

Jaden Toussaint, the Greatest. Episode 1: The Quest for Screen Time is the first book in the Jaden Toussaint series. This is a very nice story starring a five-year-old with an Afro. His whole family loves to read and he loves to go on adventures. He never gives up on his dreams and knows exactly how to achieve his goals. Children up to 8 years old would find this book entertaining and inspirational.

In a gist…

Extramarital Love/Relationship

None.

Violence

None.

Profanity

None.

Smoking/Intoxicants

None.

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

A quick mention that Jaden’s sister likes to read books on Greek gods.

Positive messages

Jaden is a smart five-year-old who is discovering life. In this first book of the series he discovers the fascination of screen time and becomes adamant on gaining permission from his parents to use the computer/TV/or phone. The book mentions different things that he learned while on his father’s phone for the first time. He works on different plans until he gains his parents’ respect and permission for some monitored screen time along the way.

Final Verdict

Children and parents alike would find Jaden’s persistence, scientific observation, and data collection both, appealing and inspirational. Children would easily relate to Jaden’s character and his cute charisma.

The Book Thief

By Markus Zusak

From the back cover

It is 1939, Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

By her brother’s graveside, Liesel Meminger’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snot. It is The Grave Digger’s Handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordion-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found.
But here are dangerous times. When Liesel’s foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel’s world is both opened up and closed down.
In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.

My thoughts…

This is a very intense, emotionally-draining book. Parents should be aware that the whole story is narrated by the Angel of Death and the angel is given human-like characteristics. Death is portrayed as miserable for having to take people’s souls away, and that he seemingly hates his job. He states once that a boy died in a way he didn’t deserve to die. At another occasion, Death starts questioning who deserves to die and why do people deserve to die? It is impermissible for humans to question Allah’s will and angels NEVER question Allah’s orders. Allah is always fair and what He decrees is always in the best of our interest. Readers should always have this belief and not allow such writings sway them from the truth.

Extramarital Love/Relationship

There’s affection between a girl and a boy from the lead characters. The boy always asks the girl for a kiss.

Violence

The book is full of violence. The setting is Germany, Munich during the years of World War II. Aside from some detailed descriptions of war injuries, a number of deaths of main characters occur at the end of the book.

Profanity

Many swear words in German are used. In English, the words a$$hole, bastard, slut, sh!t, a$$ scratcher, and whore are used multiple times.

Smoking/Intoxicants

  • A man teaches a pre-teen how to roll cigarettes and she finds pleasure in rolling them for him. She doesn’t smoke them though but the man does.
  • Liesel’s Papa allows her to drink champagne at 13 years of age – the narrator (the Death Angel) states “she enjoyed the taste of a glorious broken rule. It felt great. The bubbles ate her tongue. They prickled her stomach. Even as they walked to the next job, she could feel the warmth of pins and needles inside her”. This line just left me wondering if this description might seem too attractive for a young adult’s curiosity to grow into wanting to try a taste of champagne? Just a thought that I felt obligated to state.
  • Two men spend a night drinking at a bar after being summoned into military duty during the war. They return to their respective homes drunk.
  • Cigarettes are portrayed as valuables and are often exchanged between adults.

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

  • The narrator, Death, states that “even Death has a heart” when describing the death of a young boy.
  • Death is portrayed to hate his God-given duty of taking lives.
  • Death once states that “God doesn’t answer me. It’s not just you He doesn’t answer to”.
  • Death questions who deserves to die and why do people deserve to die. He states that a little boy didn’t deserve to die.
  • Whenever a character is surprised or scared they blurt out “Jesus, Mary and Joseph!”
  • A boy keeps asking a girl for a kiss throughout the book. He is said to have imagined what kissing this girl would taste like. She never allows him to kiss her but when he dies in the end she kisses him on the lips.
  • There is much stealing throughout the book. Liesel steals books on several occasions and the kids steal out of necessity and pleasure sometimes.
  • The adoptive father is said to have sold cigarettes in order to buy a Christmas present for Liesel.
  • Liesel’s adoptive mother is miserable most of the time and curses at her husband continuously.
  • Two characters set a trap to steal food that was meant for priests.
  • Liesel once describes the weather as “a sun that had broken through like God sitting down after he’d eaten too much for his dinner”. This statement left me puzzled…
  • When one of the Hitler Youth children was asked about Hitler’s birthday he is said to have deliberately answered with the birth of Christ (Easter).

Final Verdict

The Book Thief is narrated by Death during the Second World War. It is dark, gloomy and depressing.
The concept of death is completely altered from our Islamic form. Readers should maintain their full Islamic understanding of Death while reading this book. It insinuates that Death struggles to take people’s lives away and sometimes he tries and couldn’t after a struggle. It portrays the Angel of Death as having a will that is against the predestination of Allah Subhanah wa Ta’ala. In Islam, we know that Allah orders the angel of death to take a soul out and once Allah’s command has been made a person’s life is neither prolonged more shortened even by a fraction of a second.

The Familiars: Secrets of the Crown

By Adam Jay Epstein

From the back cover

Alderney felt his stomach do a somersault for the second time that day. But unlike before, it wasn’t adrenaline or gravity that was twisting his insides. It was the realization that something terrible had befallen Vastia.
****Human Magic was gone!****

My thoughts…

This book is the second book in The Familiars trilogy. The story revolves around animals and humans with magic abilities and necromancy. Wizards, sorcerers, magic and fairies that make rain fall with their wings. Skylar is a bluejay that can cast realistic illusions, Aldwyn is a cat with telekinetic abilities, and Gilbert, the frog that can see the future in waters. The story talks of some gods and different belief systems like praying to the “cloud gods”. Read on for the details.

In a gist…

Extramarital Love/Relationship

Chapter 2: A quick mention of “affection” between a girl and a boy.
Chapter 7: The animals tease the bluejay about having a boyfriend causing her to blush.

Violence

  • Talk of a Dead Army rising.
  • Illustrations of zombies with eaten flesh and missing limbs lighting fires to innocent civilian houses.
  • A killing of a villain cat occurs at the end.

Profanity

The word butt is mentioned.

Smoking/Intoxicants

None

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

  • A prophecy that the three familiars will save the land from destruction.
  • Some of the animal characters come from broken families. The cat struggles with the idea that his parents abandoned him as a baby but the reasons become clear towards the end of the book.
  • Chapter 8: Trying to ease his cat friend’s pain over his perception of his father, the frog states “our parents aren’t always the people we want them to be”. However, the cats finds proof towards the end of the book that his parents were misjudged and were true heroes.
  • The animals perform miracles.
  • Chapter 7: Reference to “the gods”.
  • Chapter 2: A bird speaks to the dead. Trying to form contact with the spirits is forbidden in Islam.
  • Chapter 6: The animals encounter an idol that requires a drop of blood as sacrifice to open a gate.
  • Skylar, the bluejay, learns necromancy to try and bring her sister back from the dead.
  • A man eats a plant that makes him immortal and stops his aging.

Final Verdict

This is like the Harry Potter of pre-teens. Aside from the above mentioned points, the book supports the idea of the afterlife by referring to is as the “Tomorrowlife” but opens the doors to possibilities of talking to the dead and even bringing them back to life. Attempting interaction with dead spirits is forbidden in Islam.

 

Scarlet and Ivy: The Lost Twin

By Sophie Cleverly

From the back cover

Ivy,
I pray that it’s you reading this. And if you are, well, I suppose you’re the new me… You must keep this a secret from everyone. It’s just acting, like we always said we would do, only you’ll be playing my part.
Don’t pay too much attention in class. Don’t wear your uniform too neatly. Stay away from Penny. Don’t get on the wrong side of the Fox… You don’t know what she’s capable of. Don’t be as shy as you usually are – just look in the mirror. Remember you’re trying to be me.
And, Ivy, I give you full permission to read my diary – in fact, you MUST!

My thoughts…

Although this is a very interesting page-turner, I would advise great caution when passing this book to a Muslim child to read due to the following:

In a gist…

Extramarital Love/Relationship

None.

Violence

-A twin is said to have died from a fever.
-A student disappears.
-Ivy’s grief over her sister’s loss is heartbreaking at moments.
-Severe cases of bullying is present at the school: girls kick and bruise each other, a girl dumps food down another girl’s dress, a girl cuts another girl’s hair so short out of revenge, a girl pushes another girl down the stairs, another one pushes a girl into a swimming pool and laughs at her…etc. Some of these actions go unpunished while others are punished for by caning from a school staff.
-School punishes students by caning which results in sever bruising around the body and bleeding of the knuckles.

Profanity

None

Smoking/Intoxicants

-The school cab driver smokes a cigar.
-Some girls walk into a wine cellar and call it a treat for the teachers.
-When the twins left their home to live away from their father, he merely waved them off with a glass of whisky in his hand.

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

-Chapter 1: Ivy says “I didn’t understand why God, if he was up there, would give me a twin only to take her away again”. Although complete patience and acceptance is difficult to ask of a child, however, questioning Allah’s existence and His Qadar is Haram and such belief-rendering ideologies must not be portrayed to young children.
– A story of a school staff is revealed that she became pregnant from an unlawful relationship at a young age and gave her daughter up for adoption.
-The twins’ father and stepmother send them away because taking care of them became too much of a burden on the stepmother. Scarlet is sent to boarding school while her twin, Ivy, stays wither her aunt for not passing the school’s entrance exam.
-Ivy’s stepmother informs her of her twin’s death coldly and lacking in empathy by simply stating to her the “she died from a high fever or flu they couldn’t cure”. Without much details or concern to her feelings.
-The stepmother is suspected to have planned to replace the perceived dead twin with her living sister, Ivy.
-There is a quick mention of Theseus and Minotaur
-The school holds Sunday sermons.
-Reference to Allah as “Father” once.

Final Verdict

Please read the above points carefully and judge the book accordingly.

Big Nate Blasts Off (Book 8)

By Lincoln Peirce 

From the back cover

Nate has a crush on a new girl, Ruby. But after that his scrap with Randy Betancourt makes headlines in the Weakly Bugle, he’s got a problem WAY worse than detention! Can Nate bounce back? And will the annual Mud Bowl be a blast… or a bust?

For fans of the hilarious Diary of a Wimpy Kid series: Meet BIG NATE, P.S. 38’s coolest doodler and definitely NOT the teacher’s pet.

My thoughts…

The focus of this book is on Nate’s crush on Ruby, as the book’s back cover states. Nate and his classmate, Randy both like the same girl resulting in increased rivalry. The book also contains degradation of parents and school authorities.

In a gist…

Extramarital Love/Relationship

– The book mostly focuses on Nate and Randy’s crush on Ruby.
– A girl tells Nate that him and Ruby could “become the sixth grade’s hot new couple”
– References to attractions between different girls and boys in the sixth grade are portrayed.
– There is an illustration of Cupid making two classmates fall in love, also the two characters are drawn slow dancing.
– Nate’s big sister has a boyfriend.
– Nate says that he imagines Randy and Ruby “smooching in slow motion”.
– A girl tells Nate that Ruby likes him and so he should ask her out.
– Ruby kisses Nate on the cheek.

Violence

Some bullying including verbal threats and physical shoving and some fights are present.

Profanity

Some words include bonehead, butt-kissing toady, butt nugget, dipwad, turd, dummy, and buttface

Smoking/Intoxicants

None

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

– Most of the book is about male/female attractions, crushes, and dating.
– In chapter 4, Nate tells his father “I can’t believe this! I never knew you were actually GOOD at anything!”
– Nate continuously makes fun of his father’s attempts at cooking and the lunches he packs him to school.
– Nate draws funny comics of his teachers and makes fun of them throughout the book.

Final Verdict

Although the book’s final messages of acceptance of one another, resolving issues with classmates, and the portrayal of empathy towards others’ feelings are powerful, the negative messages present in this book should not be ignored. Most of the book revolves around boy crushes on girls, dating, and competition to win girls’ approval.

The Great Shelby Holmes

By Elizabeth Eulberg 

 

From the back cover

As we rounded another corner, Shelby’s eyes go big. She looked like a little kid on Christmas morning. There, parked outside a deli on the opposite side of the street was a cop car with its lights flashing.
Shelby clapped her hands together excitedly. “Watson, I’ve got work to do”.

My thoughts…

John Watson’s mother finally settles with her son in New York City after years of moving around the United States serving at different military bases. Being new to the city, Watson finds himself shadowing his peculiar, yet interesting, neighbor Shelby Holmes: a self-proclaimed best detective in NYC. Watson not only helps his neighbour solve her new case, but also gains a friend along the way.
This book would attract to many young readers for its mysterious plot line and the kids’ impressive detective skills.
The book contains platonic relationship between John Watson and Shelby Holmes.

In a gist…

Extramarital Love/Relationship

– John Watson’s parents are going through a divorce. Not much details are given.
– Platonic relationship between John and Shelby
– In chapter 14, Shelby acts awkwardly around one of the male characters. She speaks nicely with him, which she never does with anyone, and she takes hold of his hand. John suggests she is flirting with him however, at the end of the book it is revealed that what was perceived as “flirtation” was only Shelby collecting clues to solve her case.

Violence

None.

Profanity

None.

Smoking/Intoxicants

None.

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

– John’s parents are going though a divorce where his mother takes him and settles to New York and the father moves elsewhere. Throughout the book, John remembers his father and wishes he was with them. John’s father does not call when he promises to call throughout the story until the end of the book where the father-son relationship seems to heal upon his father’s call.

Final Verdict

This book contains interesting details about detective work and shows Shelby’s plausible abilities at collecting clues and solving mysteries around the city. John is very respectful of his parents and does not keep secrets from his mother. John and Shelby are engaged in an innocent platonic relationship.

Flat Stanley

By Jeff Brown

From the back cover

Life in the Flat Lane
When Stanley Lambchop wakes up one morning, his brother, Arthur, is yelling.
A bulletin board fell on Stanley during the nigh, and now he is only have an inch thick!
Amazing things begin happening to him. Stanley gets rolled up, mailed, and flown like a kite. He even gets to help catch two dangerous art thieves. He may be flat, but he’s a hero!

My thoughts…

What a better way to teach children to accept their appearances and turn negatives into positives than reading the story of Flat Stanley? After he wakes to find himself completely flattened out, Stanley finds ways to make good use of his new shape and helps those around him. This book is great in teaching children to be comfortable with whoever and however they are.

In a gist…

Extramarital Love/Relationship

None

Violence

A large bulletin board falls on Stanley causing him to flatten out.

Profanity

None

Smoking/Intoxicants

None

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

– The bulletin board that falls on Stanley is said to have been a Christmas present from their parents.
– Stanley dresses as a girl for disguise to imitate an old painting but he states that he does not like it.
– The book contains a picture of a painting with half man half horse and babies flying around with wings (depicting angels), Stanley refers to them ad “fat babies” though.
– The family toasts with hot chocolate for the little brother for returning Stanley to his original shape.

Final Verdict

This book contains minor non-Islamic concepts but overall sends an important message to children to accept how they are and to transform their weaknesses into strengths.

The Death Cure

By James Dashner

From the back cover

Thomas knows that WICKED can’t be trusted. They stole his memories and locked him inside the Maze. They forced him to the brink of death by dropping him in the wilds of the Scorch. And they took the Gladers, his only friends, from him.
Now WICKED says that the time for lies is over. That they’ve collected all the data they can from the Trials and will rely on the Gladers, with full memories restored, to help them with their ultimate mission: to complete the blueprint for the cure for the Flare. But they must undergo one final test.
What WICKED doesn’t know, however, is that Thomas has already remembered far more than they think. And it’s enough to prove that he can’t believe a word of what WICKED says.
The time for lies is over. And the truth is more dangerous than Thomas could ever have imagined.

My thoughts…

It was satisfying to finally reach the end of this series. This book contains the same concepts as in the previous books in the sequel, however, good finally prevails. One new concept is introduced in this book which is euthanasia. A friend asks Thomas to kill him before he goes crazy due to the Flare. The violence in previous books was between sane and non-sane humans, or between humans and creatures made by WICKED, however, in this book, the killing is of human beings involved with WICKED.

In a gist…

 

Extramarital Love/Relationship

Emotions between Thomas and Brenda intensify but physical contact is limited to a few kisses on the cheek.

Violence

– The Gladers are now fighting WICKED employees and so the violence is directed at human beings working at WICKED headquarters.
– Bloodshed, slashing, and graphic descriptions of Flare infected individuals are portrayed throughout the novel.
– Thomas fulfills a friend’s wish of killing him before he goes crazy due to the Flare. Euthanasia is impermissible in Islam.

 

Profanity

The same made up swear words used in previous books.

Smoking/Intoxicants

Rich citizens infected with the Flare use a type of drug that numbs them in a way so they don’t suffer as they lose their minds. The effects of the drug seem to closely resemble marijuana.

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

– Thomas and Brenda clearly have feelings for each other and mentions of those feelings are present throughout the book.
– A friend asks Thomas to shoot him because he caught the Flare.

 

Final Verdict

The sequel has been intense throughout with much killing, betrayal, revenge, and bloodshed. Friendship is portrayed strongly and Thomas and his friends’ courage and loyalty are admirable. Male-female attraction is portrayed in this book.