by Hena Khan
Middle Grade Contemporary
ages 8 to 12
MARCH 9th, 2021!!!
In the companion novel to the beloved and award-winning Amina’s Voice, Amina once again uses her voice to bridge the places, people, and communities she loves—this time across continents.
It’s the last few days of her vacation in Pakistan, and Amina has loved every minute of it. The food, the shops, the time she’s spent with her family—all of it holds a special place in Amina’s heart. Now that the school year is starting again, she’s sad to leave, but also excited to share the wonders of Pakistan with her friends back in Greendale.
After she’s home, though, her friends don’t seem overly interested in her trip. And when she decides to do a presentation on Pakistani hero Malala Yousafzai, her classmates focus on the worst parts of the story. How can Amina share the beauty of Pakistan when no one wants to listen?
With tons of heart and a touch of bitter-sweetness, this tale illustrates the push and pull when stuck between cultures and the struggle to find balance when no one truly understands.
Amina spends time in Pakistan, visiting her relatives and soaking up the moments with them as much as she can before returning to her home in the US. Of course, she's sad to go but excited to return to her friends at home, too. Over bubbling with the joys of the trip, she tries to share it with her friends at home, but they aren't as interested. When she decides it might be great to give a presentation on her home country, especially on a historical figure, things don't go quite as planned.
This is simply a well done book and set perfectly for middle grade readers. Amina is a wonderful character with tons of heart, lots of room for love, and yet, unbalanced in her own state of being thanks to her stretch between two 'worlds'. I really enjoyed how naturally she comes across. Every moment, exchange, and scene flows smoothly and let me sink in. Amina is the kind of girl, anyone wants to be friends with, and when she has problems, it's hard not to feel for her and want to help her figure out how to handle things. In that way, this read does a marvelous job at awakening empathy and, at least, begins to show what problems people like Amina face.
While many books, which tackle this sort of topic, tend to be dry and preachy, this one has a lovely pacing and keeps the reader in the pages. The author allows scenes and descriptions to open up Pakistan without becoming long-drawn or boring. So, kudos on this end!
With my own family strapped between countries and cultures, I was really looking forward to seeing how the author handled this. And I can give it a two thumbs up! My own kids have been repeatedly asked if they are related to Hitler or support his ideas and such...and while they were at first offended, they now roll their eyes. Usually, explanations fall flat on other kids because they really aren't interested in learning anything outside of whatever they've heard. So, this hits home and, obviously, gives us a special view on Amina's tale.
In any case, this is well done and definitely worth a read.
And here's the first book in the series...
Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized.
This is a wonderfully done tale, whose family is from Pakistan, finding her way through the difficulties of middle school...especially when it means expanding beyond the tighter community she harbored in before.
I enjoyed the realistic setting and how the author really brings the middle school realm to life. Readers won't have any trouble recognizing the various situations and snuggling right in with Amina. While this book does expand the awareness that foreigners have with sliding into society (and all the prejudice issues that go with it), the problems still aren't anything completely unknown to middle grader readers. They'll be able to identify with Amina, find her to be a wonderful friend, and even learn more about the world around them along the way.