An amusing and richly rewarding tale that features a very likable, one-of-kind protagonist.

ANNA WAS HERE

Anna, almost 10, is a worrier, so her family’s temporary move from Colorado to her father’s hometown in Kansas seems fraught with peril to her.

Founder of her own Safety Club (with just two remaining members), which is tasked with identifying potential dangers (including escape from a pyramid) and creating appropriate safety rules, Anna is nearly always prepared for any eventuality. But when her father, a minister, receives a call to straighten out a church in Oakwood, Kan., where many of the residents are his relatives, she’s unprepared and decides the best way to handle things is to “stay folded up” and studiously avoid getting settled in the new town. She manages to keep from starting school, doesn’t get too friendly with her large extended family, tries to keep her cat inside and skips out on Sunday school. However, her growing attachment to that family—and a tornado sweeping through town—gives her an opportunity to see things differently. Anna’s internal voice is pitch-perfect, and her pithy safety rules and ability to connect the dots between religion and life are often hilarious. She imagines an encounter with a troublesome neighbor: “I was standing there frizzy with light, shouting, ‘I’m not just a girl, you know. The angel Gabriel is basically my best friend.’ ”

An amusing and richly rewarding tale that features a very likable, one-of-kind protagonist. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-056493-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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A beautifully rendered setting enfolds a disappointing plot.

A GALAXY OF SEA STARS

In sixth grade, Izzy Mancini’s cozy, loving world falls apart.

She and her family have moved out of the cottage she grew up in. Her mother has spent the summer on Block Island instead of at home with Izzy. Her father has recently returned from military service in Afghanistan partially paralyzed and traumatized. The only people she can count on are Zelda and Piper, her best friends since kindergarten—that is, until the Haidary family moves into the upstairs apartment. At first, Izzy resents the new guests from Afghanistan even though she knows she should be grateful that Dr. Haidary saved her father’s life. But despite her initial resistance (which manifests at times as racism), as Izzy gets to know Sitara, the Haidarys’ daughter, she starts to question whether Zelda and Piper really are her friends for forever—and whether she has the courage to stand up for Sitara against the people she loves. Ferruolo weaves a rich setting, fully immersing readers in the largely white, coastal town of Seabury, Rhode Island. Disappointingly, the story resolves when Izzy convinces her classmates to accept Sitara by revealing the Haidarys’ past as American allies, a position that put them in so much danger that they had to leave home. The idea that Sitara should be embraced only because her family supported America, rather than simply because she is a human being, significantly undermines the purported message of tolerance for all.

A beautifully rendered setting enfolds a disappointing plot. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-374-30909-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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An important story about staying true to yourself.

BARAKAH BEATS

Twelve-year-old Nimra Sharif is attending public school for the first time.

Pakistani American Nimra was home-schooled until she was 8, then attended a private Islamic school where she memorized the Quran, becoming a hafiza. Now her parents have decided that it is time for her to attend public school, where she’ll be with her childhood best friend, Jenna, a White girl. But once seventh grade starts, Jenna ignores and avoids Nimra. Fortunately, Nimra meets other Muslim students: Matthew, a White convert; Bilal and Khadijah, Somali American siblings; and Pakistani American Waleed. When Bilal, Matthew, and Waleed ask her to join Barakah Beats, their Muslim band, she hesitates because of her family’s interpretation of Islamic teachings, which eschews taking part in instrumental music. But she gives in, believing that hanging out with three popular, attractive eighth grade boys will impress Jenna. Her plan to join the band just long enough to regain Jenna’s friendship before dropping out leads to her lying to her parents—and a sticky friendship situation when the boys sign up to perform at a mosque talent show to raise money for refugees. While secondary characters are less well fleshed out, Nimra grows, takes responsibility for her actions, and thoughtfully engages with her faith. Siddiqui has written a sympathetic character who wants to stay true to her beliefs while facing the pressures of school, changing relationships, and diverse beliefs about music within Muslim communities.

An important story about staying true to yourself. (author's note) (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-70206-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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