I have shared this book with four different second grade classes this year and it has been a hit. Readers learn about Danitra through the voice of her...moreI have shared this book with four different second grade classes this year and it has been a hit. Readers learn about Danitra through the voice of her friend Zuri. We all need a friend like Zuri. One who celebrates us. Their friendship isn't without problems, but it is a good one. The students enjoy the poetry too.(less)
This is a great book for the beginning of the school year. Zuri is worried about the new year with a new teacher, but her friend Danitra is there for...moreThis is a great book for the beginning of the school year. Zuri is worried about the new year with a new teacher, but her friend Danitra is there for her. Danitra has a strong sense of self and doesn't seem to be a worrier so she balances out Zuri. They are a great example of friendship.(less)
It's difficult to read a book like Darius and Twig. I find it hard because I want to hope that things get better for the characters, but knowing it's...moreIt's difficult to read a book like Darius and Twig. I find it hard because I want to hope that things get better for the characters, but knowing it's realistic fiction and that life isn't always like a Disney ending makes it tough. Darius is writing a story in the book and is trying to decide if it is hopeful or a story of despair. That was the tension in this book too. Darius has his writing and imagination and Twig has his running and his smile, but are these things enough to balance out against the negatives hammering away at them?
This was another great story from Meyers. Not a big fan of the epilogue, but overall enjoyed this one.(less)
There were many things I enjoyed about this book. First, the mix of formats kept things interesting. Zia provided a brief traditional story at the beg...moreThere were many things I enjoyed about this book. First, the mix of formats kept things interesting. Zia provided a brief traditional story at the beginning followed by narrative and then there were also letters sprinkled throughout the text. Following her great-grandmother's advice, Aliya chose to complete her Sunday School assignment through letters to Allah. Second, I loved seeing the intergenerational interactions of Aliya's family. I especially appreciated that Aliya went to her mother, father, grandmother and great-grandmother expecting advice. It showed a beautiful respect and trust. As a person who hasn't experienced living with extended family (at least not for long periods of time), seeing how it might work was definitely interesting. Zia showed that Aliya liked some things about that situation, but that sometimes it was annoying - like when her great-grandmother required her to practice Urdu three times a week in addition to her piles of homework. Third, learning more about Islam and the wide variety of ways it is practiced was fascinating. I read and enjoyed the non-fiction book Growing Up Muslim: Understanding the Beliefs and Practices of Islam earlier this year, but seeing those beliefs and practices through a fictional text made it even easier to see how it could look.
The glossary at the back was very helpful. There were two sections: one for the Arabic and one for the Urdu. There I found that imaan means belief. Aliya is struggling with her own beliefs. She doesn't know exactly what she believes and even if she does, she is not certain how to act on those beliefs. Aliya worries a lot about how other people see her. Regardless of culture, most middle grade students can relate to that concern. One of the reasons she worries is related to the bullying she sees. She doesn't want to stand out and give anyone another reason to pick on her. Marwa, the new girl, wears the hijab seemingly without concern. This gives Aliya a lot to think about. She wonders if other people are just braver.
Also, Aliya's mother explains what makes Aliya who she is - "A tasty concoction of American and Muslim and Indian and sugar and spice and everything that is very nice." This book celebrates the idea that we are more than our race, we are more than our languages and religions. Many things shape us and contribute to who we become. We see this through Aliya's friends with their differing backgrounds too.
Beliefs are obviously a central focus in this book, but bullying and getting along with others also plays a huge role. I loved that Aliya's father provides a "recipe for getting along." He says it's "A twist of good, a sprinkle of kind, and a dash of nice."
I would highly recommend this as a class read aloud. I think many students who enjoyed Wonder would also enjoy The Garden of My Imaan. It is a wonderful contemporary middle grade story about a girl trying to find her voice, and she will likely win your heart as you experience her story.