Darlene's Reviews > Amanda in Arabia: The Perfume Flask

Amanda in Arabia by Darlene Foster
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Jan 24, 2012

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bookshelves: read-in-2012, for-review, read-alouds
Read from January 10 to 20, 2012 — I own a copy

I received this book for review from the author. I did not receive any compensation for my review, and the views expressed herein are my own.

I read this book aloud to my children. This is a chapter book that is recommended for ages 8-12. It is the first in a series about a 12 year-old Canadian girl named Amanda, whose adventures take her around the globe.

In Amanda in Arabia: The Perfume Flask, Amanda travels sans parents to visit her aunt and uncle in the United Arab Emirates. She meets a British girl, Leah, whose mother works with Amanda’s aunt and also lives in the same building. While out shopping with Leah, a merchant tells Amanda that he has something special for her and shows her a beautiful perfume flask which he says was owned by a princess. Later, Amanda’s uncle takes her to a camel ranch, where Amanda gets to ride a camel named Ali Baba. It turns out that both Ali Baba and the perfume flask were both owned by Princess Shamza, who needed to sell her possessions because she ran away from home after her father arranged her marriage to a wealthy older gentleman. Princess Shamza had already fallen in love with Mohammed, who worked for her father, and did not want to marry the man that her father had selected for her. Amanda helps to reunite Ali Baba with his mistress so that she and Mohammed can leave the country to marry.

I loved the cultural detail that Foster added to the story, which really drew me in. The topic of arranged marriages sparked further discussions with my elder daughter who is 9 years old.

As a parent, I would have rather seen the story take a different direction: Instead of Amanda helping Princess Shamza to run away with Mohammed, I would have rather seen Amanda act in some way as a liaison between the Princess and her father to help repair their relationship. I would have liked to have seen her father so overwhelmed in his sadness and grief at the loss of his beloved daughter that he would give anything, even call off the arranged marriage, to have his daughter back. I would have loved for her father to place his daughter’s happiness above all else and allow her to marry the boy she had already fallen in love with, despite the fact that he was of a lower social class. I could not tell my daughter that it was alright in these circumstances for the Princess to disobey her father and to run away to be with another boy! I struggled with the moral aspects of the story.

Overall, I did enjoy the story but feel that more could have been done with it given the seriousness of the subject matter. I would rather have seen the book extended with a more complex storyline that included some resolution to the familial strife. My 9 year-old also enjoyed the story but she, too, wanted to learn more about Princess Shamza’s future and was sad that the Princess felt that she had to leave her family in order to be happy.

I would be remiss if I failed to point out the gorgeous cover! I was immediately drawn to it when I saw it, and the photos wholly capture the cultural feel of the story.

MY RATING: 3 stars!
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06/18 marked as: read

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