Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Sitti's Secrets” as Want to Read:
Sitti's Secrets
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Sitti's Secrets

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  367 ratings  ·  73 reviews
A beautiful picture book about family and love across distance.

Mona’s grandmother, her Sitti, lives in a small Palestinian village on the other side of the earth. Once, Mona went to visit her.

The couldn’t speak each other’s language, so they made up their own. They learned about each other’s worlds, and they discovered each other’s secrets. Then it was time for Mona to go
Paperback, 32 pages
Published October 1st 1997 by Aladdin (first published March 1st 1994)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Sitti's Secrets, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Rachel I believe that description says "a small Palestinian village."

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.15  · 
Rating details
 ·  367 ratings  ·  73 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Sitti's Secrets
Lisa Vegan
Oh, I wanted to like this more than I did. And, as of now, Goodreads members have rated it 50% 5 stars, 32% 4 stars, and only 17% 3 stars, no ratings of 1 or 2 stars only. So, I’m in a minority in my lack of enthusiasm.

I thought that the illustrations were lovely.

I enjoyed learning a bit about life “on the other side of the world” and thought that information, about the earth and the cultural differences, was interesting and informative for those who don’t know about them.

But the story was so h
Mar 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
"Sitti's Secrets" is a touching and beautifully told story about a young American girl and her grandmother who lives in Palestine--a gentle message of love that transcends generations and international borders, and of the importance of peace. The illustrations are wonderful--full of texture, vitality and gentleness.

The only aspect of the book with which I am not completely satisfied is the letter that the little girl writes to the President at the end of the book. When she returns from visiting
Jan 26, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers Looking for Children's Books Featuring Palestinian-Americans / Palestinians
When Mona and her father travel back to his childhood home in Palestine - no specific location is mentioned, but given the rural setting, and lack of crowding, I'm going to assume it is in the West Bank, rather than the Gaza Strip - the young American girl finds herself warmly welcomed into her extended family, forming a particularly strong bond with her Sitti, or grandmother. As she and Sitti bake together, find a way to communicate despite the language barrier, and share some private moments, ...more
Jul 09, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: esl
I would love to give this book 4 or 5 stars. The illustrations are absolutely beautiful and interesting to look at. The story is interesting in telling about how Palestinian life is so similar, but yet also so different from life in the U.S. I teach a lot of students that could relate to Mona, who does not get to see her grandmother very often because they live in different countries. The reason why I gave it 3 stars instead of 4 or 5, though, is that there were a couple of pages toward the end ...more
Rebecca Owen
Sep 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Like Habibi, this book is based on Nye's childhood, and there are many parallels between the two books, making it seem like a prequel for younger audiences. It tells the story of a little girl whose grandmother lives “on the other side of the earth” (Sitti 3). When she goes to visit her, as in Habibi, they don’t speak the same language so they communicate through the girl’s father, and with each other in their own language of miming. She plays marbles with her cousins, where they didn’t need wor ...more
Paul  Hankins
"My grandmother lives on the other side of the earth. . ."

Naomi Shihab Nye's picture book about a young girl meeting her grandmother is beautiful in prose as we might imagine it in one of Naomi's poems.

Because they do not speak the same language, the granddaughter and grandmother speak through the girl's father, but Naomi's description of the grandmother's voice is powerful:

"Her voice danced as high as the whistles of birds. Her voice giggled and whooshed like wind going around corners. She ha
Luisa Knight
It's a sweet story about a little girl that visits her grandmother in Palestine.

For some tastes, it may get a little politically correct, as the ending is of the little girl writing a letter to the President of the United States, saying that her grandmother and her both just want peace.

Ages: 5 - 8

#geography #palestine #middleeast #culture

**Like my reviews? I also have hundreds of detailed reports that I offer too. These reports give a complete break-down of everything in the book, so you'll kno
Mar 27, 2019 rated it liked it
While introducing a young audience to Palestinians, Nye describes the intergenerational divide that immigrants face. My great g'ma was Italian, and I didn't know her well but communication was always a challenge, often funny but also frustrating.

I haven't read this with a child, yet, but I may skip the ending. Writing to the President is a rather large leap from a gentle story about family. Most young children will not have heard of the Palestinian conflict and are likely to be puzzled about wh
Sep 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
My reading of this was colored by my own upbringing and the recent loss of my own "sitti." I thought this was well-composed for kids age 5+. It's a fantastic introduction to families between cultures. I love that the main character can't speak the same language of the family she is visiting "on the other side of the earth," but that doesn't stop her from communicating or connecting. This is a story about how love isn't contained by boundaries and how home is with family.
Whitney Rachel
May 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is absolutely beautiful. The language is descriptive and captivating and I don't mean for a picture book. As a piece of writing, regardless of the intended audience,the language in this book is superb.
The illustrations are fantastic, as well. The warm colors and rich hues are reminiscent of my short stay in the Middle East. The subtle political message of the book is effortlessly executed and deeply powerful. LOVED IT!

Why don't more books like this exist?
Sierra Hancuff
This book is by Naomi Shihab Nye. I am doing an author study on her and I really loved this book. It is a great children's picture book. The book takes you on a journey of two family members who live on different sides of the world. They come together to embrace culture, traditions, and family. The illustrations are beautiful as well.
Jan 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is such a cute book I cry almost every time I read it. Very telling about the struggles of being cross cultured and of living in exile away from your home.
Cindy Kelly Benabderrahman
Apr 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone with a grandmother
Mona’s sitti, or grandmother, lives all the way on the other side of the great, big world, and there are many things dividing them—physical things like oceans and land and “fish and cities” and “clotheslines /and trucks” and “a million trees,” just to name a few. But there are also other things that separate—like language. Mona and her Sitti don’t even speak the same language. But when Mona goes to visit her Sitti, they are able to communicate through Mona’s father, and Mona likens the sound of ...more
The opening of this book is beautiful -- "My Grandmother lives on the other side of the earth. When I have daylight, she has night. When out sky grows dark, the sun is peeking through her window and brushing the bright lemons on her lemon tree. I think about her when I am going to sleep. 'Your turn!' I say." and the illustration is lovely blue and yellow, Sitti curled up in her bed, a streetlight shining in through an open window, a map projected onto her bedroom wall and her very body.

The next
Thomas S.
Nov 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Summary: Mona lives in America, but she has a grandmother who lives in an Arab country. One day, she and her father goes on a vacation to visit the grandmother, who Mona calls Sitti which means grandmother in Arabic. Mona has a great time while she is visiting Sitti. She follows Sitti in her everyday life and she also plays with her cousins. One day, Mona has to go home again and everybody is crying – even Mona’s father. When Mona is back in America, she writes a letter to the President which sa ...more
Feb 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-eastern
Published: 1997, Four Winds Press
Age: 4-8
This is a sweet story of a little Palestinian girl named Mona who lives in America and goes to visit her grandmother (“Sitti”) in Palestine, (“On the other side of the earth.”). She doesn’t speak Arabic so at first her father translates for them and eventually they create their own language with signs. Mona tells the things she sees and food they eat and the traditions the people keep such as the traditional dress and walking to the spring for water. Mona
Amy Layton
Dec 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What an absolutely beautiful book!  Nye's call to action about world peace is truer than ever today--and this book was written nearly 25 years ago!  With Carpenter's illustrations and Nye's text, Sitti's Secret does a fantastic job at looking at two sides of a culture: one actively partaking in a culture, and one partially assimilated though still proud.  Sitti acknowledges the differences between her and her grandmother's cultures, languages, and manners of doing things, and likewise, she ackno ...more
Mar 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
T. Denise
Feb 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
I though Sitti's Secrets was a wonderful story about the union of two worlds that seem farther apart than they truly are. Mona is a young girl who adores her grandmother, or her Sitti. This is a picture book that shows how language can be a barrier, or opportunity, depending on how it is used. Sitti and Mona live thousands of miles apart.

Despite the distance, Mona is still able to connect with her and display affection and love for her grandmother. This is a great story for children who have ext
Carol Royce Owen
Aug 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
A wonderful book for teaching diversity with beautiful language (but of course - it's Naomi Shihab Nye). Having just met her and having the opportunity to hear her, I could hear her voice throughout this book, especially with lines like "Her voice danced as high as the whistles of birds. Her voice giggled and whooshed like wings going around corners. She had a thousand rivers in her voice."
The only thing that was a bit disjunct, and I felt would need some explaining to students was the fact that
Elissa Tetrault
Jan 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This story is about a little girl who lives in the United States having a strong bond with her grandmother who lives on the other side of the world in Palestine. She talks about how she went to visit her grandmother and the different lifestyle that her grandmother lives. Although there is a language barrier and they cannot speak the same language, they were able to spend time together and really connect through the activities they did.

I loved the illustrations in this book, as the illustrator ap
A beautifully descriptive story about a young girl who goes to a mid-east country to visit her grandmother. The writing and illustrations create wonderful descriptive imagery to paint a picture of the landscape and daily life. I loved the map on the end pages to show the distance between Sitti and her grandmother.

At first, I wasn't sure what I thought about the "letter to the president" at the end of the book. It initially felt contrived and a bit didactic. On the other hand, it introduces chil
Mar 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
I personally loved this book, but I'm not sure how it would go over in a classroom of 5th graders - especially boys. I think the girls would love it, and I would definitely consider using this book as a mentor text for a girl's discussion group. The illustrations were beautiful, and transcended all the topics of each page. Some events were often hidden in the overall illustration of the page. I also thought the letter to the President was an interestingly awkward ending.
Sep 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
this is one of my most absolute favorite books in the entire world ever.
it's beautiful.
beautiful. beautiful.

while lots of other reviews call out the 'peace' or 'no war' message as out of place, for me - it's where the book bursts into the thing about it that i hold closest to my heart. it has everything to do with the relationship between sitti and her grandmother and the way we inherit not only the blood of our family but also the stories of survival.
Feb 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
This tells a story about a going girl who lives in America now but returns to "the other side of the world" where her sitti lives. And her father is from. It doesn't literally say where they are but I think it's Palestine because that's where the author's father is from. They talk about speaking Arabic and some of the customs her Grandma follows.
This was just a sweet book about the relationship between a child and her grandma! Super cute.
Sara Khayat
Dec 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"My grandmother lives on the other side of the earth. When I have daylight, she has night."

What I love most about children's books is the ability to take such vast, intricate concepts and paint them into simple ideas. In Sitti's Secrets, Naomi Shihab Nye speaks for so many children who have faraway family. She tackles the nostalgia (particularly of the Arab diaspora) of apricot jam (mish-mish), language barriers, etc.
Elizabeth Root
Nov 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
THis story is about a granddaughter who lives far away from her grandmother. The granddaughter ends up visiting her grandmother, and learns her way of life across the world. The story discusses the difference in culture and lifestyle. It is important for students to make connections, and to realize the importance of family.
Jul 01, 2012 marked it as to-read
This story was selected as one of the books for the March 2010 - Outstanding Women reads at the Picture-Book Club in the Children's Books Group here at Goodreads. ...more
Kelci Cox-Griswold
Feb 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: family, culture
This would be a good book to teach children about different cultures. (Arabic) The little girl's grandmother lives all the way across the world from her. She goes to visit her, but they don't speak the same language. They find their own ways to communite and have a nice visit. When the little girl returns home she writes to the president for peace.
Amber Cooper
Loved this multicultural book about a young girl visiting her grandmother in the Middle East. The culture and language is difference but they share family and love. Wonderful illustrations and story-lines. Great for elementary grades, middle grades to upper elementary, due to cultural words and content.
« previous 1 3 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Under the Lemon Moon
  • I Am Enough
  • We Don't Eat Our Classmates
  • Bunny Cakes
  • Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis
  • Storm in the Night
  • The Name Jar
  • In My Momma's Kitchen
  • Enemy Pie
  • Ada's Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay
  • Everybody Cooks Rice
  • I Love Guinea Pigs (Read and Wonder Books)
  • It's Not All Downhill from Here
  • The Giant Jam Sandwich
  • Mrs. Katz and Tush
  • Ish
  • Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad
  • White Socks Only
See similar books…
Naomi Shihab Nye was born to a Palestinian father and an American mother. During her high school years, she lived in Ramallah in Jordan, the Old City in Jerusalem, and San Antonio, Texas, where she later received her B.A. in English and world religions from Trinity University. She is a novelist, poet and songwriter.

She currently lives in San Antonio, Texas. She was elected a Chancellor of the Acad

Related Articles

Jacqueline Woodson seems to have been born to be a writer. Even as a young child, she would write constantly.
42 likes · 7 comments