Zulaikha lives in Afghanistan with her father, her step-mother and her brothers and sisters. She is one of the oldest children so she has a lot of jobs, like going to the market for food and helping take care of the babies. She doesn’t go to school although her mother taught her a few words before she died.
Zulaikha lives in a country at war in a culture that I don’t know very much about. I really liked reading her story because I felt like I was getting a look at a real person from Afghanistan, not a stereotype or a “made for TV” person. The author of this book is an American soldier who was stationed in an Afghan village helping build a school. He based Zulaikha on a real girl he met while he lived there.
I liked how this book didn’t give me what I expected. For example, at one point Zulaikha’s Dad is talking about how the Americans are coming to build a school. He knows that the village girls have never gone to school and that the idea is a very American one. He says, ”School for boys. School for girls. School for goats. Who cares as long as they pay?” (page 16) The fact that he supports the building of the school doesn’t really tell you whether or not he thinks girls should go to school – it just tells you he needs paid to build something so his family can eat. That seems very truthful to me. In fact, Zulaikha’s Dad is one of my favorite characters in the book. That doesn’t mean everything he did was likable…it means I liked him as a character because he seemed authentic.
You will cry sometimes while you read this book. Very sad things happen to Zulaikha and the people in her family. Sometimes you will think, “No! no! Don’t do that!” or “How could a Dad let that happen? or “How could a person be so cruel?” But then you remember that you are reading about a girl that lives in the middle of a war in a different country in a culture alot different from our own. How would you know what you would think or how you would act unless you lived there too? I liked thinking about that after I was done with the book, and I think you will too.
Sometimes good things happen, things that make you feel really good about how people can persevere even in very terrible circumstances. There is one character in particular who seemed heartless; a charcter I didn’t like at all, who turned out to be sacrificing her own dreams to secretly help Zulaikha. I ended up really, really liking this character. I especially liked watching how she and Zulaikha grew together after realizing they could work together for the same goal. Sometimes when you read a book friendships can be really predictable; this one took me by surprise and I liked that.
When Mike’s Dad wants to talk to him he calls. On the phone. From his study across the hall. Mike’s Dad is a genius. He’s also the classic absent minded professor. It’s a good thing he has Mike around to take care of business – like pay the bills. Mike’s Dad can’t find his glasses when they are sitting on top of his head or his keys when they are in his pocket. When Mike’s Dad gets an opportunity to teach abroad for 6 weeks Mike isn’t that bummed that he can’t go – six months at home without supervision….sweet! Six weeks without having to make sure his Dad can find his keys…sweet!
But people look poorly on the idea of a fourteen-year-old at home alone all summer, and even though Mike takes care of himself all the time anyway, his Dad sends him to live for the summer with an Aunt and Uncle Mike’s never even met and his dad hasn’t seen YEARS. The Aunt and Uncle are old. Poppy, the Uncle, never gets out of his chair and never talks. Moo, the Aunt, drives like a mad blind woman and watches pretend movies in a car she’s decorated to look like a theater. They aren’t exactly the company Mike had in mind for his summer!
He also didn’t have in mind doing all the math worksheets his Dad left for him. When will Mike’s father ever get it that Mike doesn’t even LIKE math, let alone LOVE it. As a matter of fact, he’ll get it this very summer, the summer Mike spends with Poppy and Moo and learns that while he might not be any good at math, he IS really good at something else…something that’s good enough to get Poppy out of his chair and Moo out of her broken down car.
During his summer with Poppy and Moo Mike meets a homeless guy who has a house he just chooses not to live in, two guys who make giant stuffed toys for adults and a cute rocker chick. All of them turn out to be really good friends for Mike, but one of them, and I’ll let you guess which one, turns out to be a little bit better friend than the others! A great story about a boy with some crazy good social skills and the desire to do something really good. Author: Kathryn Erskine
If you liked reading about Mike and how he surprised the people around him, and himself, with his talents, you might like reading about some of these kids who also find out that what they are made of is some pretty good stuff…even if they are just kids.
Now, just before the first day of middle school, the girls find out the one thing that could wreck their carefully laid plan…one of them is moving! How can they conquer popularity alone in two different schools…in two different cities…in two different COUNTRIES! It is a popularity crisis of global proportion. Julie will be here and Lydia will be in London for 6 whole months.
Being uber-organized note takers the girls agree to work on their poplularity goals while apart. Julie starts school alone at Hannibal Hamlin Junior High. Her job is to study Della Dawn and the other “Bichons” – a “club that everyone wants to be in but no one ever gets invited to join.” (page 32) By studying them Julie will figure out how to become a “Bichon”.
In London, Lydia figures out who the cool people are, Victoria and Paulina, but doesn’t really like them. Instead, she decides to befriend Delilah and Nabil. Her goal is to use she and Julie’s careful popularity research to teach THEM how to be popular. THEN, when Lydia returns to America in 5 months, she and Julie will know works and can use it together at Hannibal Hamlin to become wildly popular. Sound like a plan? They think so! Author: Amy Ignatow
Piper and her sisters are always on the move, literally, because their dad is in the Navy. They have learned to adjust to starting new schools a lot and also missing their dad when he is deployed somewhere. This time, the challenge is of a different kind – this time they have to miss their mom too!
Chief has decided that he and Piper’s Mom need a special second honeymoon vacation together in Paris and because of Chief’s crazy Navy schedule they have to go in December – and be gone for Christmas!
No mom OR dad at Christmas? Piper doesn’t really feel like saluting and saying “Aye, aye, Chief,” like she usually does. She just feels kind of sick – even though the plan involves Piper and her sisters staying with their grandparents for 8 whole days.
As usual Piper is a girl that’s always open to adventure. She jumps right into her 8 days in Piney Woods where all four of her Grandparents live. Piper finds a reason to say about each one of her four grandparents, “that’s why he/she is my favorite!” Piper shows how what you don’t know yet can be really fun- you just have to be patient enough to find out what the fun is! Author: Kimberly Willis Holt
Rosalind lives in India in the early 1900s. India at this time is a colony to Britain. (Similar to the time period in A Little Princess.) Rosalind’s mother is emotionally fragile after the death of Roslalind’s little brother and her father is a British officer who is rarely home. This leaves Rosalind with a lot of freedom. She sneaks out to the bazaar and roams the streets, falling in love with her home and its people.
When Rosalind’s Father returns from his deployment things are …tense. Father and daughter bitterly disagree about Indian freedom from British rule.
When Rosalind becomes too involved in the lives of the family’s Indian servents and when she sneaks off with her friend Max to hear a speech by Ghandi, Rosalind’s Dad becomes enraged. What teenager wants to hear this:
“…you are not to involve yourself in any way with what goes on in this country. Those who are older and wiser than you are have things well in hand. Is that understood?” (page 68)
But what if you DON’T think those who are older are wiser, what if you think they are just plain wrong? This headstrong girl who has the moxy to stand up for what she believes in, even to her Dad, was great to read about. The heated debates between father and daughter are some of the best parts. I also loved Rosalind’s relationships with her Indian friends and how she developed her own thoughts about Indian freedom from British rule based on her own experiences and not on what she read or what other people told her. This book reveals the dramatic changes Gandhi inspired that eventually lead to a free India.
I’ll warn you that the story ends when you wish it wouldn’t…and I can’t wait for the next one to find out what happens to Rosalind when she returns to India. (Her Dad gets so mad at her he sends her to England to school!) I’m thinking Max is going to turn up again and Rosy’s Dad is NOT going to be happy about it!