Diverse Books, Middle Grade Books

Moonchild: Voyage of the Lost and Found by Aisha Bushby

I really loved this story and the wonderful characters.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

The Sahar Peninsula lies just beyond the horizon, but it isn’t the easiest place to get to. No maps will take you there, nor can it be charted by gazing up at the stars, or down at a compass…

Twelve year old Amira has only ever known a life at sea with her sea-witch mothers. So when their ship is wrecked in a great storm, Amira is delighted to have an opportunity to explore land – accompanied by her best friend Namur – a jinn in cat form. Amira soon finds a boy who has a jinn like her, and learns that their spirit companions are connected to the mysterious storm that gets stronger each day.

When Namur goes missing Amira discovers she has to visit a magical place; a place where lost things can be found. But will Amira also discover her own destiny, and find out what it truly means to be a Moonchild?

I was told this was a middle grade story inspired by Arabian Nights and a sea adventure and I was sold! This book did not disappoint! This is such a wonderful story of friendship and learning to express yourself and so much more. The world is so wonderfully written and I could really imagine all the places Amira travelled to and lived. The storytelling is so great, I was completely hooked from the beginning and just could not put it down.

I loved Amira and her sense of adventure and especially her relationship with her jinni, Namur, who takes the form of a cat. I have a cat that I love to pieces and their relationship was so special to me, I felt Amira’s fear of losing him especially in that first scene on their boat. Amira’s determination to find Namur when he goes missing was so heart warming and truly showed the love between them.

I also loved how Amira made friends even though she isn’t always the best at talking to others. Their bond and the way they supported and helped each other, they each had their own strengths and weaknesses and they worked well together. I loved how Aisha showed that children are different and that no one type of person is better than the other and everyone is valuable and able to make a difference. It was also great to see actual loving parents in the book and also see different types of parents and that every family is different.

I loved the magic and the mythical creatures we see in the book and how we get interludes with their own story but it also adds to the main story. I really loved it and didn’t feel it distracted from the main story.

But the thing I loved most was how Aisha shows through the characters how to manage your emotions. It was just such a wonderful thing to see in the book and written so beautifully that it wasn’t preachy but woven seamlessly into the story.

Truly this book is one that all kids should read. I am really looking forward to reading the next book especially after that ending!

Books by Muslim Authors, Middle Grade Books

Rumaysa by Radiya Hafiza – ARC Review

This is the book kid me needed and I am so glad it exists now and so wonderfully written.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

This funny and empowering story weaves together three classic fairytales into one new adventure with an unusual structural twist: Rumaysa is a Muslim girl who lets her hijab down from a tall tower in order to escape. Set in a magical version of South Asia, Rumaysa explores enchanted forests and dragon lairs, teaming up with Cinderayla and Sleeping Sara along the way to create a strong sense of sisterhood. 

I loved this book so much! The story was fun and entertaining and also full of south Asian culture that was so familiar to me and the best part was that the characters were Muslim! Muslim princess fairytales, books I wish I could I have had as a kid.

I loved way that Radiya made each story her own while still keeping the original fairytale recognisable. While we don’t get to see all the illustrations in the arc we do get one of Rumaysa in her tower and it’s so cute. My finished copy has arrived and I can say that the art is amazing! Girls in hijab, south Asian culture on full display, I love it so much!

I really loved how three fairytales were woven together with Rumaysa as the central character but not overtaking the other stories. It was so well done and such a wonderful surprise to read those twists. I loved how her hijab is key to her escaping the tower and that we see her struggle with being so isolated and alone. Her sole companion is an owl who helps her escape and is her eyes to the outside world. It was also so great to see that Rumaysa mentions praying her daily prayers and that it gave her structure to her day. The way they were just included as a normal part of her just made me smile.

Rumaysa is a wonderful character, she is determined and resilient and because she has never been outside so she is so grateful for all the experiences she now gets to see because she has missed out for many years and it reminded me of how girls are kept incredibly sheltered and not allowed to experience things and kept at home and so miss out on so many things. Sara’s story is also similar in that because her parents are afraid of losing her they go to extremes to keep her safe but that puts her at a disadvantage and she is unable to help those that she is responsible for. It shows how girls are so much more capable than adults give them credit for.

I really loved all three stories even though I’m not a fan of the original Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty story. I especially loved how the princesses saved themselves instead of waiting for a prince to turn up to save them. They helped and supported each other and they knew their worth. Especially Ayla who stood her ground and said she doesn’t want to be with someone who thinks wealth and looks is so important. Ayla’s step sisters also were a nice surprise. They copied the way their mother behaved towards her and it shows that children will copy what adults will do. But they also knew it wasn’t okay and eventually changed for the better and stood up for themselves too.

I loved this book so much and how message of girls supporting girls but also how toxic masculinity was tackled too through Suleiman. He doesn’t want to be the type of boy that his parents expect and push him into her prefers building things and being creative, not being outdoors all the time and that this is okay too. This book tackles many issues that are prevalent in the south Asian community in a way kids can understand but also not being so heavy that it takes away from the fun and magic of the story.

Give this book to all the kids you know. Everyone deserves to see themselves as the hero in the story and this book made kid me so very happy.

Diverse Books, Middle Grade Books

Agent Zaiba Investigates: The Haunted Mansion by Annabelle Sami – Book Review

Thank you to little tiger books for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

When a new family moves to the village, Zaiba is intrigued to hear about the strange happenings in their home. Things go missing, objects are smashed and unfriendly messages are painted on the walls. There have always been rumours that the house is haunted, but is a ghost really causing all this trouble? Zaiba and her team are convinced that the culprit is very much alive – and won’t stop until they get what they want…

This is the third book in the series and I just love them so much! The stories are fun and exciting and also have such wonderful Pakistani culture rep. I love seeing a young Pakistani girl aspire to be a detective and follow in her mums and aunts footsteps.

This story had some new characters and I really loved seeing Zaiba’s detective agency grow. Honestly we don’t give kids enough credit they are smart and resourceful and can achieve so much more than we believe they can. They also know how to have fun as evidenced by the fact that they have so much fun at the party while investigating the haunted house!

This book introduced new kids and we see how some of them get a long immediately and some take time to learn to work together and it was great to see both sides and show how kids are different. We also get a bit of discussion about jinns and Islamic folklore so that was so great to see because I grew up with jinn stories as opposed to ghost stories and honestly this is why we need representation. So many of us grew up with jinn stories but it’s never in spooky kids books.

The story and how the kids have to catch who is haunting the house was so much fun and how they discovered the history and secret passages in the house. Zaiba is such an observant child and she picks up on so much and it’s so much fun to see them working out what’s happening. Ali is another character I love because for someone so young he picks up so many facts about all different things that end up being useful in catching the person. I love how they kids support each other and work off each others strengths and weaknesses. How Zaiba knows which of them is best for the each job.

This story like the first two is so much fun to read and I love the illustrations too. I love that we get to see Zaiba in Pakistani clothes and that she is told she looks beautiful and not made to feel as though she doesn’t fit in because she lives in the west. Everyone needs a friend like Poppy! I love Poppy because she loves make up and accessories and getting dressed up and she isn’t looked down for it. Contrasting with Zaiba who prefers to wear what’s comfortable and somehow always gets her clothes dirty. Neither is looked down on and it will be so important for kids to see that whatever they enjoy it is accepted.

I just need you all to go read these wonderful books and to give them to all the kids you know!

Middle Grade Books

Deny All Charges by Eoin Colfer – Book Review

This is the second book in the Fowl Twins series and I just love being back in this world.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Artemis’s little brothers Myles and Beckett borrow the Fowl jet without permission, and it ends up as a fireball over Florida. The twins plus their fairy minder, the pixie-elf hybrid Lazuli Heitz, are lucky to escape with their lives.

The Fowl parents and fairy police force decide that enough is enough and the twins are placed under house arrest. But Myles has questions, like: who was tracking the Fowl jet? Why would someone want to blow them out of the sky? These questions must infuriate someone, because Myles is abducted and spirited away from his twin.

Now Beckett and Lazuli must collaborate to find Myles and rescue him – not easy when it was Myles who was the brains of the operation. Their chase will take them across continents, deep underground, and into subaquatic super villain lairs. They will be shot at, covered in spit, and at the receiving end of some quite nasty dwarf sarcasm. But will Beckett be able to come up with a genius plan without a genius on hand…? 

The nostalgia of my childhood from reading Artemis Fowl books and then getting to see how the twins are similar and yet so different from Artemis. I love the dynamic between Myles and Beckett and how they are so different from each other but know each other so well. I love their relationship so much. They each have different strengths and they work so seamlessly together and know that each have different strengths.

The fact that Myles is the brains and Beckett is the brawn and yet in this book they were forced to swap roles made us see each of them in a new light and I loved seeing this other side of them. It increased the stakes and I was truly worried about them at some points in the story.

Eoin Colfer is great at making us second guess ourselves and what we think is happening in the story. We may think we know what’s going to happen but then it takes us completely by surprise. I just loved that so much. How no one is truly a trustworthy narrator and who are truly the “bad guys.”

These books are full of morally grey characters including Myles who’s motivations we can never truly trust and it is often Beckett who keeps him toeing the line to completely go full criminal mastermind. I really loved that about Myles that while he has ulterior motives he still has a moral compass which makes him ensure the safety of others at times putting himself in danger to save the others.

This story is action packed and full of snarky, sarcastic characters which will have you laughing out loud. I love the writing style and sassy characters especially when you see two young boys sassing adults and even fairies because they always underestimate the twins.

This book is fast paced, a great story and wonderfully interesting characters that will leave you wanting more, long after you finish the book.

Books by Muslim Authors, Middle Grade Books

Agent Zaiba Investigates The Poison Plot by Annabelle Sami – Book Review

This is book two in the Agent Zaiba Investigates series. You can read my review for the first book here.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Determined to be the world’s greatest detective, Zaiba is always on the lookout for a crime to solve!

Zaiba can’t wait for the school summer fair where she’s going to run a detective trail to help train other potential agents! But when the head teacher is poisoned during the highly competitive cake competition, Zaiba’s own skills are put to the test. With a whole host of suspects and a busy crime scene, Zaiba needs to stay focused if she’s going to get to the bottom of the cake catastrophe…

I love this series so much! This is exactly the type of book I would have loved to read when I was a kid because all I had was Secret Seven and while I loved them, to see Zaiba who is Pakistani and wears salwar kameez and is fully immersed in her culture would have been incredible to be able to read.

Zaiba is a wonderful character, she is smart and passionate and dedicated to finding the truth. She has a wonderful relationship with her family and a great female friendship. I also related to her mixed complicated feelings towards her cousin who doesn’t always get along with them but maybe there is something more to how she behaves with them and Zaiba slowly sees that.

It was so wonderful to see parents who are involved in the story and a part of the kids lives. So often the parents are absent in stories but we also need to see healthy relationships in books and this series does that. The way both Zaiba and Ali interact with their dad shows how close they are and that their step mum is a wonderful parent to them too. It was also great to see that it was the dad and son who took part in the baking content especially as in Asian culture there is often this stigma around boys cooking so to see it celebrated was so wonderful.

This book is set at Zaiba’s school and it brought back memories of the school summer fair that would happen when I was at school. It was great to see a book set in an environment that is so familiar to kids and adults alike and that Zaiba was in charge of the scavenger hunt which she put so much effort into. I loved how we see so many parents involved in the kids lives at the school.

We see Zaiba investigate the poisoning and we see how she immediately wants to find out what has happened. She is brave and smart and determined. I love how passionate she is about what she loves doing and how she is so driven. I loved seeing how she is inspired by her aunt who is a role model for her to become a detective. It’s so great to see that Zaiba had someone like her aunt to look up to.

I just really love these books and how incredible they are at making me feel so seen and truly wish I had them when I was younger. If you know any kids please give these books to them because honestly everyone deserves to see themselves in books.