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.

Books by Muslim Authors, Middle Grade Books

Amina’s Song by Hena Khan – ARC Review

Thank you to Simon and Schuster Books for this arc in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

It’s the last few days of her vacation in Pakistan, and Amina has loved every minute of it. The food, the shops, the time she’s spent with her family—all of it holds a special place in Amina’s heart. Now that the school year is starting again, she’s sad to leave, but also excited to share the wonders of Pakistan with her friends back in Greendale.

After she’s home, though, her friends don’t seem overly interested in her trip. And when she decides to do a presentation on Pakistani hero Malala Yousafzai, her classmates focus on the worst parts of the story. How can Amina share the beauty of Pakistan when no one wants to listen?

This story is one that I think many young people and even adults will be able to relate to a lot. A story about belonging and being the child of parents who immigrated to a different country for various reasons and now you’re in between two worlds. A story about how even though there can be many differences in being from different cultures there are also many things that can bring us together.

Reading this book reminded me of how I felt when as a young teen I went to Pakistan for a holiday and while I loved it, I couldn’t shake that feeling of not quite fitting in and yet being born and raised in the UK, sometimes I still feel like I don’t quite fit in. That sense of not quite belonging in either place because you are a combination of both cultures and also how you may even reject one culture to be able to belong in the other. Amina doesn’t want to wear salwar kameez or take Pakistani food to school for lunch because it would make her stand out and yet her white friend can bring kebabs without feeling like that. There were so many scenes like this in the book that really hit home for me and how I had felt growing up.

How when the only thing you see about countries you’re family is from is how “backwards” and “violent” they are it can make you want to distance yourself from it yet that isn’t the truth of things and people being violent is a universal thing no matter where you are from. As Amina learns about Malala and tries to show the beauty of Pakistan through her she is faced with people only seeing how a group of people hurt a young girl when all she wanted was to get an education. How people pity girls from there but don’t see how the same thing is happening in their own countries albeit in different ways. That there are incredible people all over the world. I just truly loved how Hena wove all this into the story and showed how beautiful countries like Pakistan can be.

I really liked how Amina has an internal conflict but is determined to show how beautiful her heritage and culture is. It felt so real and relatable and also woven into the story of friendship and family and loving each other despite differences.

At the end when Amina shared the stories of some of the many incredible women from Pakistan and their incredible achievements, it was wonderful to see and seeing people’s reactions go from pity to awe. In the west we are rarely told positive stories of people living in places like Pakistan and I love how Hena tackled this problem through Amina’s story.

This book is one I related to deep in soul and I am so happy to see these stories being published where we can celebrate our heritage and culture instead of being ashamed by it. It’s a wholesome story of love between family and friends and how despite being worlds apart you can still be connected to each other.

Books by Muslim Authors, Middle Grade Books

City of the Plague God by Sarwat Chadda – Book Review

 I have been so excited for this book since it was announced, and it did not disappoint!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Thirteen-year-old Sik wants a simple life going to school and helping at his parents’ deli in the evenings. But all that is blown to smithereens when Nergal comes looking for him, thinking that Sik holds the secret to eternal life.Turns out Sik is immortal but doesn’t know it, and that’s about to get him and the entire city into deep, deep trouble.

Sik’s not in this alone. He’s got Belet, the adopted daughter of Ishtar, the goddess of love and war, on his side, and a former hero named Gilgamesh, who has taken up gardening in Central Park. Now all they have to do is retrieve the Flower of Immortality to save Manhattan from being wiped out by disease. To succeed, they’ll have to conquer sly demons, treacherous gods, and their own darkest nightmares.

This book was so wonderful in so many ways. The wonderful witty characters and how the mythology was woven into the story and the captivating writing with some unintentional Tangled references that had me screaming. This book was so hard to put down and I found myself reading well into the night. But the thing that I loved most was just how unapologetically Muslim this book was and how it was just Sikander’s normal life to go to the masjid and use words like inshaAllah which is a huge part of lots of Muslim’s lives.

Sikander is a wonderful character and I loved how much he loved his family and yet at the same time had a complicated relationship with them and how he had been deeply affected by the loss of his brother. He is witty and sarcastic and reminded me so much of my cousin who is the same age. Pre teens are truly the most sarcastic people I have ever met! I loved how he was connected to his community from helping in the masjid and how so many people knew him and his family.

We also meet Belet who is new to Sikander’s school and we find out she is the adopted daughter of Ishtar and has been trained as a warrior. She saves Sikander and they slowly become friends throughout the book. Their banter and witty remarks to each other was so much fun to read especially when you can see they are both becoming friends and yet neither wants to really admit it first. I also loved that Ishtar had so many cats! But these cats aren’t your ordinary cats they are magical cats! I loved every single scene with them!

The story was captivating from start to finish. Action packed and hilarious yet also dealt with some really difficult topics but in a way that kids can understand and relate to which I really loved. There’s discussions about how Daud can only get roles in films as a terrorist because he is a brown Muslim and how the word Jihad has been twisted and what it truly means to Muslims. Grief and death is also discussed really well in the book with Sikander still trying to come to terms with the death of his brother and also the unresolved feelings he has towards him and the situation he has found himself in. Things he wanted to say to his brother, how he wanted to go on an adventure with him too. It was so heartfelt and real and had me so emotional.

I just really loved this book and I truly hope we get a second book because I would really love to go on more adventures with Sikander and Belet! This book was funny and full of adventure and just such wonderful Muslim representation. I wish I had this when I was younger. I highly recommend everyone go read this wonderful book.

Books by Muslim Authors, Diverse Books, Middle Grade Books, Muslim Shelf Space

Aladdin: Far From Agrabah by Aisha Saeed – Book Review

I loved this story so much and it gave so much more depth to Aladdin and Jasmine and their relationship.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

This stunning original novel will tell an all-new story set in the world of the new film, featuring Aladdin and Jasmine. A magic carpet ride full of adventure, suspense, and wonder written by New York Times best-selling author Aisha Saeed, this story will be a must-read for any Aladdin fans who find themselves drawn into and enchanted by the magical world of Agrabah and beyond. 

I listened to the audiobook and I really loved it. The narrator kept me hooked on the story and it was just a great story to listen to while I worked.

The story takes place while Aladdin takes Jasmine on the magic carpet ride and he takes her to his kingdom. Genie creates this kingdom for Aladdin to last as long as they are there with people created from Aladdin’s memories. I really loved getting this glimpse into Aladdin and Jasmine and their backstory.

During the time there Aladdin meets his people and hears their problems and Jasmine joins him. I really loved seeing that Aladdin treats her as an equal and listens to and takes her advice. They work together to help those in need and it was really great to see them in this position. To see what type of leader they would make and how capable Jasmine is despite the men in power keeping her from doing anything for her people. We see how much she cares for her people and how much she wants to do and just how smart and resourceful she is.

We also see how Aladdin is kind and generous and wants better for his people too. We also get to see them both build a stronger relationship with each other as they learn more about each other and see what type of people they really are. I really loved that we get to see them build an actual foundation for their relationship. This is where Aladdin realises he does love Jasmine and we see him battle his moral dilemma of lying to her about who he is. We also see Jasmine start to realise that maybe Ali and Aladdin are the same people and yet she still trusts him.

This was a wonderful story where we get to see more of Aladdin and Jasmine and I loved it. I especially recommend listening to the audiobook as it creates an even more magical experience.

Blog Tours/Street Teams, Books by Muslim Authors, Middle Grade Books, Muslim Shelf Space

Blog Tour: A Thousand Questions by Saadia Faruqi – ARC Review

Today I am sharing my review as part of the blog tour of A Thousand Questions.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Mimi is not thrilled to be spending her summer in Karachi, Pakistan, with grandparents she’s never met. Secretly, she wishes to find her long-absent father, and plans to write to him in her beautiful new journal.

The cook’s daughter, Sakina, still hasn’t told her parents that she’ll be accepted to school only if she can improve her English test score—but then, how could her family possibly afford to lose the money she earns working with her Abba in a rich family’s kitchen?

Although the girls seem totally incompatible at first, as the summer goes on, Sakina and Mimi realize that they have plenty in common—and that they each need the other to get what they want most. 

This is such a beautiful and heartfelt story of two young girls from completely different worlds who end up spending time together over a summer and realise that despite their differences they can be friends and support and help each other. I related so much to both Mimi and Sakina in different ways and I loved both of them but I do love Sakina a little bit more and my heart broke for her and the circumstances she was in.

Mimi is a young girl who knows little about her roots and her family beyond her mum and seeing her realise that she has more family and get to know them better was so lovely to see. When you are a child of an immigrant there are often family members who you don’t get to see very often and it can cause a disconnect from them and your families background because you also want to fit in wherever you are living. So it was nice to see that Mimi gets to experience her culture and meet her grandparents and that by the end she knows that she wants to visit regularly to stay connected with them.

Sakina is a young girl who lives a difficult life and has to work from such a young age to help provide for her family and unfortunately this isn’t that uncommon. Her wanting to make sure her family would be okay while also having hopes and dreams of being able to go to school broke my heart. I was really rooting for her and hoping she would find a way. I related a lot to how conflicted she felt having to choose between her parents and her responsibilities and her dreams. I loved that we got a hopeful ending for her and after everything she went through she got the help she needed.

The running theme of friendship was so beautiful in this book. Mimi helps Sakina learn English to help her get into school and Sakina helps her connect with her dad. I really loved seeing their friendship build and that Mimi would take Sakina with her when going out treating her as an equal. It was also great to see both their points of view so we truly get insight from both their world views.

I also loved how we see real, raw family dynamics and how despite the fact that you love your family you can also have a somewhat strained relationship with them but you can still work on making it better. Initially I did not like Mimi’s grandma but I did like how her character developed throughout the story. Sakina’s dad was a lovable character but because he had diabetes and couldn’t afford the medicine his responsibility fell on Sakina and their family dynamic was interesting too. Each character was complex and I really loved seeing the different sides of them.

I loved that it’s set in Pakistan and we see all the different parts of it and what it’s like to live there for different people. It isn’t perfect but even Sakina was defensive of her home and how much beauty there is there and was determined to show that to Mimi. The food and the culture was really great to see in the book and honestly my mouth was watering remembering how amazing the food is in Pakistan.

I really loved this beautiful story and the bittersweet yet hopeful ending and that two young girls found friendship and support in the most unlikely of places. A story I wish I had been able to read when I was younger and made me reminisce about the few times I have been able to visit my family in Pakistan and Bangladesh.