As we plan for family and friends around the Thanksgiving table this year, we know our guest list will be different. Without being able to congregate with many this year, I have been reading realistic MG novels. A new book I want to share is by a local Maryland writer and teacher who encourages adults and children with their writing. Welcome Laura Shovan to this blog.
When I heard Laura had a new novel published this fall, I was anxious to read it. Each of her books for middle grade readers has a different theme, but usually she focuses on friendships in school and in extra-curricular activities. A Place at The Table is a collaboration between two authors with a delightfully authentic two person POV novel. The protagonists in Shovan’s and Saadia Faruqui’s novel will surprise you. Yes, this is partly an immigrant story, but the non-citizens are parents from Pakistan and Great Britain. The theme is still about how to be a good friend, with a plot including two sixth-grade classmates learning to cook Pakistani food in an after-school class.
The girls in the novel aren’t experts at being good friends, at accepting others who are different, or at cooking, but they learn the best ways to belong to their families and how to be close friends. You will want to invite Elizabeth Shainmark and Sara Hameed and their moms to have “a place at the table,” a place in your reading life. The recipes included at the back of the book will whet your appetite to try new food.
Matthew Winner, school library media specialist in Maryland, in his interview of both authors on his podcast, The Children’s Book Podcast, reminded me that the characters are complex, while they discover the secret to stand up for friends, when others exhibit biases. The relatability of the voices is perfect.
Look for other books by these two writers, as we can add their diverse titles to our bedside tables. Saadia Faruqui writes an early reader series starring Yasmin; published a new picture book called A Thousand Questions; edits a Muslim magazine called Blue Minaret; and shares on podcasts about multicultural books. What a talent! A fun fact: Saadia doesn’t enjoy cooking!
Laura is the author of two other realistic novels: The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary and Takedown and she is a poet-in-residence in Howard County Public Schools in Maryland.
I have noticed a new word that is used in reviews of MG books. More than a friend is an ALLY. In my Children’s Writer’s Word Book, ally is listed as a first grade word meaning “to side with.” An ally is not about a war term , but it can provide a confusing scenario for a young protagonist. She may learn that a friend is not just someone sharing a fun activity; a friend is someone who stands up for you when to speak out may be difficult.
Currently, I am reading Erin Entrada Kelly’s newest novel, Blackbird Fly. Can you imagine how a Filipino American girl would feel if her “friend” did not speak up for her when a boy called her a Chinese dog-eater? The biases in the beginning of the book set up many conflicts for Apple Yengko. I will finish this engaging story tonight and review it soon on this blog.
Happy Reading in November during the longer days.