Five Reasons To Read: More to the Story by Hena Khan – Inspired by Little Women; A Lovely and Empathetic Story about Four Muslim Sisters, Ambition & Illness

More to the Story by Hena Khan. Reviewed by CW, The Quiet Pond.

Summary:

When Jameela Mirza is picked to be feature editor of her middle school newspaper, she’s one step closer to being an award-winning journalist like her late grandfather. The problem is her editor-in-chief keeps shooting down her article ideas. Jameela’s assigned to write about the new boy in school, who has a cool British accent but doesn’t share much, and wonders how she’ll make his story gripping enough to enter into a national media contest.

Jameela, along with her three sisters, is devastated when their father needs to take a job overseas, away from their cozy Georgia home for six months. Missing him makes Jameela determined to write an epic article—one to make her dad extra proud. But when her younger sister gets seriously ill, Jameela’s world turns upside down. And as her hunger for fame looks like it might cost her a blossoming friendship, Jameela questions what matters most, and whether she’s cut out to be a journalist at all…

CW’s Review:

After reading Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan back in 2017, I vowed to myself that if Hena -Khan wrote more middle-grade novels, I would read it in an instant. Fortunately, I came across Hena’s latest middle-grade book, More to the Story, by chance – and I am so so happy that I read it!

More to the Story is a middle-grade retelling of Little Women and centers on four Muslim Pakistani-American sisters who live in Georgia. The story follows Jameela “Jam” Mirza, an aspiring journalist and writer at her middle school newspaper, and her four sisters. When the girls discover that their father has to move away for work for awhile, she decides to write an article that will make her father proud. But when her younger sister becomes gravely ill, Jam’s world is turned upside down.

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Author Interview: Magic, Writing & Durians; A Conversation With Christina Soontornvat, Author of MG Thai-inspired Fantasy, A WISH IN THE DARK

christinasoontornvat_banner

The air is woody and crisp as you step into the Pond. You’re up early today, feeling refreshed and rejuvenated by the morning breeze. Closer in, you notice Sprout’s little plant bobbing up and down behind a bush, glowing faintly. You smile, and make your way towards them to say hello.

As you grow closer, you notice a stream of water that wasn’t there in all your visits to the Pond. The small, shallow river gurgles cheerfully, seemingly connecting the Pond to streams beyond. You notice something else too, by the spot where Sprout is sitting: something luminous in the water, reflecting the light of the morning sun.  Sprout notices you as you curiously walk forward, and waves an enthusiastic hello.

“Good morning, friend! Have you eaten your breakfast?”

carpAs you affirm their question, the light in the river pokes its head out of the water. It’s a carp! Its iridescent scales seem to glitter a hundred different colors at once.

“Friend, this is Christina!” Sprout introduces. “She’s visiting the Pond today to tell us all about her new book, A Wish in the Dark. I had the opportunity of reading it just before it was published, and it’s become one of my favorite stories! It was about so many things—about mangoes, and revolutions, and light, while still being a fun adventure through a world filled with magic. Will you come and listen to us for a while?”

Well, how could you refuse a carp that glitters? You settle down next to Sprout, and prepare yourself to listen to Sprout and Christina discuss this wonderful new book.

Welcome back to the Pond, friends! Today is a special, special day here for all of us, because this is my first author interview here at the Pond (and also in my blogging career)!

Sprout the sparrow, wearing an agender-coloured cape (dark grey, grey, white, green, white, grey) with a little green sapling on their head.I was very blessedly sent a digital ARC of A Wish in the Dark by Candlewick Press earlier this year, and though I had only a passing interest in the story when I found the book on Goodreads, I ended up reading the whole book in one sitting after I read the first chapter! It was such a brilliant middle-grade adventure with so much to say about important, complex topics like revolution and justice. I genuinely hope that more readers consider picking it up, because it completely stole my heart!

I’m so honored to have Christina here with us at the Pond today, and hope you enjoy the interview ahead of us: Christina’s responses are an absolute delight to read. But first, let me tell you what A Wish in the Dark is all about, too!

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Five Reasons To Read: Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga – A Stunning Story-In-Verse About Immigrating, Finding Yourself, and Being Muslim in America

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga.

Blurb:

I am learning how to be
sad
and happy
at the same time.

Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives.

At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven’t quite prepared her for starting school in the US—and her new label of “Middle Eastern,” an identity she’s never known before. But this life also brings unexpected surprises—there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is.

CW’s Review:

Have you ever read a book that made you just… roll in bed after finishing it, the book clutched to your chest, and just sighed deeply because the book was so achingly beautiful and hopeful? Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga is such a book, and it is one of my favourite books of 2019.

Told entirely in verse, Other Words for Home is a middle-grade book that follows Jude, a Muslim Syrian girl who, with her mother, escapes to America when things at home in Syria grow tense, violent, and uncertain. Separated from her beloved father and brother, this thoughtful story reflects on the changes in her life, on being apart from the ones you love and the ache of separation. However, it is also an emotional story about regrowing your roots finding yourself, and finding hope.

I firmly believe that everyone should read this book – even if you don’t read middle-grade, even if you don’t read books in verse. But, just in case you need some convincing, here are five reasons why I think you should read Other Words for Home.

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The Dragon Warrior by Katie Zhao – A Love Letter to Diasporic and Immigrant Kids; A Fun Adventure about Dragons, Warriors, and Courage

The Dragon Warrior by Katie Zhao. Image: A brown-skin girl with short hair, holds up a golden staff. A badge at the bottom-left that says, 'Reviewed by CW, The Quiet Pond'. In the centre is a image of Xiaolong, the pink axolotl wearing a flower hat, waving at you.

Blurb:

As a member of the Jade Society, twelve-year-old Faryn Liu dreams of honoring her family and the gods by becoming a warrior. But the Society has shunned Faryn and her brother Alex ever since their father disappeared years ago, forcing them to train in secret.

Then, during an errand into San Francisco, Faryn stumbles into a battle with a demon–and helps defeat it. She just might be the fabled Heaven Breaker, a powerful warrior meant to work for the all-mighty deity, the Jade Emperor, by commanding an army of dragons to defeat the demons. That is, if she can prove her worth and find the island of the immortals before the Lunar New Year.

With Alex and other unlikely allies at her side, Faryn sets off on a daring quest across Chinatowns. But becoming the Heaven Breaker will require more sacrifices than she first realized . . . What will Faryn be willing to give up to claim her destiny?

CW’s review:

Listen: I am the sort of reader that likes to withhold judgement of a book within the first few chapters of a book, let alone the first few pages. However, when you read the dedication of The Dragon Warrior and find that it is dedicated to immigrants, children of immigrants, and diaspora kids everywhere? The diasporic child within me that imagined vivid sweeping stories about dragons and wielding magic powers as some foretold magic warrior will undoubtedly rise up, excited, rearing to go on an adventure.

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Front Desk by Kelly Yang – A Compassionate & Empowering Story About The Immigrant Experience, Poverty, and Community

Front Desk [by Kelly Yang]

Blurb:

Mia Tang has a lot of secrets.

Number 1: She lives in a motel, not a big house. Every day, while her immigrant parents clean the rooms, ten-year-old Mia manages the front desk of the Calivista Motel and tends to its guests.

Number 2: Her parents hide immigrants. And if the mean motel owner, Mr. Yao, finds out they’ve been letting them stay in the empty rooms for free, the Tangs will be doomed.

Number 3: She wants to be a writer. But how can she when her mom thinks she should stick to math because English is not her first language?

It will take all of Mia’s courage, kindness, and hard work to get through this year. Will she be able to hold on to her job, help the immigrants and guests, escape Mr. Yao, and go for her dreams?

CW’s review:

A few pages into Front Desk by Kelly Yang, I thought to myself, I’m falling in love with this book. Unsurprisingly, Front Desk became not only one of my effortless favourites back in 2018, but it became one of my favourite books ever – more than deserving, I felt, to be in my ‘forever in my heart’ shelf in Goodreads. Front Desk may be a middle-grade novel, but don’t be fooled – it has a light and compassionate narrative but also delves into tough topics that children and adults alike can learn from.

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