From School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-Aliya is worried about fitting in at her New England school for many reasons. Other girls go to parties and talk about boyfriends, but her family is Muslim, so the fifth grader has to think about how these things do or don't fit in with what her religion teaches. Will the other kids notice when she fasts for Ramadan? What type of reaction might she face if she decides to wear the hijab? With Ramadan approaching, her teacher at the Islamic Center tells her to communicate with Allah, and taking the advice of her great-grandmother, Aliya decides to write letters to Allah explaining her concerns. As the year progresses, Aliya works at understanding herself and her faith, and with the support of a new Muslim classmate, she comes to appreciate her many blessings and her identity. The author recognizes the diversity of the Muslim population (Aliya's family is from India, while the new girl is from Morocco); however, the book is definitely slanted toward a more conservative Islamic viewpoint, particularly with regard to the hijab. Aliya mentions that her mother feels that Muslim women can be modest without covering up, and a classmate at the Islamic Center discusses how her parents are not happy about her decision to wear the hijab, but these ideas are not explored further. The novel is at its best when depicting Aliya's interactions with her grandmother and great-grandmother as well as comic incidents such as a halal turkey mix-up at Thanksgiving dinner. This would be a good addition for libraries serving Muslim populations; it also might be of interest to non-Muslim readers wanting to find out more about the religion's everyday life and practices.-Kathleen E. Gruver, Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Terrorist. Go back to the desert. Drive a camel. Growing up Muslim in the Northeast, Aliya encounters racism on the streets and in her fifth-grade class, even though her family members are not strictly observant Muslims, she does not wear the hijab, and she doesn’t even speak Arabic. She hates it that she is supposed to help a new student, Marwa, who does wear the hijab. Her big interest is in Josh, but he likes her classmate Juliana, and Aliya loses to Juliana in the election for class rep. Aliya’s diarylike entries to Allah about her conflicts are sometimes contrived, but her wry first-person narrative perfectly captures her middle-school struggles with friends and enemies, as well as her family and her faith, as she changes her perspective, stands up to a bully, and wonders if she should wear the hijab after all. True to Aliya’s contemporary viewpoint, which is sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, the messages are never heavy. Grades 4-8. --Hazel Rochman