From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 3-Saba is afraid of chickens, "savage little bullies" with "Bony beaks, razor claws, with GLITTERY eyes that wonder, wonder as they watch me, how easy it would be to make me scream." The way to the bathhouse on her family's farm in rural Pakistan is through the yard full of chickens, and once there, and temporarily safe, Saba must then summon the courage to make the dash back across the yard to her house. One day, with the outward journey behind her, her hair soaped and clean, waiting to gather up her inner forces and make the run to safety for the umpteenth time, the child sees something far more terrifying than chickens. Curled in a corner of the bathhouse, "Within easy striking distance of the door," she spies a snake. Saba conquers her fear of it, and, once empowered, stands up to the chickens, making her the victorious "Ruler of the Courtyard." The illustrations are vigorous and slightly naive, featuring hot bright backgrounds and scratchily malevolent chickens. Saba is a real girl; Nani is her concerned mother, and the attentive detail to their expressions-fear, surprise, and confidence-brings life to their portraits. Pair this warm and funny story with Florence Parry Heide and Jules Feiffer's Some Things Are Scary (Candlewick, 2000) to explore anxiety and courage, and humor's reassuring place in triumphing over childhood concerns.
Dona Ratterree, New York City Public Schools
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
K-Gr. 1. A young girl, Saba, learns to face fear when she is trapped in the bathhouse with a snake, which she bravely traps under a bucket rather than endangering anyone else by yelling for help. She soon discovers to her great relief, that her snake is actually Nani's "nala," a rope to tie drawstring pants. Having handily dealt with what could have been a very real danger, young Saba can now assert herself among the chickens that have always terrified her with their "bony beaks, razor claws, with GLITTERY eyes that wonder, wonder as they watch me, how easy it would be to make me scream." Their feathers fly as she runs, shouting, "I am Saba! The Ruler of the courtyard." The predominantly red-and-yellow-toned illustrations make clever use of proportion and perspective to emphasize the outsize nature of fear. Their loose-lined, scratchy look echoes the chickens clawing in the hot, dry yard. Saba's story, ostensibly set in Pakistan, will resonate with children who must stand up to their own particular dread. Diane Foote
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