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Saturday, December 19, 2020

Warm and Engaging MG Novel Entertaining and Thought-Provoking

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When her family can no longer afford the fees at the private Islamic academy she's been attending, 11-year-old Sara Hameed is forced to attend public school for the first time.  As the new girl and a Pakistani-American, she feels lonely and out of place.  When her mother starts teaching a South Asian cooking class at the school, Sara's even more in the spotlight.  She's not ashamed of her culture or her immigrant mom, but when her classmates snicker and criticize her family's "weird" ways, it makes her feel like even more of an outcast.

Elizabeth Shainmark's British mother has been so depressed lately that she no longer prepares meals or really engages with the family.  The 11-year-old signs up for an after-school cooking class in order to gain culinary skills she can use at home.  Elizabeth forms a tentative friendship with Sara when the girls become cooking partners.  Although her family is not observant, as a Jew Elizabeth understands what it's like to be seen as different.  Not only does she empathize with Sara's plight, but she genuinely enjoys her company and wants to learn more about her.   

Even as the girls face challenges in their friendship and at home, they decide to work together to create a fusion dish that they hope will win them a spot on a television cooking show.  Not only are they keen to nab the prize, but they also want to prove to their doubtful peers that people from different backgrounds and cultures can be not just teammates but also true friends.  Will their unique dish wow the judges?  Most importantly, can the girls show everyone just how beautifully differences can blend—not just in food, but in friendship too?

A Place at the Table by Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan is a warm, upbeat novel that celebrates the individual traditions and backgrounds that make us all unique.  It encourages readers to be themselves, even when that means being different from everyone around you. Not only does it offer an engaging story with sympathetic characters and interesting conflicts, but it also teaches some great lessons about friendship, family, staying true to you, standing up for others, forgiving each other, and seeking to understand other cultures instead of believing unfair stereotypes. My favorite lesson in the story is that becoming a better, less prejudiced, more open-minded person is a process. We can learn from our mistakes and strive to do better each and every day. As a religious person, I also appreciate that A Place at the Table teaches kids that religion isn't necessarily weird or fanatical—for most people, it's just a normal, ordinary part of life. Also, the way that members of the same faith practice their religion can vary widely among different communities, families and individuals. All of these elements combine to create an eye-opening, entertaining, and thought-provoking story that I enjoyed very much.  

(Readalikes:  Um, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a wonderful multicultural story about friendship and acceptance. Thanks for sharing this one Susan.


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