By Susan Muaddi Darraj, illustrated by Ruaida Mannaa. Stone Arch Books, 2020. 144 pages. $15.95/hardcover; $8.95/eBook. Recommended for ages 8–12.
By Susan Muaddi Darraj, illustrated by Ruaida Mannaa. Stone Arch Books, 2020. 144 pages. $15.95/hardcover; $9.95/eBook. Recommended for ages 8–12.
These are the first two fiction works in a series of stories about Farah, a bright, determined Palestinian American girl, as she navigates the challenges of adolescence in an immigrant family. The third book in the series, Farah Rocks New Beginnings, was released in January.
The first book, Farah Rocks Fifth Grade, explores bullying of Farah and her younger brother, Samir. In this story, Dana is a troubled fifth grader who acts very sweet around adults but is mean spirited when adults are not closely engaged. Dana has that remarkable facility for being cruel, particularly toward Samir, without getting caught. Farah uses creative approaches in her attempt to help protect her brother after her initial reporting of the bullying was minimized and ignored. Unfortunately, Farah’s solutions land her in trouble on the bus, at school, and at home. Farah then talks with her parents and finds a way to resolve the bullying issues.
This is a story that parents and teachers could use to educate children in ways to navigate encounters with bullying. It is written in a manner that is appealing to preteen children—fun but not too sanctimonious—yet has content that could be useful through illustrating some strategies to mitigate bullying behavior.
The second book picks up at the end of Farah’s fifth-grade school year and has most of the characters from the first book, including Farah’s hard-working parents who face economic challenges, and Farah’s smart, kind, and supportive group of multicultural friends. In Farah Rocks Summer Break, Farah’s main challenge is to earn money to pay for a summer camp. Toward that end, she participates in a yard sale, mows lawns, and starts a tutoring service to obtain the funds to cover her camp expenses. Both books have directions for an activity and two glossaries in the back: one with Arabic terms and another with additional words used in the story.
Vickie LeCroy is a retired elementary school educator, parent, and grandparent living near Nashville, Tenn.