Elem. – One Sun and Countless Stars: A Muslim Book of Numbers

Khan, Henna. One Sun and Countless Stars: A Muslim Book of Numbers. Illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini. Chronicle Books, 2022. 978-1-452-18272-8. $17.99. Unpaged. Grades K-3.

For Muslim children, One Sun and Countless Stars: A Muslim Book of Numbers, is a mirror; for non-Muslim children, it is a window. Saturated in rich colors– golds, reds, turquoise–this horizontally-shaped book uses simple yet significant objects special to the Muslim community to correspond to the numbers. The story focuses on a young boy’s family and some basic precepts of the Muslim religion: kindness, generosity, and prayerfulness. This visual presentation illustrator Mehrdokht Amini’s drawings connect perfectly with the sparse text. Characters are depicted realistically with enlarged faces, full of expression; the calligraphy conveying the four-line rhymes on each page is readable and large font, also. The double-page spreads take up the entire space with vibrant paint or, in some instances, with a collage effect. Islamic motifs repeat in tablecloths, book covers, and window panes; minarets in the skyline indicate a Middle Eastern setting. The story marks an intersection of the ancient and the modern. Though the young boy dons western dress, the adults wear traditional Muslim garb as they make their pilgrimage to Mecca. Children of other faiths may find similarities, such as gathering to study the Quran, doing good works, fasting, or repetitious prayer. Though targeted for a primary grade audience, the book can inform older students as well. Includes a helpful glossary.

THOUGHTS: From end page to end page, this gorgeous picture book emanates a Middle Eastern tone. Though this book is an easy reader, the information it conveys may dispel any misconceptions young people may have about the Muslim religion. For this reason, teachers could use this book for students of higher grades, too.

Realistic Fiction          Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia

MG – Accused: My Story of Injustice (I, Witness series)

Bah, Adama. Accused: My Story of Injustice (I, Witness series). Norton Young Readers, 2021. 978-1-324-01663-2. 112 p. $16.95. Grades 5-8.

Adama Bah immigrated to the United States when she was two years old. Her father had come to work in the United States two years prior from Guinea. As a student she attended public school, until seventh grade when she went to an Islamic boarding school to learn more about her religion. Then, September 11, 2001, happened. Upon her return to New York City for Ramadan break, Adama experienced cruelty and hate from strangers because of her dress which identified her as Muslim; she was 13. On March 24, 2005, Adama’s nightmare of hatred and cruelty reached a horrific level. She was ripped from her home and taken into custody, but she did not know why. She was identified as a terrorist and suicide bomber, but no one could share any evidence to these acts except that she was a practicing Muslim. She was stripped of her rights, her family, her pride, and her religion. At the age of 17, she was released back to New York City under the watch of a federal ankle bracelet. Her father, through all of this, was deported. She, as the eldest child, was now responsible for the well-being of her family in New York City and Guinea. She quit school to work but still faced daily hatred, cruelty, and bigotry.  Adama was granted asylum in 2007, but she still fights hatred and bigotry to this day. 

THOUGHTS: This is a fantastic addition to middle school biography collections. The cover is not the most appealing (it appears juvenile), but the book itself is eye-opening. I’m glad I gave it a chance. The print is large with lots of white space (again somewhat juvenile in appearance), but the content is engaging and a very quick read. This is a great text to teach perspective and current U.S. history. It is one of several titles currently available in the I, Witness series.

Biography          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

Elem. – Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets

Khan, Hena. Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets. Chronicle Books, 2021. 978-1-452-18274-2. 32p. $7.99. Grades K-2.

A young Muslim girl takes readers through the shapes of different things found in Islam using shapes with simple rhymes. The illustrations are absolutely beautiful and every time readers go through this book, they will find something new to look at within each illustration. There is a glossary found in the back of the book, as well as an author’s note which helps to explain some of the terms that readers might not have heard of before.

THOUGHTS: This book is a must have for any elementary collection. The illustrations are beautiful and will draw readers into wanting to pick it up and flip through its pages.

Picture Book          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

Scarlett Undercover…a new mystery


Latham, Jennifer.  Scarlett Undercover.  New York: Little, Brown, and Company, 2015.  978-0-316-28393-9. 310 p.  $18.00.  Gr. 7-10.

Sixteen-year-old Scarlett graduated high school two years early and opened her own detective agency in the city of Las Almas.  When a young girl named Gemma comes to Scarlett claiming that her brother may have had something to do with his friend’s suicide and asking her to look into it, Scarlett feels compelled to take the case.  As Scarlett begins to investigate the case, she is thrown into a world of ancient myths, conspiracies, and cults.  The case becomes personal when two girls begin trailing Scarlett, an ancient relic is stolen from the apartment she shares with her sister, and she begins to unearth secrets about her father’s murder.  The plot moves along quickly, as Scarlett must figure out who to trust and solve the case before anyone else she cares about gets hurt.

Mystery (Folklore)                    Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School

Scarlett is a smart, sassy, and likeable narrator that readers will find themselves rooting for throughout the story.  The action, folklore, and ancient mysteries that are woven into the story will appeal to fans of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.  Because Scarlett is Muslim American, Muslim traditions are also woven into the story.  These, along with folklore about King Solomon, might also make this title appealing to history lovers.

Series Nonfiction…Compact Research, In Controversy, Understanding World History

Compact Research: Addictions (series).  San Diego: ReferencePoint Press, 2015.  96 p.  $30.00 ea.  Gr. 7-12.
Dudley, WilliamSynthetic Drug Addiction. 978-1-60152-764-6.
Nakaya, Andrea C. Internet and Social Media Addiction. 978-1-60152-760-8.
Parks, Peggy J. Heroin Addiction. 978-1-60152-756-1.
Wilcox, Christine. Gambling Addiction. 978-1-60152-758-5.
Wilcox, Christine. Sex and Pornography Addictions. 978-1-60152-762-2.
Focusing on a variety of addictive habits, these titles begin with an overview of each addiction and then go on to look at issues such as causes of addiction, health dangers of addiction, and ways to overcome addiction.  Each chapter is supplemented by primary source quotes, color photographs, charts, graphs, and statistics.  At the end of each book there is a list of key people and advocacy groups, a chronological timeline of the addiction, contact information for
related organizations, and a list of additional sources for further research.  These titles provide straightforward, factual information for researchers and allow them to analyze the data and come to their own conclusions about each addiction.
600s; Addictions       Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School
​These titles are an excellent addition for student researchers.  Not only is there plenty of background information presented about each addiction, but the primary source quotes, statistics, charts and graphs provide students with plenty of evidence to help them form opinions and make arguments supporting these opinions.  The index, table of contents, and list of illustrations make the books easily accessible, and the list of sources for further research provides researchers with additional quality sources to guide them as they form opinions and arguments.
In Controversy (series).  San Diego: ReferencePoint Press, 2015. 96 p. $31.32 ea. Gr. 7+.

Abramovitz, Melissa. How Are Digital Devices Impacting Society?  978-1-60152-772-1 
This 45-book set features outstanding data and information on topics that are controversial and argumentative in today’s world.  Each book in the collection focuses on a specific question from its title, then divides the book into several chapters revolving around the main components of the issue.  For example, in How Are Digital Devices Impacting Society?, the author takes a look at when controversies surrounding digital devices first appeared, then shares information on how digital devices impact private and social interaction, affect the brain and thought processes, and affect physical and mental health.
One of the greatest assets of these books is that the authors try to supply and cite information from both sides of the issue, drawing from experts who both agree or disagree with the situation or feel that things positively or negatively impact society.  Each books contains important facts bulleted at the end of each chapter, along with pull-out quotes throughout the reading.  This book was extremely entertaining to read just for fun but would also provide excellent secondary source information for students conducting research on a controversial topic.
Technology     Nicole Starner, Biglerville HS/Upper Adams MS
Understanding World History (series). San Diego: ReferencePoint Press, 2015.  96 p.  $31.32 ea.  Gr. 7+.

Allman, Toney. The Rise of Islam.  978-1-60152-744-8.
Marcovitz, Hal. The History of Slavery.  978-1-60152-742-4.
Marcovitz, Hal. The Rise of the Nazis.  978-1-60152-654-0.
This 22-book set covers an incredible range of topics in world history from numerous eras, including time periods and events such as Ancient Chinese Dynasties, Victorian England, the Industrial Revolution, the Holocaust, and the Early Middle Ages.  Along with these selections, the set also includes books focused on other topics of interest that may be confusing and/or interesting to students, such as Islam, slavery, the Nazis, and the history of Rock and Roll.
Each book includes an index, a section describing and defining important people in the time period or event, a timeline, and photographs or illustrations to further understanding.  One of the greatest assets of this collection are the numerous white-boxed sections of the text that describe stories related to the event, give more information on a particular subject, or provide statistical research associated with what is being discussed.  These boxes are especially interesting and easy to read while adding supplementary knowledge on the topic.
World History   Nicole Starner, Biglerville HS/Upper Adams MS

I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister


Sarn, Amelie. I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister. Trans. Y. Maudet. Delacourte Press, 2014. Print. 978-0385743761. 160 p. $15.99. Gr.11-12.

Amelie Sarn’s short novel about two Muslim sisters living in the projects in France is an engrossing story that will linger in the mind of the reader long after the story has ended. The author notes that it was inspired by the murder of a young Muslim girl in France in 2002.  Written in the first person point of view of one of the sisters, Sohane, the story jumps back and forth between the events leading up to the death of the other sister, Djelila, and the present. Sohane had a typical love/hate relationship with her outgoing sister. Sohane is the quiet and more studious of the two and often cannot identify with her sister. While Sahone tries to embrace her Muslim identity, Djelila seems to want to break free from the life her Algerian-French family wants for her. Sohane is especially enigmatic.  The reader grapples with defining Safone as an individual, which perfectly reflects how Sohane views herself- as an enigma of sorts, with multiple personas based on her current environment, be it  at school, home, or on the bus. Her personal identity struggle reflects what many teenagers experience at various times. Sahone decides that to fully represent her faith she wants to wear a headscarf to school, even though this is illegal in France and causes problems for her. Djelila, meanwhile, becomes a target for young men living in their projects who are offended by how Djelila acts and dresses and begin following her.  Due to the violent nature of Djelila’s death and the serious subject matter, I recommend this title for older, more mature teens who can understand the differences between moderates and fundamentalists in any religion. There is an author’s note and glossary included, and these assist with the understanding of the novel.

Realistic        Lindsey Myers, Peters Township High School

When I finished reading this book, a friend asked me what I thought of it. Immediately, I said that while it was a difficult read, it is one that I feel is important to share with teens in the United States. It can sometimes be hard to understand religious persecution in our nation, where we value our freedom of religion. I was, however, apprehensive about sharing this text with teens because I did not want them to come away from it with a negative view of the Muslim faith. It is important for teens to see that there are moderates and fundamentalists in every religion, which is why this text is for teens who have matured enough to realize that fact and understand that one violent group does not represent an entire people or faith. I did book-talk this book for students, but primarily Honors English 11 students. It is an approachable book because the chapters are so short and the novel itself is brief. The plot grabs you from the beginning and the reader finds her heart breaking for the quiet Sohane. She is a typical teenager trying to define who she is and how she fits into her world, and many teens will relate to her story, especially those who are wary of following in the path that has been laid out for them. This would be an excellent story to spark conversation about religious tolerance as well as religiously-based violence against women, which is something the author mentions in her note at the end of the novel. I look forward to hearing what students have to share after reading this text.