Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins

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The book Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins was recommended to me by the same person that suggested Overboard, (thanks Cheryl) as it is a rare book that appeals to the often difficult to find 2nd to 4th grade demographic.  The book is 91 pages, with large drawings and a fairly large font.  I read it in about 30 minutes and I’m sure most students, not slowed down by the names, could easily read it in a few hours.  It is that engaging and vivid that I think most students, boys included, would have a hard time putting it down.  The AR level is 4.3, but I think the gender issues would be relate-able in an Islamic School setting to advanced second graders.  I am considering obtaining a few more copies and letting the younger students that really want to be in the Book Club read this book and give it a try; or reading the book aloud to the students and then discussing it with them, will talk to some teachers and post back what I opt to do, inshaAllah.

SYNOPSIS:

Set in Bangladesh, Rickshaw Girl is a sweet story about 10-year-old Naima, who is smart and caring, and at that critical age where she can no longer play freely with her best friend, because he is a boy, she must start helping her mother in tending to the house, and because of financial restraints can no longer continue her school education.  Frustrated by the fact that as a girl and she cannot financially help her father, as a son would be able to do, she makes a poor decision that causes the situation to get worse (don’t want to spoil the book by disclosing what she does). Her personality and inner strength, however, push her on a path to correct her mistake and help her family, proving girls can definitely rise above restraint and succeed in following their dreams.

WHY I LIKE IT:

One could/would assume (dangerous I know) that the characters are Muslim, it is never stated, never implied, never brought up.  In the pictures the female characters have a scarf draped over their hair, but in that part of the world, most every woman would.  Same goes for the gender issues.  That being said, I think it would lend itself very easily to a discussion of what most Muslim girls experience in general terms of being slowly discouraged from playing with boys, encouraged to start helping in the kitchen, etc.  I love that the story is fast paced and that you truly cringe at Naima’s actions, and cheer for her to try and fix her error.  Her family situation is also very soothing.  Her parents are strong and loving and kind, and I think how most 10 year old children see their families.

Flags:  None, clean

TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

The author’s own page is helpful in getting the ball rolling, there is also information in the back of the book: glossary, author’s note about microfinance and how to wear a saree.

http://www.mitaliperkins.com/pdf/RickshawGirlDiscussionGuide.pdf

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