Jennah’s New Friends By: Suzy Ismail

Standard

ImageThis book is presumably book one of the BFF SISTERS series, however, the author’s website doesn’t list any other books in the series and it was published in 2001, so it is unknown if more books are in the works.  At 64 pages, the intended audience is girls between ages 7 and 12, but I would note that there are no illustrations and while it is broken into chapters (on average about 10 pages long) the text and layout would be daunting to the average 2nd and possibly 3rd grade student. 

SYNOPSIS: 

Jennah lives in a neighborhood with lots of Muslims and lots of friends, but when a new girl moves in, Jennah is afraid that her best friend Yasmeen would rather be best friends with the new girl, Mariam.  Jennah not only is afraid of losing her friend, but there is a lot going on at home too, her mom is about to have a baby, her younger sister is always bothering her, and her dad is constantly away on business.  Alhumdulilah, Jennah is surrounded by supportive adults, forgiving and generous friends, and an Islamic foundation that allows her to sort out her feelings and create a Hadeeth club with All her new friends.

WHY I LIKE IT:

I love that it is a clean book for the elementary age group, the girls do not have boyfriends and while hijab is mentioned in passing, the girls are a group of kids that are dealing with the constant struggle of all girls that age: friends.  Each girl in the BFF club is from a different background, Arab, Pakistani, African American, one’s parents are converts, and at the end a non-Muslim joins the group, truly someone for every reader to identify with.  I think most every girl reading this book can relate to the struggles amongst friends, being the new kid, having younger siblings, trying to fit in, and jealousy, all topics touched on, however the book is an awkward read.  I can’t decide if the book is a short story that got too long, or a novel that wasn’t fleshed out.  The beginning drags on as the foundation of who all the characters are is established, and at times Jennah seems very whiney and immature with problems that wrap-up with little explanation or insight.  Everything often seems too “perfect” and Jennah’s problems petty when all the surrounding characters are so over the top forgiving and generous.  The book left me wanting to know more about the backgrounds of the supporting characters, and more about how Jennah felt.  I think readers may get lost with all the characters, but if they can sort it out, I think they will see themselves and their friends in the pages dealing with the same issues they deal with every day.

FLAGS:

Clean

TEACHING THIS BOOK:

I probably wouldn’t teach this book for the intended audience, or share it as a book club, however, one-on-one the book would be a great starting point for a discussion with a girl having problems with friends. 

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