This new series featuring Sadiq, a Somali American living in Minnesota, is great for early chapter book readers looking for representation and diversity. There are four books about Sadiq, his family, and his friends and classmates in third grade, and all are either an AR 3.6 or AR 3.5. At 57 pages long, divided into five chapters and filled with bright and colorful illustrations students in grades 1st through fourth, depending on reading level and interest, will enjoy these simple plotted, yet relatable stories.
Sadiq’s friends are all getting ready to try out for football, but his parent’s say that he is too young for such a rough sport and has to wait until he is 12 like his older brother, Nuurali, did. Sadiq’s parents and family encourage him to try another sport, and with a new running club starting in a few days coached by a member of the national team, that’s what he opts to do. Begrudgingly he joins the team, but is hurt when his friends talk about how much fun football is and how much more tough and difficult it is compared to running. While this is going on, he is getting support from his brother to keep running, and from his teammates, but it is hard and he doesn’t enjoy it. Slowly, he starts to improve, however, and with the Fun Run the climax of the book he sails across the finish line in first place when he sees his friends have come to cheer him on!
WHY I LIKE IT:
I love that the book/series proudly features a Somali-American-Muslim family. There is information about Somali at the beginning as well as some Somali terms and a portrait with names for the members of Sadiq’s family. The mom and older sister wear hijab, “Salaam” is one of the defined words and the characters use it when they meet. I also love the diversity of skin tones in the illustrations and one of the girls on the track team wears a scarf as well. There are Muslim named kids and non Muslim named kids in the story, and while Islam isn’t mentioned outright, it is definitely represented through the characters words, names, and appearances.
The story is straightforward and perfect for the age group, the books in the series do not need to be read in any order, and you will get to see the different supporting casts featured more prominently in different books, thus getting to know Sadiq and his world. I like that he doesn’t get his way, and doesn’t get to do what all his friends are doing, but he makes it work. He is grumpy and upset, but he doesn’t get obnoxious or overly whiney. I think this subtly gives readers some tools and insights to model in their own disappointments. I also like that while he has to put in the work and fix his attitude, he doesn’t have to do it all alone. His family and coach are supportive, and eventually his friends apologize and support him too. For the simplicity of the book, you actually do get invested in his little trial and want to see the outcome.
None, it is clean.
TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:
This book is like a boy protagonist version of the Meet Yasmin books, they show a kid of culture in everyday experiences. The target audience wouldn’t make it work for a school wide book club, but I think early elementary teachers would benefit from having the series in their classrooms and letting kids in small groups discuss if they want. These books would be great for first graders that are way above reading level and parents are struggling to find appropriate books.
The end of the book has some resources as well: a glossary, discussion questions to talk about and some to write down, as well as a home workout guide and information about the author and illustrator.