I know this AR 2.1, 156 page graphic novel probably doesn’t deserve a review, but for as important as OWN voice books are, books with Muslim characters thrown in the mix are important for representation too. Yes sometimes we are the star and we definitely need to tell our own stories, but we are also friends, and side-kicks and supporters too. In this case we are a purple duck with a headscarf named Aziza, that thinks she is smarter than the other 4th graders in Mr. Wolf’s class, but fits right in with the quirkiness of the anthrmorphized cast too. There is nothing mentioned about the scarf or about Aziza’s faith, there is also a boy named Abdi in the class that is a cat and could also be Muslim, but really, in this silly book which is the start of a series, I was just so giddy to see a Muslim included and grateful for the representation.
It is the first day of 4th grade and Mr. Wolf is nervous. Margot is new too, but the other kids seem to know each other already. Aziza, Abdi, Randy, Sampson, Henry, Penny, Bobby, Lola, Oliver, Stewart, Miguel, Noah, Molly, Lizzy, Oscar, and Johnny are all different animals and all unique. The book is really just a handful of the characters trying to survive the first day of school. Whether it be confronting another teacher about stealing your stapler, making a friend on the bus, having rats steal your lunch, falling asleep in a box because your new baby brother kept you up on all night, or trying to figure out why you have to show your work when on a math assessment. The book will resonate with kids 2-4th grade and make them giggle at the silliness of it all.
WHY I LIKE IT:
I love that the teacher is more nervous than the kids about the first day of school and that they all seem to be doing the best they can. Aziza is earily irritated by her classmates who don’t seem to want to do their work, but she is no more annoying than the other students and all seem to have diverse backgrounds and issues at hand. The author was an educator and the book reads true to any one who has littles or has been in a school environment, making it all the more charming. There are four books thus far in the series and my kids say Aziza features prominantly in the second book too. I have had this book in my house for a while now, and for some reason just now paid attention to the cover today when begrudgingly scolding my kids about leaving books out everywhere. I asked if the duck had on a hijab and two of my boys without budging to put away said book, replied, “yeah it is Aziza.” As if seeing a muhajaba duck is the norm, who knows maybe it is. So, I sat down to read the book with enthusiasm and 20 minutes later, thought how great it is to be included. Representation does shape perception, and non Muslim kids may not think anything of it, or my own kids who are flooded with Islamic fiction books, but I can only imagine how ecstatic I would have been as a kid to be included as the norm without fanfare or explanation given.
They talk about if farts are better or ice cream in the creation of a venn diagram.
TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:
Wouldn’t do it for a book club, but would definitely have it in a class library and school library. Fun book, seemingly fun series, and easy reading for all levels.