This 36 page early chapter book is a good introduction to the concept that one person can make a difference. The seven chapters flow easily, and while the names of the cities, Freshtown and Dumpton are a little on the nose and the premise a bit of a stretch, fluent 1st and second grader readers will enjoy the story and delightful pencil illustrations of a kid changing things for the better and making a difference. One blatant hole for me was the lack of outright Islamic preaching. For a book that is not available in mainstream outlets here the US and only through Islamic book stores, I expected more than just a Muslim family with hijabi characters and Islamic names. I wanted cleaning up the environment and doing good deeds to have hadith and ayats quoted and referenced throughout, but alas there are none. So, I suppose the book isn’t “Islamic Fiction.” but, in my opinion it really could and should be.
Aliyah and her family have just moved to a new city, Dumpton. Transferred by her father’s work, the family is shocked by the trash, smell, garbage and flies everywhere. The kind neighbor lady brings them a pie and welcomes them to the neighborhood, but is later seen throwing a candy wrapper out the window. Aliyah is shocked that such a nice lady is also a litterbug. Aliyah calls a family meeting to come up with a plan to clean up Dumpton.
Each day Aliyah tries something new: cleaning up the street she lives on by herself, letting people know about littering, putting up signs, and finally on day four forming a clean up crew. But nothing works. Aliyah gets discouraged, but her parents encourage her to do the right thing no matter what.
The night before the first day of school Aliyah has an idea, she grabs a bunch of solid color t-shirts and a permanent marker and makes herself some shirts to encourage people to take care of their trash. Every day she wears a different one with a different saying and by the end of the week people are starting to ask her about them.
The following Monday, her brother joins her and wears a matching shirt to start the cycle again, but when she gets to school the two of them aren’t the only ones wearing yellow t-shirts that say “Littering Stinks.” Everyone is!
The principal calls her into the office to discuss the potential of children to change the pollution in their city and slowly but surely they get the city cleaned up.
WHY I LIKE IT:
I love that it encourages everyone, no matter how small, to make a differences and do what they can to make things better. I love that it doesn’t just happen and that she gets frustrated and has to power through and stay true to herself. The main character wears hijab, but there is no mention of religion or faith which would have added some depth to her as a character finding motivation from belief in a higher cause and a responsibility to the care of the Earth. Even some concern with starting at a new school as a hijabi would have possibly added some relatable connection to her personal strength and why she is willing to trust herself with the littering task at hand.
The premise that no one born and raised in the town seems to have a problem with the littering and pollution or that people from the outside haven’t been completely disgusted by it, but rather joined in over time, is a bit far fetched. Sure you could make the argument that in other countries this is how it is, but it seems like a bit of a leap given the setting of the book and the target audience.
Clean, haha pun intended?
TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:
This book is an early chapter book, not to be confused as being a book for early readers. The sentences and diction and vocabulary are for fluid readers that are just moving into short chapters and need a few illustrations, spaced lines and a bit larger font. There are questions at the end which would make the book a great small group reading to discuss, but definitely for early elementary. Would be a great inclusion in a unit on leadership, project planning, or Earth Day.