Peachtree Publisher’s Book Tour
by Farhana Zia
Inside Jacket: Aliya already struggles with finding her place, feeling confident enough to talk to the cute boy, and being brave enough to stand up to mean kids—the fact that she’s Muslim is just another part of her life. But then Marwa, a Moroccan girl who shares Aliya’s faith, if not her culture, moves to town. Marwa’s quiet confidence leads Aliya to wonder even more about herself: who she is, what she believes, and where she fits in. As the school year passes, Aliya explores her dreams and fears in letters to Allah, hoping that with hard work and faith, something beautiful will grow in the garden of her imaan—the small quiet place within, where belief unfolds, one petal at a time.
First Sentence: There is a lake not far from my house, with a sandy beach on one end and spongy walking trails on the other.
Fifth-grader Aliya is trying to find her place at school where she can be herself, stand up to Austin—the school bully—with confidence, and talk to cute Josh. At home, Aliya lives in a blended generational home with her Badi-Amma (great grandmother), Amma (grandmother), brother Zayd, and both parents. The family is very functional, living by the customs of the Muslim religion, though liberally. On Sundays, Aliya wears a scarf on her head when attending Sunday school at the Islamic Center, but does not during school.
Then a new girl enters the fifth grade. He name is Marwa and the principle chooses Aliya to guide her. Marwa is from a strict Moroccan family that practices strict Muslim traditions. Marwa wears a hijab to school (which is teased), and carries her lunch, which has proved “stinky” to the some of the less polite students. During Ramadan, a month long fasting period, Marwa fasts during the school day, while Aliya does not. Marwa carries herself with a quiet confidence, something Aliya would love to have. Austin tries to bully Marwa, but she stands up to him.
During Ramadan, a Sunday school assignment has Aliya doing something that will improve herself; make herself a better person. Aliya decides to write letters to Allah. At first, the letters are mere gripping. Soon, Aliya is telling Allah all about her day and asking for advice. Aliya’s letters to Allah and Marwa’s friendship help Aliya understand herself and her beliefs. By stories end, Aliya has blossomed.
I liked The Garden of Imaan because it dealt with some things I knew nothing about, but now do. Marwa was herself, and all that meant, every day. Raised a strict Muslim, she wore a hijab to school and never bowed to the pressures of some of the kids who taunted her and her beliefs. She had a confidence that seemed unafraid, even of the school bully who she eventually befriended. This confidence was born from her beliefs and her faith.
Aliya struggled with her faith and with herself. She could not stand up to Austin and actually anticipated his daily taunts. Though she never denied her Muslim faith at school, Aliya never did anything that made her stand-out, which was fine with her, until Marwa came to town. As the story progressed so did Aliya. She learned more about her faith and began to own it. Her grandparents figured prominently in her life. The entire family treated the two grandmothers with respect, with honor, and valued their elder’s advice.
I liked how Marwa’s willingness to be herself and wear her beliefs literally on her sleeves. Marwa never judged, she stood up against Austin and even found a way to make him a friend. Marwa is a wonderful role model for Aliya, arriving at a time when Aliya began questioning everything about her life. In an election, Marwa did not use the same methods as the other students. She did not use the typical poster touting her skills. Her selflessness won out, to many students’ surprise, including Aliya. These kinds of actions changed Aliya and some of the other students as well. Can one person really make this much difference in the world? The Garden of My Imaan seems to be saying, “Yes!”
At the end of the book is a glossary of the Arabic terms used in the story. It is not necessary since each word is defined in the text and/or use in a sentence. Still, it was nice to have that list as a reminder. I think kids will like this story. It is the story of a bully, peer pressure, class status, the Muslim faith, and one girl’s journey finding her own beliefs and faith. Most importantly, kids will learn many things about the Muslim life that they probably do not know or understand. I learned a lot and was pleased to learn it. Conflicts will occur less the more we learn about each other.
***Tour Schedule Below
*** Erik, of ThisKidReviewsBooks.com will be reviewing The Garden of My Imaan in the weeks to come. Once posted, you can read it HERE.
by Farhana Zia website blog facebook twitter Peachtree Publishers website blog facebook twitter Released May 1, 2013 ISBN: 978-1-56145-698-7 236 pages Ages: 8 to 12 . Copyright © 2013 by Peachtree Publishers Text: Copyright © 2013 by Farhama Zia
DONATED TO LOCAL PUBLIC LIBRARY
PEACHTREE PUBLISHER’S BOOK TOUR
The Garden of My Imaan
The Streetlight Reader