By Ardo Omer
This is the first time the FOLD is doing a kids version of our annual reading challenge and we’re starting the year off with debut Muslim authors. We have suggestions for young adults, middle grade readers and the picture book fans. All of our recommended writers are also Canadians! Enjoy!
1) As Long As the Lemon Trees Grow, by Zoulfa Katouh (Young Adult)
An epic, emotional, breathtaking story of love and loss set amid the Syrian revolution. Burning with the fires of hope and possibility, AS LONG AS THE LEMON TREES GROW will sweep you up and never let you go.
Salama Kassab was a pharmacy student when the cries for freedom broke out in Syria. She still had her parents and her big brother; she still had her home. She was even supposed to be meeting a boy to talk about marriage.
Now Salama volunteers at a hospital in Homs, helping the wounded who flood through the doors. She knows that she should be thinking about leaving, but who will help the people of her beloved country if she doesn’t? With her heart so conflicted, her mind has conjured a vision to spur her to action. His name is Khawf, and he haunts her nights with hallucinations of everything she has lost.
But even with Khawf pressing her to leave, when she crosses paths with Kenan, the boy she was supposed to meet on that fateful day, she starts to doubt her resolve in leaving home at all. Soon, Salama must learn to see the events around her for what they truly are-not a war, but a revolution-and decide how she, too, will cry for Syria’s freedom.
2) Nura and the Immortal Palace, by M.T. Khan (Middle Grade)
Aru Shah and the End of Time meets Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away in this mesmerizing portal fantasy that takes readers into the little-known world of Jinn.
Nura longs for the simple pleasure of many things—to wear a beautiful red dupatta or to bite into a sweet gulab. But with her mom hard at work in a run-down sweatshop and three younger siblings to feed, Nura must spend her days earning money by mica mining. But it’s not just the extra rupees in her pocket Nura is after. Local rumor says there’s buried treasure in the mine, and Nura knows that finding it could change the course of her family’s life forever.
Her plan backfires when the mines collapse and four kids, including her best friend, Faisal, are claimed dead. Nura refuses to believe it and shovels her way through the dirt hoping to find him. Instead, she finds herself at the entrance to a strange world of purple skies and pink seas—a portal to the opulent realm of jinn, inhabited by the trickster creatures from her mother’s cautionary tales. Yet they aren’t nearly as treacherous as her mother made them out to be, because Nura is invited to a luxury jinn hotel, where she’s given everything she could ever imagine and more.
But there’s a dark truth lurking beneath all that glitter and gold, and when Nura crosses the owner’s son and is banished to the working quarters, she realizes she isn’t the only human who’s ended up in the hotel’s clutches. Faisal and the other missing children are there, too, and if Nura can’t find a way to help them all escape, they’ll be bound to work for the hotel forever.
Set in a rural industrial town in Pakistan and full of hope, heart, and humor, Nura and the Immortal Palace is inspired by M.T. Khan’s own Pakistani Muslim heritage.
3) Dear Black Child, by Rahma Rodaah and Lydia Mba
In a commanding and energetic collection of poetry and nonfiction essays, writer Furqan Mohamed (she/her) breathes life into themes surrounding community, Canadian identity, Somali heritage, racism, colonialism, and family. Mohamed is incredibly sure-footed in her self-exploration, and gracious enough to let readers bear witness in her latest publication, A Small Homecoming.