Thursday, December 23, 2010

Little House on the Prairie by Sister Kari Ansari

Another series of books I read as a child are the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Laura Ingalls Wilder grew up as a child on the American prairie with her wanderlust father, mother, and sisters. Her biographical books begin in “the big woods” of Wisconsin and follow her life as her family pioneered across the Midwest. As you read the books you are amazed at how tough these folks were as they survived and settled the western territories that are now Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota, and Missouri. As the natural world around them was harsh and wild, the family remained kind and gentle to each other.

What is wonderful about the books in addition to the honest voice in which she wrote about her life is the way the books grow in sophistication with her as she grew into a young woman. The Christian values taught by Laura’s parents are quite similar to those a Muslim family values, and I also think these books offer insight into true Christian family life that can be very relatable to a Muslim child.

While this series is written primarily about girls, boys will be quite interested in Laura’s life as well. Farmer Boy is the story of Laura’s husband, Almanzo Wilder and may be the first book of hers to be given to your son. Once he get a taste of Mrs. Wilder’s books, your son may be inspired to read more.

If your child enjoys one of these books, keep your eyes open for the Scholastic book flyer that usually comes home from school with your kids. They usually offer this boxed set for a great discount. It’s well worth it!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Series of Unfortunate Events

Review by Sister Kari Ansari

I simply love these books. If ever there was a children’s author who respected the intelligence and sophistication of his readers, it’s this author. These books use language in a manner that is so engaging, intelligent and fun, your kids don’t even realize that they are enriching their vocabulary while reading. The stories feature the misadventures of three orphaned siblings, the Baudelaires, who, by using their own intelligence and wit overcome all sorts of outlandish misfortunes. I recommend these books for kids no younger than 3rd or 4th grade, as they are more sophisticated in theme and plot than the books referenced above. Publisher’s Weekly writes, The author uses formal, Latinate language and intrusive commentary to hilarious effect, even for readers unfamiliar with the literary conventions he parodies. The peril in which he places the Baudelaires may be frightening (Count Olaf actually follows through on his threats of violence on several occasions), but the author paints the satire with such broad strokes that most readers will view it from a safe distance.

Book Recommendations Ages 9-12+ by Sister Freda Shamma

Hiaasen, Carl. Flush. Noah’s dad is passionate about the environment, but reacts without thinking and ends up in jail. Noah and his younger sister, Abbey, have to get proof of the polluting gambling casino. The parents are portrayed as multi-dimensional characters with virtues and flaws, and everyone has an important role in the family.

Spinelli, Jerry. The Library Card. Four humorous and tender stories about how a library card can change lives. Parents are shown as positive, and supporting. says, “Street kid Mongoose must decide whether to follow a friend clearly on his way to trouble or seek his own path. April, just moved from New York to an isolated farm, needs a friend. Deprived of television for a week, young Brenda must learn to handle her restlessness and figure out whom, besides those goofballs on television, lives inside her head. A grieving Sonseray, barely realizing he’s in need, finds comfort and a reassuring connection to his dead mother.”

Nicholson, William. The Wind Singer, Book 1 in the Wind on Fire Trilogy. One of the twins is all action, and the other is all feeling, including feeling whatever another person is feeling. Together they are forced to leave their loving family and go into the unknown world to find the key that will make the wind singer tower sing, which will free them from the sinister Morah.   Although they are afraid of the different groups of people they encounter, they learn that most of them are basically kind people.

Helwani, Najiyah Diana. Sophia’s Journal: Time Warp 1857. A modern Muslim American hijab-wearing girl hits her head and wakes up in Kansas, in 1857. She learns to deal with the facts that she is the only Muslim in the area, and there are no modern conveniences; and to trust that Allah has a reason for putting her there. This is an excellent historical novel, with excellent character development of a strong Muslim teen that has to deal with important issues such as slavery, and marriage with no Muslim males in sight.

Stewart, Trenton Lee. The Mysterious Benedict Society. Four brilliant children with different kinds of intelligence work together to thwart an evil plan. Three of them are eleven years old, and the fourth seems to be an uncooperative midget. One has a photographic memory and is a speed-reader. The second is a logical thinker, and the third has the intelligence and skill to solve problems in a physical way (rope climbing, etc.). The ‘midget’ turns out to be a very precocious two year old, with the clear mind and absolute stubbornness of her age. They all seem to be orphans, but at the end are reunited with their families or adopted by loving people.

Crossposted from Muslim Family Life