Yasmin the Writer & the Friend

Today is a 2-for-1 as I picked two new Yasmin stories from the library. My review of the first book (a collection) Meet Yasmin! is at the close. You don’t have to start with the first book, but you might find the subsequent books even more delightful if you do.

YASMIN WRITER COVERYasmin the Writer by Saadia Faruqi.  Illustrated by Hatem Aly

Picture Window Books (Capstone), 2020.  Hardcover Early Chapter books, 32 pp.

Included: 3 post-story prompts to “Think About It, Talk About It;” “Learn Urdu with Yasmin!;” “Pakistani Fun Facts;” and a craft idea.

Writing assignments are a classroom staple and Ms. Alex asks the class to write an essay with the topic “My Hero.” Unsurprising, classmates announce famous people as their subjects: Muhammed Ali (because they share a name); Rosa Parks (because she is inspiring). Even Yasmin’s mother, when helping her research people & ideas, pulls up a list of famous people. But none of those people were her hero.

As Yasmin discovers an essay to be harder to write than she’d anticipated, her mother is cooking dinner, taking calls, finding lost pajamas, and soothing her after a nightmare. It isn’t until Mama “saves [her] from an empty stomach,” that Yasmin realizes who her hero is. Ms. Alex agrees: “Heroes don’t have to be famous people. Sometimes they are ones closest to us.”

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interior of Yasmin the Writer by Saadia Faruqi & Hatem Aly

Three short chapters long, large font, good spacing, and appealing illustrations make these an obvious choice for beginner readers, but the story (as with all Yasmin stories) is what will be the true draw for the reader and caregiver. Faruqi crafts an engaging protagonist and surrounds her with enjoyable characters. Faruqi never oversimplifies nor overly complicates her narratives. The pacing is wonderful, moments built and timed beautifully. Faruqi places the mother so naturally into the story and its progression; she’ll become more and more the focus, moving from the story’s and Yasmin’s periphery until she comes bursting through the lunchroom door.

Aly is a great storytelling partner in illustrating some really marvelous moments: Yasmin at the table, despairing (hilarious); Mama holding her; that lunchroom scene; a caped Mama…

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back cover of Yasmin the Writer by Saadia Faruqi & Hatem Aly

It may be a subtle point, but I enjoyed how different and acceptable the first drafts were. Ali drew a picture, Emma listed facts. There are different approaches to writing essays and Ms. Alex (who is always awesome) and Faruqi (who is also awesome) celebrate that.

Yasmin is a great series to share with a young reader. Yasmin the Writer may have even more delightful results beyond an engaging character and narrative: maybe the young Reader will want to also be a Writer and write about the heroes closest to them? Not that we need more selfish reasons to read Yasmin stories with our young ones, Faruqi and Aly are a joy.

YASMIN FRIEND COVERYasmin the Friend by Saadia Faruqi. Illustrated by Hatem Aly

Picture Window Books (Capstone), 2020. Hardcover Early Chapter book, 32 pp.

Included: 3 post-story prompts to “Think About It, Talk About It;” “Learn Urdu with Yasmin!;” “Pakistani Fun Facts;” and a craft idea.

Yasmin has an idea of what her and her friends will play when Emma and Ali come over. So does Ali. And Emma. Ali is learning to juggle. Emma was recently gifted a jump rope.

From the very beginning, Baba encourages Yasmin to consider and ask what her friends want to do, which is hard because Yasmin really wants to play dress-up. When she complains that they are not being very good friends because they are doing what they want to do, the question is unavoidable: just who is being the bad friend? Also whatever will Yasmin do? The friends came over, presumably to play together, but they are all doing their own thing.

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interior pages from Yasmin the Friend by Saadia Faruqi & Hatem Aly

Yasmin has her Eureka! moment and comes up with a game that combines all their interests. It turns into silly fun and by snack time, they are ready to enjoy their cookies, gajar, and glasses of mango lassi—together.

Faruqi writes a familiar scene from—er—childhood here. And in her usual spirit, the answer is a creative one: juggling while jumping rope in costume. Yasmin’s frustration at the unexpected turn playtime takes translates. In words and text, her excitement and expectation build and crumble. But no one can blame Emma or Ali for their own individual enthusiasm.

Baba offers excellent reminders and advice in being hospitable. “Friends are a blessing. We should make them happy.” I like that the situation is complicated by the part where it isn’t just Yasmin and Ali who have a singular interest, but enter Emma and the jump rope as well. But they are friends for a reason, and are all reminded there at the end that they did want to be together.

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interior pages from Yasmin the Friend by Saadia Faruqi & Hatem Aly

Three short chapters, large font and spacing, expressive pictures will help a beginner reader. Finding a conflict that will resonate and a solution that is inspired will further provide a positive reading experience. Yasmin is an authentic character with wise parents and friends she cares about. Those following the series will also smile when Yasmin tells her friends the costumes were made by Nani (her grandmother)—Yasmin the Fashionista from Meet Yasmin! is a wonderful story.

Faruqi and Aly have created and continue to successfully build a full and colorful life for Yasmin and her family and friends.  It is easy to recommend these stories for any household of young readers.  Good friends that they are: Faruqi and Aly further spoil us in that Yasmin is Pakastani, that Urdu is laced in, that the home, the clothing, the food are offered as an opportunity to see more on the pages, hear more in the narratives we imbibe, and share.

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Read the Fun Facts alongside the young reader, review the Urdu glossary. Drink a Mango Lassi, it’s delicious, and have some gajar, they are good for your eyes.

Noted: the Urdu words are not italicized, which I love and I believe is important. They are legitimate, and they are not foreign words, especially to Yasmin and those readers who will see themselves in her even more clearly than most.

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My review of Meet Yasmin! which has 4 stories/volumes: the Builder, the Explorer, the Fashionista, and the Painter.

Published by L

I read, and I write. and until recently, I sold books.

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