A Place at the Table by Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan

Another middle grade marvel with characters to love and a thick, rich, family story. Both of these girls, their determination to help their families, and they openness to each other was such a joy to see.


SYNOPSIS

Sixth-graders Sara, a Pakistani American, and Elizabeth, a white, Jewish girl meet when they take a South Asian cooking class taught by Sara’s mom.

Sixth-graders Sara and Elizabeth could not be more different. Sara is at a new school that is huge and completely unlike the small Islamic school she used to attend. Elizabeth has her own problems: her British mum has been struggling with depression. The girls meet in an after-school South Asian cooking class, which Elizabeth takes because her mom has stopped cooking, and which Sara, who hates to cook, is forced to attend because her mother is the teacher. The girls form a shaky alliance that gradually deepens, and they make plans to create the most amazing, mouth-watering cross-cultural dish together and win a spot on a local food show. They make good cooking partners … but can they learn to trust each other enough to become true friends? from Goodreads.

Two girls hands are show working at the table, one mixing batter and one drawing.

REVIEW

After finishing Greetings from Witness Protection by Jake Burt I had a bit of reading hang-over. That middle grade book hit all the right notes with me and had prominent parents in the story. I half heartedly picked up A Place at the Table by Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan reluctantly (only because I had the reading hang-over) and I was instantly sucked into the story. Back to back magical middle grade books!!

Sara and Elizabeth may come from different backgrounds but they are more the same than they are different. Both girls are adrift in middle school for different reasons and looking for a friend. Both have serious concerns about their families. And when they are (begrudgingly) paired together for an after school cooking class it opens the opportunity to talk. That communication in turns gives both girls a glimpse into their other’s lives and starts to bond them together.

The very best thing about this book is the friendship. No, wait, it is the learning to openly communicate. Hang on, maybe it’s the love the girls feel towards their families. Hmm, actually, it may be the realistic look at the difficulties of being new, being different, being on the outs with forever friends, and loosing loved ones. I can’t decide.

What I know for sure is that this year, 2020, is the perfect year to look for new friends. Really, every year is the perfect one to stand up against racism and micro-aggressions. Certainly, we should always seek to pronounce people’s names properly and be open to other cultures. Honestly, Sara insisting on respect in her friendship and Elizabeth finding the courage to be confrontational is a little bit of all of us. But the authors showing middle grade readers (and the rest of us) how to have open communication with our friends and our family is the best thing I could have read right now.

My only complaint is that the conversations about the South Asian food made me ravenous. Make sure that you have access to something delicious when you sit down to read this book because my frozen naan simply didn’t cut it.


The map of make-believathon has 8 red x’s marked through clues

I read this book for both the Shadow (read a book published in 2020) and the Fingerprint (A Book from another culture).


Tell me, please! Have you read any amazing middle grade books lately?


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