Tuesday, April 29, 2008

My Friend Jamal - Anna McQuinn

Title: My Friend Jamal

Author: Anna McQuinn (artwork by Ben Frey)
Year: 2008
Rating: 5 out of 5

This book is about a friendship that transcends cultural differences. The narrator, Joseph, introduces us to the friendship he has with Jamal, who was born in the same hospital as Joseph, but whose family is from Somalia. Both boys enjoy the same activities: basketball, playing superheroes, and talking too each other too much at school. With simple prose from the perspective of a young and innocent mind, we learn about the bond between two boys despite the difference in their lives.

At Jamal's we get to eat sitting on the floor. It's like a picnic every day!
My favorite thing to eat at Jamal's house is Sabayad, which is a kind of pancake.
When we have pasta, Jamal's mom puts a banana in it-which sounds weird but tastes awesome.
I asked my mom if we could have banana in our pasta at home. She says she'll think about it.

I love this picture book! It is an ideal story for discussing cross-cultural friendships with pre-readers and young readers. Joseph tells about the two families in a straight forward way free of bias and ethnocentricity. Anna McQuinn covers a lot of topics in this little book: tolerance of different religions, refugees and civil war, English as a Second language, and differences within a culture and religion -

I met one of Jamal's aunts at the party. She was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt.
I thought if you were Somali you had to wear Somali clothes, but she said you can still be a Somali in jeans!
His aunt didn't wear a headscarf like Jamal's mom. I asked her why not and she said she only wears it when she prays.
I asked her lots of questions.

Although at first glance the illustrations and photographs didn't appeal to me, as soon as I read the story I saw how well they tie together. The illustrations, a combination of photography and art, are bright and bold, and complement the narrative.

Despite the serious undertones in the story, it consistently remains light-hearted and age-appropriate. It is refreshing to see a children's book addressing the topic of cultural diversity in such a non-judgmental way. Many adults would benefit from reading this book too!  

1 comment:

beastmomma said...

That sounds terrific. Thanks for letting us know about it.