ArabKidLitNow! recommends Lubna Taha and Maya Fidawi’s chapter book, Mama, My Classmate:
Awards: WINNER of the 2018 Etisalat Prize for Arabic Children’s Literature in the “Best Text” category
Author: Lubna Taha
Illustrator: Maya Fidawi
Publisher: Salwa Books
Reading ages: 6-9
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Buy in Arabic: From Al Salwa Books
This charmingly relatable eight-chapter book is told from the perspective of young Noora, who — spoiler alert — is also the book’s author. Noora has lots of nightmares, but the worst of all is one that comes true when her mom decides she wants to improve her English.
Noora’s intrepid, fearless mom isn’t just the sort to change her own tire at the side of the road, which is embarrassing enough. She also wants to learn English, and so she comes to sit in on Noora’s very own English class.
Noora is understandably mortified by this development, especially when one of the other girls — Rana — realizes the new grown-up student, Abeer, is Noora’s mom.
Even worse, Noora’s mom is good at English class, and she makes friends with the other girls. Noor’s mom wants to work together on their homework, but ugh! Noora is having none of it. Anyhow, she has other subjects, too.
Then one day, when Noora’s mom is out sick, and the other girls genuinely miss their friend Abeer, Noora comes to appreciate her mom’s presence. In the end, her mom even helps her to write this book.
Mama, My Classmate is a wonderful story about a mother’s continuing education and the very relatable embarrassment this brings to a young girl, and how she (slowly) gets past this embarrassment. It’s relatable for any reader (since all our parents are embarrassing, at some time or another!), but especially for kids whose parents are language learners.
Sample from Chapter One:
Do you ever have nightmares about school?
There is one nightmare where you find yourself in the middle of the school playground. You’re wearing your pajamas, and all the other kids are gathered around, laughing meanly.
Or there’s one where you accidentally fart in the classroom. Everyone knows you’re the one who did it, and they’re all pointing at you and giggling.
Or there’s the nightmare where the other kids steal your shoes, and you have to walk all the way home barefoot.
Or the one where you suddenly fall asleep in science class. When you wake up, you’re surrounded by kids who are mimicking the sound of your snore:
Or… or… or… or… I mean…
Aaaahhh! I’ve had all these nightmares so many times. And honestly, they really scare me!
But the biggest and most dangerous nightmare is one that appeared to me all of a sudden. This nightmare was worse than you could possibly imagine.
Yes, this was the worst nightmare that can happen to any person. It’s a nightmare so scary I couldn’t even believe it.
The title of this nightmare is:
Mama Is My Classmate.
And yes, what I’m saying is true. My mom is now in class with me!
Additional material available upon request.