Nasreen’s Secret School

Nasreen’s Secret School: a True Story from Afghanistan by Jeanette Winter

The author of The Librarian of Basra brings readers another true story from the Middle East.  This is the story of Nasreen, a young Afghan girl who has not spoken since her parents disappeared.  Her grandmother hears about a school for girls which is secret and forbidden.  In the hopes of bringing Nasreen out of her silence, her grandmother enrolls her.  The girls attending the school must be clever.  They must leave alone or in small groups.  They must hide their schoolwork if they are inspected by soldiers.  Little by little, Nasreen and her classmates learn to read and write.  And little by little, Nasreen begins to join this community of women and girls.

Winter’s illustrations are are framed by lines and painted in thick acrylic paints.  This gives them the feel of more traditional work, though they depict modern life.  Though the situation is complex, Winter manages to tell the story in short sentences.  American children will learn of a society where people disappear and girls are not allowed to be educated, all explained at their level of comprehension.  Expect lots of questions and discussion after sharing this true story with children.

An important piece of work, this picture book allows children to glimpse another culture that is now intertwined with our American one.  Appropriate for ages 4-8.

Reviewed from copy received from publisher.

Also reviewed by A Year in Reading.

Waiting for Winter

Waiting for Winter by Sebastian Meschenmoser

As my son waited for the bus this morning, he asked when the snow was going to come.  Here in Wisconsin in mid-November that is a very good question and the answer is “very soon.” 

In this charmer of a picture book, Squirrel is told by Deer that it is going to snow.  Squirrel hasn’t seen snow before, so he decides to wait for it.  Deer explains that snow is “White and wet and cold and soft.”  But it is very hard to stay awake, so Squirrel runs up and down the tree trunk.  The noise wakes Hedgehog who agrees that he wants to see snow too.  The two of them stay awake by singing – sea shanties.  This wakes up Bear who waits with them for the snow.  But what is snow has already arrived and they haven’t recognized it?  So the three look around for items that match Deer’s description of snow with very funny results.  In the end, they learn exactly what snow looks like.

Meschenmoser excels at telling a story through few words and wonderfully evocative illustrations.  Just the appearance of the animals themselves shows how very tired they are.  The close-up of Bear’s face after he is woken up perfectly captures the grumpiness and bleariness of that moment.  All of the animals are wonderfully scruffy and real.  Hedgehog always has leaves and other objects stuck in his spines, and Squirrels wild fur carries a lot of his frantic pace even when still. 

The voice of the book is also right on the mark.  Told with great excitement and delight, the tone conveys their wonder at being able to see snow even before they have caught a single glimpse of it.  Meschenmoser’s pacing also works very well, filled with just enough tension but also forward movement.

A perfect choice for this time of year when snow would be met with cheers and joy by all of us who are waiting for winter.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from publisher.

Also reviewed by Fuse #8 and Through the Looking Glass.

Moomin Movie!

/Film has the news of a new Moomin Movie that will feature a song from Bjork.  This second Moomin movie, Moomin and the Comet Chase, will be done in 3D using the stop-motion style.

You can also see a trailer of the first Moomin film, Moomin and Midsummer Madness.  This film was created using footage from the Polish-Austrian TV series.