This is a great choice for a younger teen or as a read-aloud for the whole family. Fadi is a 12-year old boy who is fleeing Afghanistan during the height of the Taliban's regime. His father, Habib, was a professor in the United States that brought his family back to their homeland in the hopes that they could make a difference and help rebuild the country after the Soviets left.
As Fadi, his parents and his two sisters board an illegal caravan to Pakistan, the Taliban begins to pursue them. In the chaos Fadi lets go of Mariam, his 6-year old sisters hand. Only to discover moments later that she was left behind. The family has no choice but to continue onto San Francisco, as their asylum status for the United States will soon run out. The family leaves word with all of the NGO's in the area to look out for Mariam before they head on. Of course this is an agonizing decision that depresses Fadi and the rest of his family. Not to mention the guilt that each of them feel and the self blame.
Fadi must start to pick up the pieces and begin a new life in the US. He starts a new school and slowly begins making friends, however he can not stop thinking about Mariam. He finds out that the schools' photography club is part of a photo contest and the winner can take a trip to India. Fadi is certain that this will be his ticket to find his sister and reunite his family.
But can one photo really bring Mariam home?
This is an exciting page-turner and a good way to discuss issues in Afghanistan and the immigrant experience with teens and older children. I am looking forward to reading this out loud to my kids when we go to the cottage in a few weeks.
Signs of Martha by Sarah Raymond
This is a really funny book. Martha is 16 and stuck in small-town Ontario. She feels pigeon-holed: a round peg in a square hole of her family and town's expectations on her. Martha is spending the summer picking cucumbers on her friends farm, trying to decide if she truly likes her boyfriend John, and avoiding her father's hair-brained business schemes. That is until Velvet, the newly arrived local artist and sign painter arrives on the scene.
Velvet's ideas and "worldly" experience begin to inspire and motivate Martha to follow her dreams - however much pressure she is feeling from everyone else around her. Unfortunately Martha's chosen medium, may just upset the people she cares about the most. My favourite line in the novel is: "Dreams are like cucumber blossoms: highly delicate and embarrassingly loud in colour". I laughed along with Martha's predicaments and her determination. This is a good summer pick.