Farah is trying to navigate fifth grade and protect and care for her kindergartner brother, all without worrying her parents.
Farah lives in Harbortown with her parents and younger brother, Samir, who has special needs. Her friends call her Farah Rocks since her Arabic last name, Hajjar, means “rocks.” Farah and her best friend, Allie Liu, are excited to apply to the Magnet Academy for middle school. Farah must keep her grades up and write an essay for the application, but she has a lot on her mind. Compounding her general anxiety about leaving Samir if she gets into the new school is a bullying new white student, whose cruelty to her little brother doesn’t seem to bother Allie enough. When she tries to tell the adults at school, no one takes her seriously. Readers will ache as, acting out of care and love, Farah takes a risk when she attempts to take on the bully without the help of her parents. Darraj writes a strong character who must take on a lot as a fifth grader. Intimate cultural details—Farah’s dad says “bancakes” because “in Arabic, the letters p and v don’t exist”; the family has the surname Hajjar due to their Jerusalem stonecutter origins—add to the authenticity of the portrayal of the family’s Palestinian ethnicity. Allie and her family are Chinese. A hummus recipe and glossaries of Arabic and select English words are included at the end.
Readers will be eager for this empathetic protagonist’s next appearance. (Fiction. 8-12)