Does My Head Look Big In This?

 Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah

This is the story of Amal, a Turkish/Australian who is in the 11th grade.  During winter break she makes the decision to wear the hijab full time.  This is the scarf head covering many Muslim women wear to cover their hair when they leave the house.  Amal makes this decision by herself.  She is not forced by her parents.  In fact her parents are concerned and don’t want her to rush into any decision.  After years in an Islamic school where the hijab was part of the uniform, she is going to a mostly white private school where she is the only Muslim.  (Her Islamic school only went to the 10th grade because of funding.) 

Amal knows there will be repercussions.  Many people do not understand her culture and will probably think she’s a terrorist.  But she’s worried most of all about the boy she likes, Adam.  He has been pretty friendly lately; will he still want to be her friend?

Amal shows such strength.  When her principal tries to ban her from wearing the hijab she is able to convince her otherwise.  While her friends accept her for who she is, Amal still has to endure comments, especially when a night club in Bali is attacked by terrorists.  The snobby and popular Tia does not make her life any easier either.

Amal has two good friends outside of school from her Islamic school, Lylia and Yasmeen.  Lylia is part of a very traditional Turkish family. Her mother wants to marry her off right now, and she’s only 16.  Amal and her parents have to deal with family and friends who are extreme and other family members that want to forget their roots and become more Australian. 

This book shows how hard it can be to straddle two worlds.  Amal likes Adam, but can never be his girlfriend because she does not believe in dating.  She is able to make friends and have a lot of fun, while not disrespecting her family and beliefs. Amal is such a great character.  I think young women will feel empowered reading her story no matter what culture they come from.

Some ideas for discussion with teens:

Would you change your outward appearance for you faith?

Do you know someone who has?

What kind of risks would you take to be different?

How do you think this decision changes Amal?

Talk about the different families portrayed in this story: from the ones who are more extreme to the ones who want to give up their culture and assimilate.

I Loved Harry Potter, What Else Should I Read? How About The Magician: The Secret Life of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott

When someone, young or older, asks me “I’ve read all the Harry Potter books, do you have anything else like that?”  I jump up and down and say. “Yes, I have just the thing!”

Nicholas Flamel, who is mentioned in the Sorceror’s Stone is the main character in series, The Secret Life of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel.  Michael Scott takes real figures in history and turns them into a race of immortal people.  Some are villians, trying to bring the dark elders back to rule the earth, while others are fighting them to prevent it.  FLamel has the help of Sophie and Josh, who are a set of twins with pure gold and silver auras.  They are assisted by a colorful cast from mythology and history.

Dr. John Dee is one of the main villains.  He wants to get his hands on the book of Abraham the Mage, which among other things holds the recipe to the elixir of life.  According to the John Dee Society, John Dee was a philosopher to Queen Elizabeth.  He did her horoscope and determined her coronation date astrologically.

Niccolo Machiavelli joins Dee in the second book, The Magician.  He lived from 1469-1527 in Florence.  He was a great writer whose most famous work is The Prince.  He wrote this work to tell rulers how to stay in power.   The adjective, “Machiavellian” comes from this work.

We all know about Joan of Arc.  But in this tale she is married to The Comte De St. Germain.  He was mix of man and legend.   According to Annie Besant’s book, The Comte De St. Germain, he was a known alchemist who was rumored to live 2,000 years.  In Scott’s book he is an immortal, and he’s a rock star.

The Morrigan is a goddess of battle, strife and fertility.  She is also known as the crow goddess.  Sometimes she is known as a single goddess in crow form or a trio of goddesses, known as Badb, Macha or Nemain.  She makes a pretty scary villain.

Scathach helps Flamel and protects the twins.  She is a Gaelic goddess of the dead.   She would guide those killed in battle to Tir Nan Og, the Land of Eternal Youth and Beauty.  In Scott’s book she is also a vampire.

Flamel and his wife Perenelle were real people.  According to Scott’s research, Flamel was an alchemist.  He and his wife left Paris to return many years later with great wealth.  They also had not aged.  When they later died, grave robbers broke into their tomb to find it empty.  This fed the rumor they were immortal.

Ideas for discussion with teens:

1.  Talk about all the characters in mythology and history.  Encourage them to explore.

2.  Talk about the differences in magic.  In Harry Potter the characters cast spells constantly without tiring.  In this series, they must charge up their aura to perform the magic and are tired very easily.  They must make choices and store up their magic.

3.  Which magic would they like to be able to perform?  Air, Water, Earth or Fire?  What would they do with it?

4.  What other great characters in history would make great villains or protagonists?

 

The Alchemyst is Micheal Scott’s first book.  The Magician is the second and the Sorceress is the third book which will be released in May of 2009.  I can’t wait to read it!

“Love is a dangerous angel.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

I fell in love with Francesca Lia Block’s writing from the first page.  She describes an ultra cool, surreal L.A. 

The beautiful super hip Weetzie Bat and her friend Dirk are the stars of her prose.  They make three wishes which come true, literally.  They want a cottage to live in, a duck for Dirk, (duck is slinkster-cool talk for good looking guy) and a secret agent lover man for Weetzie.

Dirk’s aunt passes away, leaving them a beautiful cottage on the edge of a canyon.  Dirk meets a gorgeous guy, named Duck.  And Weetzie meets a man named… wait for it… My Secret Agent Lover Man.  Bizarre? Yes!  When you read Block’s dreamy style it feels just right.

Weetzie ends up having a baby.  The father could be one of three people.  More and more people are added to this eclectic group of bohemian artists who live in this fabulous, love-filled cottage.  They make films, music and lots of drama.  With names like Angel Juan, Cherokee Bat and Witch Baby, the cast of characters become more colorful and more beautiful with each page turn.

Some examples of her writing: “Cherokee looked like a three-dad baby, like a peach, like a tiny moccasin, like a girl-warrior who would grow up to wear feathers and run swift and silent through the L.A. canyons.”

“His eyes that had always been like lakes full of fishes, or waves of love, of bathtub steam and candle smoke, or at least like glasses of gin when when he was sad, were now like two heavy green marbles, like the eyes of the mechanical fortune-teller and on the Santa Monica pier.”

“Cherokee noticed that the air was beginning to change, becoming powder-surgery with pollen as if invisible butterfly wings and flower petals were brushing against her skin.”

Teen Discussion Ideas:

1.  Is this really happening?  Or is it more of a dream?

2.  Take turns reading passages aloud and talk about the imagery.

3.  What would your three wishes be?

4.  What would happen if they came true, literally.

5.  Dirk’s aunt died to make his wish come true.  How would your wishes affect others around you?

Block has so many other books!  The Weetzie Bat books are her most famous.  I hope to eventually read all of her work.