"And although she cannot stand, walk, talk, or play, I love her all the same!"
~ My Friend Suhana, Shaila & Aanyah Abdullah
The cover of this book makes me smile. Published in 2014, My Friend Suhana: A Story of Friendship and Cerebral Palsy by Shaila Abdullah and her daughter, Aanyah, is a darling book that will touch your heart. When Aanyah was in second-grade, she and her mother started to volunteer at a community center where they helped special needs children. This book was inspired by an essay Shaila's daughter wrote about her friendship with a girl she met there who has cerebral palsy.
The narrator in the book is an unnamed 7-year-old girl, who says that her friend Suhana "is like no other girl that I know". Suhana has cerebral palsy, which makes it hard for her to move and learn like other children. Each week, Suhana's friend visits her at the community center where she and her mom go to help out at a special needs class. She comforts Suhana by rocking her in her arms, and brings her pictures she has made of Suhana's favorite things, such as flowers.
I loved this picture book, and think it will delight children. The illustrations are bright, cheerful, and friendly. The book talks about cerebral palsy and special friendships in a manner that young children will understand. My Friend Suhana will help children learn the value of being compassionate to those who face physical challenges, and may encourage them to care for and make friends with children with special needs.
"And for once, Rani did not ask why. Families ran in different directions. Rani's friends were running behind their own families in a sea of color--red, blue, pink, and yellow. In their hands, they clutched what little they could save from the floods--a book or two, a favorite doll, a change of clothes."
~ Rani in Search of a Rainbow, Shaila Abdullah
Published in 2014, Rani in Search of a Rainbow: A Natural Disaster Survival Tale
by Shaila Abdullah and illustrated by Bijan Samaddar is based on the 2010 floods that affected 20 million people in Pakistan, which displaced over 8 million children.
Rani in Search of a Rainbow tells the story of this devastating natural disaster through the eyes of 8-year-old Rani. Terrible rain comes to Rani's village in Pakistan, causing rivers and creeks to overflow, and Rani's grandma, Daadi, says that they must leave. In fact, everyone in the village must leave, with only a few possessions. Rani's family is rescued by helicopter and flown to a refugee campsite with hundreds of others, who now live in tents.
Although Rani is living in a tent, she has a positive attitude. She yearns to be helpful to others, and when her mother helps deliver babies, Rani joins her. After Rani and a boy, Juju, accidentally tear an orange and white striped blanket in half, they become friends. This book features their friendship, and a special celebration of Eid, with small (but much appreciated) portions of haleem (a kind of stew), and popsicle treats afterward.
With simple words and colorful illustrations, Rani in Search of a Rainbow will teach young children about this natural disaster, and about the ways of another culture. It features a short glossary of Urdu words. The story is uplifting and hopeful, even though the flooding was a terrible disaster in Pakistan that displaced millions of people.
"He is one of those children who should have come with a manual. You know, those handbooks that tell you how something (or in this case somebody) works."
~ A Manual for Marco, Shaila Abdullah
A Manual for Marco: Living, Learning, and Laughing with an Autistic Sibling, published in 2015, is the newest book, written and illustrated by Shaila Abdullah, and also illustrated by Iman Tejpar, a very talented 12-year-old artist. Additionally, background art for this book was provided by 10-year-old Sophia Pirani, 11-year-old Aanyah Abdullah, and 2-year-old Aaliyana Abbdullah. The design and illustrations of this book are absolutely remarkable--it is hard to believe that children helped create them!
This fabulous picture book is dedicated to the Ali family, who inspired the author to write this book. A Manual for Marco is mostly written from the point of view of 8-year-old Sofia, Marco's younger sister. In the book, Sofia describes the things she likes, and the things she dislikes, about her autistic brother. The book lists things that are special about Marco, such as his exceptional ability in math, and things that are "not-so-special", such as his restrictive diet (he cannot have anything with wheat or dairy in it) which affects the whole family. It mentions that the family uses lists to help Marco, and the book itself features several lists. A Manual for Marco is loving and clever, and funny, at times.
Suitable for young children, A Manual for Marco would be helpful to children with autistic siblings, who may struggle at times with their feelings. There are tips for parents by Dr. Salima Ali at the end of the book, as well as a list of online resources for families.
Many thanks to Victor from Loving Healing Press for sending me this wonderful trio of books.
Thank you for reading! Your comments are welcomed.