June 19, 2018

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Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed | SLJ Review

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redstarSAEED, Aisha. Amal Unbound. 240p. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Bks. May 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399544682.

Gr 5-8 –Amal is an inquisitive young girl living with her family in a Punjabi village in rural Pakistan. Inspired by her favorite teacher, Amal dreams of becoming an educator. However, the tween has to stay home to run the household while her mother recovers from postpartum depression. Her ambitions fade away completely, though, after an accident involving the car of the wealthy Jawad Sahib, and she becomes a servant in Sahib’s house to pay off her family’s debts. Amal discovers the strength to overcome her harrowing circumstances, while making new friends and finding comfort in books and learning. What follows is Amal’s social awakening. She finds the courage to fight for justice on behalf of herself and her community. Saeed’s middle grade debut shares an empowering message about the importance of family, literacy, and cultural ties. The rich storytelling, nuanced characterization of an all-Pakistani cast, complex and layered look at the socioeconomics of the region, and richly described setting make this ultimately hopeful contemporary tale a good alternative to Gloria Whelan’s Homeless Bird and Patricia McCormick’s Sold. VERDICT A strong choice for all middle grade shelves, especially where readers are seeking stories about young girls in non-Western countries overcoming adversity.–Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

This review was published in the School Library Journal June 2018 issue.

Shelley Diaz About Shelley Diaz

Shelley M. Diaz (sdiaz@mediasourceinc.com) is School Library Journal's Reviews Team Manager and SLJTeen newsletter editor. She has her MLIS in Public Librarianship with a Certificate in Children’s & YA Services from Queens College, and can be found on Twitter @sdiaz101.

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