Ahmed Aziz’s Epic Year

HarperCollins/Quill Tree. Jun. 2021. 320p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780063024892.
Gr 3-7–Ahmed Aziz recalls the year when he was 12 and forced to move from Hawaii, the only home he’d ever known, to his father’s hometown in Minnesota so that his father could receive lifesaving medical treatment for a genetic illness. Frustrated by his parents’ choice to move to Minnesota and his lack of control over his life, Ahmed reluctantly embraces his new community and faces the looming legacy of his late uncle’s life and death. When a neighborhood bully targets him, Ahmed must decide who it is he wants to be; it is an epic year indeed! In this moving and well-paced novel, Hamza sensitively offers a multidimensional portrayal of characters, young and old, and skillfully weaves in a narrative of the power of good teaching and literature. Young readers resistant to reading may relate to Ahmed’s initial feelings about books, while fans of the works discussed within (including Louis Sachar’s Holes and Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia) will be delighted. References to the family’s Indian heritage and Muslim religion are seamlessly interspersed throughout, offering a warm and authentic depiction of an American Muslim family.
VERDICT A strong debut destined to become a classic. Recommended for classrooms and libraries of all types, particularly where Zanib Mian’s “Planet Omar” series flies off the shelves.

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