Genie Meanie

Orca. (Orca Echoes). Sept. 2020. 96p. pap. $7.95. ISBN 9781459823983.
Gr 1-3–Eight-year-old Kiara Prasad just wants to start third grade on a good note, without worrying about the racist bully in her class. So when she discovers her recently deceased grandmother left her a genie in a bottle labeled Zayn Garam Masala, she thinks her problems are solved. Only, Zayn’s been trapped for 1,000 years, and he seems more interested in bossing Kiara around than granting her wishes. Can Kiara and her best friend Bai learn to stand up for themselves instead of freezing up or running away? While Narsimhan’s examination of bullying is a bit oversimplified and leaves a lot to be desired in terms of adult intervention, the introduction of a whimsical genie to the story makes this illustrated chapter book an entertaining read for fans of Kate DiCamillo, Debbi Michiko Florence, and Kelly Starling Lyons. And, best yet, Narsimhan leaves the story open to a possible series, as Zayn shows no signs of leaving even after Kiara’s situation is resolved. Kiara and Zayn are Indian, while Bai is Chinese; the school bully and Kiara’s teacher both present as white.
VERDICT Overall, a fun read that tackles adversity and bullying in a relatable way for young readers. Recommended for purchase.

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