The Secret Diary of Mona Hasan

Tundra. May 2022. 296p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780735271494.
Gr 5 Up–“All this time, I had thought wars happened in far-off places to far-off people,” speaks to the nuanced voice and clarity of Hussain’s fictional narrator. Set during Operation Desert Storm in the United Arab Emirates and told in a perspective like Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl, this novel for middle grade readers shares the daily thoughts and interactions of Mona, a young Muslim girl. Told over one year, Mona’s voice is poignant and optimistic. She makes friends, immigrates with her family to Canada, and falls in love. This book includes excellent vocabulary development, as Mona looks up and explores words such as feminism and retaliation. Upper elementary and middle grade readers will identify with this spunky, thoughtful, 12-year-old heroine. She ends her diary with a class assignment in which she writes, “Even though I’ve met many great heroes, the primary guiding hero of my life that I’d like to present is myself, Mona Hasan.”
VERDICT Inspired by Hussain’s childhood, the short vignettes of this book are perfect for reluctant readers and may spark conversations about war, Operation Desert Storm, immigration, international affairs, the Muslim religion, and school equality for girls.

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