A Book I Remember From My Childhood

Yesterday’s prompt in Sandman’s 30-day book challenge is a book you remember from your childhood. I didn’t really like reading as a child, but I liked listening to audiobooks. Most came from the library for the bblind, but a few didn’t.

Particularly, I remember my grandpa had read one of my father’s cousins a book on cassette tape sometime when my father was still young in the 1950s or 1960s. My grandfather passed it on to me as a child. It was called De kinderkaravaan and was written by An Rutgers Van der Loeff, published in 1949.

This book describes the journey of the Sager children on the Oregon trail in 1844. In the story, the oldest boy, John Sager, leads his younger siblings from fort Hall to the Marcus Whitman family in Oregon after the rest of his trail decide to go to California. The story begins at Fort Laramie in present-day Wyoming, with the trail still intact and the Sager parents still alive. The Sager mother is pregnant with her seventh child at the time, who is born on the trail. By the time the trail reaches Fort Hall though, both parents have died and the children are supposedly getting to live with different families on the trail. John convinces the other men to let the children stay together except for the baby. He gets the baby from her caregiver when the trail is about to go to California, because he feels his parents would’ve wished them to travel to Oregon. As such, John and his younger brother Francis lead the children on a walking trail to Oregon.

Supposedly, the story is based on real events. Rutgers Van der Loeff claimed to have gotten a newspaper article from an acquaintance alerting her to the family’s adventure. Indeed, the Sager family did exist and John and his siblings did lose their parents. I only found out about a year ago that Rutgers Van der Loeff had many names and ages of the Sager children wrong. The Sager children also never traveled alone and the newspaper article claiming they did, was fabricated. The mix-up of the names and ages more annoyed me than the fact that the children’s adventure wasn’t as heroic as the author makes it look.

Maybe a year after my grandfather gifted me the cassette tapes with this book on them, my mother recorded another book by the same author for me. It is called Het licht in je ogen (which translates to The Light in Your Eyes) and is about a boy going blind from cornea damage. I loved that book too.

What book do you remember from your childhood?

Top Ten Books Younger Me Would Have Loved

I’m a day late joining in with Top Ten Tuesday (#TTT), for which the theme this week is books your younger self would have loved. I wasn’t much of a reader as a child. I loved being read to, but hated reading myself, especially in Braille. I was fourteen when I first discovered reading for pleasure through Caja Cazemier’s books.

I didn’t know enough English to read any of these books at the appropriate age. Actually, I didn’t know enough English to actually understand most books much until I was at least fifteen. Even then, only classics were available in accessible formats here in the Netherlands. For this list, I’m pretending that either younger me knew enough English or the books were available in Dutch. Most of these books weren’t published when I was young anyway.

1. Peter’s Asparagus by Angela Nicole Krause. This is a chapter book about a young boy with Asperger’s (autism). I read it in early 2014 and loved it. Of course, younger me didn’t know I am autistic and Asperger’s wasn’t even added to the DSM as a diagnosis till 1994, when I was eight. Still, well, my inner children find it incredibly validating.

2. A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold. This is a book for slightly older children on the same topic. I read it in like 2018 and really feel it would’ve been a delightful read for younger me, even though it isn’t as relatable as the above one.

3. Deaf Child Crossing by Marlee Matlin. I didn’t finish this one, but I think my younger self would have loved to read it.

4. Lila and Hadley by Kody Keplinger. Okay, I see a theme emerge here. This one wasn’t published till a few weeks back and I haven’t read it. I want to, but it’s nowhere to be found in Dutch eBook stores. This one would definitely have encouraged younger me.

5. Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan. As a child and tween, I loved learning about different cultures. There was a whole series of children’s books about different countries and cultures out there back then, but as far as I know, the authors weren’t from those cultures. Khan is Pakistani-American and I loved her book. See my review.

6. Pictures of Me by Marilee Haynes. I read this one over New Year’s and loved it. It’d for sure be a comforting read to fifth-grader me.

7. Wonder by R.J. Palacio. I am 75% done with this one and think it’d for sure have given younger me some perspective.

8. Unspeakable by Abbie Rushton. Okay, I’m branching out into young adult books now. I really loved this one when I read it some five years ago and teen me would have loved it too.

9. Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart. This would definitely have comforted teen me that she’s not alone in having problems. See my review.

10. Diagnosis Asparagus by Catherine O’Halloran. Okay, there are no doubt a ton of other books in the fiction category that younger me would have loved, but I just had to include this one. This one provides a teen’s perspective on being diagnosed with Asperger’s.

As a bonus, I’m going to mention Freaks, Geeks and Asperger Syndrome by Luke Jackson. That one was published around 2003, when I was self-diagnosed with Asperger’s. I would have loved it if my parents had allowed me to read it then.

What books would you wish your younger self had had access to?

Book Review: Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan

If there’s one good thing coming out of the COVID-19 thing, it’s that I have finally come to enjoy reading again. I wouldn’t know what to do otherwise, as it was recommended my husband do not visit me for the next two weeks. We are to have as little contact with people outside of the facility as possible. That way, it is hoped that the virus doesn’t enter here. I doubt it’ll work, but oh well.

I downloaded the middle grade novel Amina’s Voice already when it first became available on Bookshare a long while ago. I started reading it last January, after I finally finished Pictures of Me by Marilee Haynes and wasn’t done with middle grade yet. Then, adult and young adult novels caught my attention again. This past week, I’ve been reading a lot, so I finally finished this read. My review may contain spoilers.

Synopsis

A Pakistani-American Muslim girl struggles to stay true to her family’s vibrant culture while simultaneously blending in at school after tragedy strikes her community in this sweet and moving middle grade novel from the award-winning author of It’s Ramadan, Curious George and Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns.

Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin.

Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized.

Amina’s Voice brings to life the joys and challenges of a young Pakistani American and highlights the many ways in which one girl’s voice can help bring a diverse community together to love and support each other.

My Review

I am horrible where it comes to reading diverse books. I mean, I read some fiction featuring LGBTQ+ characters and of course I love books portraying disability. However, where it comes to ethnic and racial diversity, I’m clueless. I saw that some book bloggers were featuring books by authors of color for Black History Month, which was last month I think. Then I thought, how do I even have a clue which authors are Black? I obviously can’t tell by their names and, being blind, I cannot see their pictures. Then again, I guess I’m not particularly drawn to books featuring racially diverse characters either, and I can’t use my blindness as an excuse for that. OMG, I don’t want to use this book as a token diverse read and that’s exactly what I do now! And Hena Khan isn’t even African-American. Sorry.

Anyway, I’m saying all this to make the point that I was very clueless when I started reading this book about what it would be like being Amina. I didn’t understand some of the terminology at first, but I grew accustomed to it pretty soon. I actually loved learning more about Pakistani-American culture and Islam.

More importantly though, this book is about friendship. Amina at first isn’t sure about Soojin hanging out with Emily, but finally she learns that Emily is nice after all. I loved reading about the development of their friendship.

I also loved reading about the support Amina’s classmates and their family, including Emily, offer when the mosque is vandalized.

An aspect of the book that isn’t mentioned in the synopsis, is Amina’s uncle visiting from Pakistan. At first, he is critical of American culture and feels Amina is brought up un-Islamic. He too learns to accept differences of culture and religion eventually.

Overall, I loved this book! Its terminology, including the Islamic words, were understandable. It was an awesome way of learning about Pakistani-American culture. I also could relate to the identity issues Amina was facing. In this sense, it really is a cool read for everyone, whether you belong to an ethnic minority or not.

Book Details

Title: Amina’s Voice
Author: Hena Khan
Publisher: Salaam Reads / Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication date: March 14, 2017

Read With Me

November 2019 To-Be-Read List

I haven’t read that much in the past few months, but this week, I’m enjoying reading again. I discovered a To-Be-Read list linky, so am linking up there. I still have a huge pile of books I’d like to read or am reading but haven’t finished. Here are a few I’m planning on reading this month.

1. Matilda by Roald Dahl. I think I said before that I read it a ton of times in Dutch as a child, but now I’d like to read it in English. I’m choosing the audiobook version narrated by Kate Winslet.

2. Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart. This one has been on the list of books I can’t wait to read for months. It was published last month and I fully intended on buying it on Kindle as soon as it came out. That didn’t work though, as I don’t have my husband’s current credit card details in my account yet. Just now, I had the amazing idea of checking whether the book is on Bookshare before I buy it once I do have my husband’s payment details. And guess what? It is! This sounds like such an amazing book.

3. Left Neglected by Lisa Genova. I started this one a few months ago, but never got beyond the first chapter. Not because I didn’t like it, but because other activities got in the way of my actually reading.

4. Unthinkable by Helen Thomson. This month is somehow dedicated to nonfiction. I love the topic of this book. As you can see, medicine is my thing.

This is another book I’m partway through already. I really want to read some new stuff too, but can’t think of any right now. I mean, of course, I have a huge TBR pile, but I don’t want to up the pressure by forcing myself to read more than I comfortably can.

5. Preemie Voices by Saroj Saigal. This is a collection of letters from people born very prematurely in the late 1970s to early 1980s. They share their experiences and advice for parents of currrent day preemies. I was a preemie too, slightly younger but now at the average age the preemies in this book were when they wrote the letters. I feel there’s a lot I can relate to in this book. Even more than when I started reading it some five years ago when it was published.

What’s on your to-be-read list for this month?