Summary: Farah Rocks Fifth Grade
Farah Hajjar (her last name means “rocks”) is a smart fifth-grader who’s looking forward to sixth grade. She’s in advanced classes with her “Official Best Friend” Allie Liu and attends school with her little brother Samir. Samir was born premature and as a result, has extra challenges. He has issues, for example, with speaking clearly and writing his letters. Still, he adores his sister.
Farah’s parents are of Palestinian descent. Her father moved to America as an adult while her mother immigrated as a child. Farah is well aware of her parents’ financial difficulties and the sacrifices they make for her and her brother. She’s working toward attending Magnet Academy — a STEM-focused public school — with her best friend for middle-school. But her dreams begin to change when a new girl begins to bully her brother at school.
I enjoyed this chapter book! Chapter books can come off very young at times and frankly, with boring plots. However, there are many excellent ones and Farah Rocks Fifth Grade just joined the league for me. Farah’s family is realistic and I always enjoy reading about families with tight finances in middle-grade books. I think many kids need to see that reflected in books they read.
It’s also heartwarming to read of young characters who adore their siblings instead of the cliché sibling rivalry. Samir and Farah’s relationship is sweet. The author also stays true to the life of the first child of immigrant parents. It’s typical that such kids become second parents to their siblings. Something else I loved was Farah’s unabashed love of learning, school, and all things science. Her friendship with Allie is also another high point.
This book’s crux, however, is bullying and the many forms it can take. Sometimes no one is getting shoved, but mimicking people with a disability, being unnecessarily rude to others, and even whispering about them in plain sight constitutes bullying. Worse still, adults aren’t always great about spotting bullies and this can compound the problem.
Overall: Farah Rocks Fifth Grade
What a refreshing chapter book debut! Farah Rocks Fifth Grade is a much needed representation of a Palestinian-American protagonist in early readers. This heartfelt story is chock-full of family, friendship, culture, a realistic depiction of financial insecurity, and the repercussions of bullying. I would highly recommend it.
Related Reading: 25 Excellent Chapter Books to Read
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Have you read this chapter book? How do you feel about chapter books in general? I tend to prefer middle-grade novels as chapter books can skew young. But every now and then, I find a good one!