Summary: Wishing on the Same Stars
Wishing on the Same Stars in a debut middle grade novel by Arab-American author Jacquetta Nammar Feldman. It follows young Palestinian-American Yasmeen Khoury whose parents move from Detroit (which has a thriving Arab-American community) to San Antonio, Texas where there are few to no other Arab-American families. But just before Yasmeen despairs, she discovers that their next door neighbors are Arab-Americans too — only, they’re Israeli-American, not Palestinian-American.
She befriends their daughter Ayelet, but her father is not pleased, especially with the current Palestinian-Israeli tensions. On top of adjusting to a new school and finding her place in the world, can Yasmeen help her dad see beyond the differences?
This was a solid middle grade book. Books about the Arab-American reality are so few in kidlit. The only ones I can think of are Jasmine Warga‘s Other Words for Home and Susan Muaddi Darraj’s Farah Rocks series. So, I was happy to find this one. I also loved the plot and the topic of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which has had little to no coverage in middle grade literature, but is the reality of so many Arab-American children and their families.
Besides that big theme, this book has some wry humor and I loved Yasmeen’s observations about her parents and their quirks. It also touches on racism, not just that Yasmeen experiences, but also some Mexican kids in her friend group. I really liked Waverly’s character and loved that she got a chance to redeem herself.
Kids who like math may like to know that Yasmeen is great at math, Her sister Sara is a big reader who loves words and actually enters the National Spelling Bee in the course of the story. Yasmeen and her friends, on the other hand, get into a math contest and spend most of the book preparing for it. I liked the book’s resolution and enjoyed Yasmeen’s character growth throughout.
There was A LOT going on in this story. It makes for many themes to discuss, but there were so many friends (at least 5) with their own issues, plus Yasmeen’s family issues to keep track of. It also made the story longer than (I thought) it needed to be.
Overall: Wishing on the Same Stars
Wishing on the Same Stars is a moving, poignant exploration of finding common ground despite differences and strife. Featuring a much-needed Arab-American protagonist — who loves math and astronomy — and her vibrant family, this story shows how challenging it can be to make peace with one’s identity, especially when you don’t seem to have much in common with those around you. This story especially shines in its depiction of healthy, nurturing female friendships among tween girls and its portrayal of an Israeli-American and Palestinian-American family trying to co-exist in America. A solid debut worth reading.
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