More to the Story by Hena Khan [in Booklist]
Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women gets a diverse contemporary makeover in Hena Khan’s (Amina’s Voice) latest middle-grade novel, relocated to Atlanta, featuring the Muslim Pakistani American Mirza family’s four daughters – Maryam, Jameela, Bisma, and Aleeza – with their father working in Abu Dhabi, and introducing London transplant Ali who’s living with his U.S. relatives who happen to be the Mirzas’ close friends.
A journalist-in-the-making, 13-year-old Jam is a diligent features editor for the school paper, even as she’s often at odds with her editor-in-chief-nemesis. Her assignment to interview Ali for his new-kid impressions evolves into a timely piece on microaggressions – but threatens their growing friendship. Meanwhile at home, Bisma’s cricks and aches are not without serious cause, and the whole family must rally for her recovery.
Priya Ayyar nimbly embodies the entire extended clan, most comfortable as feisty Jam, who takes the narrative spotlight. With subtle shifts in tone and pacing, Ayyar effortlessly morphs into patient Mama, faraway Baba, mature Maryam, gentle Bisma, and spirited Aleeza; she’s least effective as Ali, often inconsistent with his British accent, but Jam’s enthusiasm dominates the performance with plenty of convincing energy.
Readers: Middle Grade