My Name Is Bana

S. & S./Salaam Reads. Sept. 2021. 40p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534412484.
Gr 1-3–A winning portrayal from a child’s point of view of living through crisis. In this picture book autobiography, the young author features herself and her family in this tender and poignant recounting set in Syria during the war. With a scattering of Arabic words sprinkled throughout, Bana shares the story of her name and gives us a glimpse into life in a war-torn country. Bana is named after the bana tree her mother tells her: “I wanted you to be qawiun (strong) just like this tree.” Although Bana’s life is much like children’s all around the world, there is the ever present threat of danger. At times, Riaz’s illustrations portray the presence of danger with a combination of gritty artwork and soft edges yet they are always sensitive to the intended young audience. For the most part, we see a family reading, playing soccer, and spending time outdoors. Bana and her mother are deeply connected, and their love is apparent on every page. Strength of mind and character is an overarching theme in this story of a child living through war.
VERDICT Twelve-year-old Alabed has given the world a gift in a story that is realistic without being frightening and hopeful without being sappy. An important choice for all collections.

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