"After her tribal village is attacked by militants, Amira, a young Sudanese girl, must flee to safety at a refugee camp, where she finds hope and the chance to pursue an education in the form of a single red pencil and the friendship and encouragement of a wise elder"--
This was a wonderfully done story, written in prose verse with gray-scale illustrations. The 'novel in verse' format doesn't always work out great, but here it is fantastic. I felt like I really got a sense of Amira's voice and personality, as well as a story that was compelling me to read on. The illustrations are lively and feel like they could be Amira's creative expressions.
I also appreciated that while the story doesn't shy away from difficult topics (e.g., war, death, even child marriages), it doesn't laser in on those with gratuitous horror. The focus is always on hope and the possibility of what's next. The idea that education can help change the world leaves for a cautiously optimistic ending.
Backmatter includes a note from the author explaining some of her inspiration and meticulous research; a glossary of Arabic words and one of English terms that might be new to young readers; and a pronunciation guide.
The only reason I don't give this book a full 5 stars is one thing did not sit right with me. Amira's younger sister Leila is born with some physical maladies and while it's lovely that the family says they embrace her and love her no matter what, Amira is constantly referring to her as 'bent,' 'broken,' 'crooked,' etc. I wasn't a fan of that.
Still, I highly recommend this beautifully told tale overall and will leave you with my favorite poem from it:
To craft letters.
To see reading's beauty.
To write English.
To recite the Koran, our holy book.
To know reading's music.
To me, these are wondrous treasures.