Review Detail

Middle Grade Fiction 78
A look at life in Pakistan
Overall rating
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Omar is very pleased that he managed to get into the prestigious Ghalib Academy for Boys, but he is also nervous about it. It means leaving his mother and boarding at the school, and not coming home again until December. He's excited about learning about the planets, and looking forward to reacquainting himself with boys he met at the summer program at the school. He's sad about leaving his friends, especially Amal, who is back home after her horrible year in Amal Unbound. Ghalib is a great school, with a terrific library, new science labs, and a kind and supportive art teacher. Omar has good friends in Kareem, whose father works at the school, Naveed, and even older Faisal. Aiden, however, is cold and rude, and thinks the school is not very nice, since his father is very wealthy. Headmaster Moiz has put all of the Scholarship Boys into an English language class that he teachers, and Omar feels that he doesn't like him very much. The Scholarship boys also have to do five hours of service at the school, from folding laundry to cleaning to helping out in the kitchen, and are not allowed to be in any clubs. Most of the other students don't seem to look down at them for this, but the requirements of the scholarship don't allow much time for anything but studying. Omar does take a few breaks, and talks to his mother on the phone, but he is very concerned about his grades, especially since they aren't good in Moiz's class. He starts an interesting art project, and when he returns home in December, Amal tells him that he doesn't have to suffer through everything alone. He asks Moiz for help with English and starts to do better in class. His art project goes well, and he even starts to understand and befriend Aiden. When the end of the year rolls around, Omar and Naveed's grades aren't good for them to receive a scholarship the next year. They feel that the requirements are unfair, and rally the other students around this injustice. Will it be enough for them to be able to return?
Good Points
Amal Unbound has been a very popular book; it's being used by a seventh grade teacher for a class unit, and I'm sure that my readers will be very happy to see more about life in Pakistan. Any story that shows my students how lucky they are to be able to come to school every day is one that I enjoy, and Omar's struggles to do well in class are quite admirable. My students are interested in boarding school stories, so movie nights, sneaking into the kitchen, and playing sports with friends will appeal to them. Omar's family situation is very interesting, and it was good to see Amal's family again.

I would have liked to see more descriptions of the classrooms and activities, and also more adventures outside the school, but it's hard to fit everything into the book. One of the things I liked best about Amal Unbound was the description of every day life.

Readers who want to know more about the lives of children their age in other parts of the world will enjoy this one along with Hashimi's One Half From the East, Ellis' The Breadwinner, and Schroeder's Saraswati's Way.
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