Zara's Rules for Record Breaking Fun
Meet Zara Saleem, the queen of the neighborhood.
Zara’s in charge of it all: she organizes the games, picks the teams, and makes sure everyone has a good time…and they always do.
When a new family moves in across the street, suddenly Zara’s reign is threatened by Naomi, who has big ideas of her own about how the neighborhood kids can have fun. To get everyone to notice her again, Zara decides she’s going to break a Guinness World Record—if her little brother Zayd doesn’t mess things up.
But when she finds herself increasingly alone in her record-breaking quest, Zara starts to wonder if sharing the crown and making a new friend might end up being the best rule of all.
Zayd Saleem's sister gets her own story
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Zara, the older sister of Zayd Saleem, is the "queen" of her neighborhood, or is so called by kindly older neighbor Mr. Chapman. When Mr. Chapman moves, he leaves her a necklace with a crown charm on it, and Zara is very apprehensive about who might move into his house. Her neighborhood in Brisk River, Maryland has a lot of children, and they all play together pretty well. When the new residents include Naomi Goldstein, who is in Zara's grade, and her older brother Michael, Zara's mother has her take over cookies. Naomi is attending the Jewish Day School, but gets along well with the other kids in the neighborhood. Almost too well for Zara's taste, since her other friends start to bail on her plans to follow Naomi. When her uncle gives her some of his old books, include a Guinness Book of World Records, Zara decides to try to break records so that the kids in the neighborhood still find her interesting. She tries to make the longest chalk drawing, and spend the most time tap dancing and hula hooping, but is not successful in any of her endeavors. Naomi tries to make the biggest rugelach, but also runs into trouble. Zara's grandmother understands, and helps her by explaining some of the activities she did as a girl growing up in Lahore. When Zara finds out that there is a long, official process to make it into the record book, she starts a neighborhood record book, and the children find this a lot easier and more fun to try to get into.
Zara's neighborhood seems like such a fantastic one, with all of those children! I always wished that there were more children near me when I was growing up, and I know my own children liked to be able to walk or bike to find friends to play with. Her neighborhood is also very culturally diverse. Her jealousy of Naomi is understandable, and the way that she reacts to losing the interest of her friends is realistic. She has a great, supportive family, and the brief interactions with her grandmother are very charming, and everything works out well in the end. This was a fairly short book with great illustrations.
This must be set before the Zayd Saleem books, since he is in fourth grade in those, and in about second grade here, so be aware of this if you have read the books about the young basketball player.
My gold standard for early elementary realistic fiction is Carolyn Haywood's Betsy books, and this had the same great neighborhood feel. I can see Zara and Betsy hanging out with fictional characters Nina Soni, Jasmine Toguchi, Cleo Edison Oliver, Lola Levine, Stella Diaz, and Mindy Kim.