Barakah Beats by Maleeha Siddiqui

Barakah Beats by Maleeha Siddiqui. Scholastic, 2021. 9781338702064

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: ARC (10/21 pub date)

Genre:  Realistic fiction

What did you like about the book? After being homeschooled for most of her life, Pakistani-American Nimra Sharif is entering public school in seventh grade. And it is like the “fifth circle of hell” – noisy, intimidating, with people eyeing her hijab and assuming she can’t speak English. Luckily there is Jenna, who has been her best friend forever. Except, Jenna just doesn’t seem as there for her as she used to be. When popular eighth graders Waleed, Bilal, and Matthew (who are Muslim like Nimra) recruit her to sing with them in their band “Barakah Beats,” it seems like the perfect ploy to get Jenna to pay attention to her again. Nimra loves hanging out with them and with Bilal’s sister Khadijah, but she does feel conflicted about making music. Nimra and her family believe that music is inconsistent with their faith. Should she tell her parents about Barakah Beats? Or just hope that her plan to regain Jenna’s friendship by being the star of the band will go without a hitch?

Nimra’s first person account of practicing her religion in the hectic milieu of middle school is illuminating and fresh. Finding time for her midday prayers, dealing with micro-aggressions around her hijab, and navigating the social “hell” of the middle school cafeteria are all interwoven into a believable tale.

Anything you didn’t like about it? I felt that Nimra’s lighting-fast rise from obscurity to popularity was not totally believable.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Middle grade fans of Helena Khan’s books and any readers who enjoy immersing themselves in a realistic family centered story. A good choice for libraries looking to diversify collections.

Who should buy this book? Elementary and middle school and public libraries

Where would you shelve it ? Fiction

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: August 30, 2021

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