My Name is Bana by Bana Alabed, illustrated by Nez Riaz

My Name is Bana by Bana Alabed, illustrated by Nez Riaz. Salaam Reads: Simon and Schuster, 2021. 9781534412484 

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

Format: Hardcover biography

What did you like about the book? Bana Alabed (Syrian refugee and human rights activist) tells the story of her name, Bana (a tall bushy tree that grows in Syria, which her mother perceives as strong). Bana first explains what it means to be strong: we study to have strong minds, we exercise to have strong bodies; it means being brave and speaking out even when you’re scared. Woven into the next part of the story is what it was like for Bana as a very small child to endure the war in Syria, being scared by the war but also not really understanding what it meant. Bana’s family was lucky enough to be able to immigrate to another country where she had to make new friends, learn a new language, and get used to a new society. At some point (and it’s not clear how or why this happened), Bana became a speaker for Syrian children and children throughout the world who have been affected by war. The end of the book goes back to Bana’s name and its strength and thus, Bana’s strength. 

Anything you didn’t like about it? I did not know who Bana was before reading this book and I’m very glad to have “met” her. This was a beautiful book that would benefit from an overview of who Bana is before reading. There were some holes that made the storyline lose its flow.

To whom would you recommend this book?  This is a great book for picture book biography readers and those interested in the social and emotional costs of tough situations (war, poverty, food scarcity, etc.) on children.

Who should buy this book? This is a picture book, but it runs the age range from very young to middle school. It is a beautifully and gently told story about children and war that would work for the very young but also for understanding trouble and trauma for the older crowd. 

Where would you shelve it? Put it either in the biography or picture book section.

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

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Pam WattsFlavin, Head of Children’s Services, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: November 21, 2021

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