Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Sonya Sahni and the First Grade {book review}

Sonya Sahni and the First Grade is a children's picture book that addresses what it's like to feel "different" from one's peers, and sends the message that differences are ok, and in fact pretty cool. Sonya is a first grader, born in America to Indian parents. Her parents are very traditional and want her to embrace her Indian culture. As a family they eat traditional foods and wear traditional clothes. But Sonya yearns to fit in with her American classmates - to wear jeans and find sandwiches in her lunch box. She is keenly aware of being different, and is sadly teased by the other children because of the food she brings.

After a particularly difficult day, Sonya's parents meet with her teacher, who comes up with a proposal to help all the children share and learn about each other's cultures. On International Day, each child in the class brings in traditional food reflecting their heritage, and many dress in traditional clothing. All the kids get to sample other cuisines and learn about other cultures. In the end, Sonya learns to appreciate the value of differences and accept her own mixed East-West blend.

Author Soma Mandal hopes we can all learn to celebrate our differences. "In this unique story, a little girl ... struggles with issues to grasp both sides of her cultures. I hope to inspire children to accept their backgrounds and embrace their cultures. I want to live in a society where all children can live and welcome differences instead of tearing them down."

This is a lovely book for early readers. It is written in simple, easy to understand language, and has great, colourful illustrations by Tim Williams. It is written in rhyming verse, which is not my favourite, but that's a personal quibble. Sonya Sahni and the First Grade would make a good addition to any school library, and can serve as a great resource to begin a discussion with our kids about differences and accepting others as they are. What a boring world it would be if we were all alike!

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Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book to facilitate this review. No financial compensation was received. All opinions on this blog, as always, remain my own.

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