The Shabanu Series
The lives of Shabanu and her family are governed by the winds that sweep across the Cholistan Desert and by centuries-old traditions. Like the winds that carry rain and violent wind storms, traditions are mindless of the desires of a young woman coming of age. Shabanu’s older sister is betrothed to a young man from a family of small landholders, and their father has arranged for Shabanu to marry by the next monsoon. Just as Shabanu grows accustomed to the idea the marriage plans are scuttled by a shocking act of violence.
The family is saved when a wealthy landowner falls in love with Shabanu. If Shabanu agrees to marry him her family’s honor and fortune will be assured, but she will live a life of servitude to his older wives. Her decision rests on whether she chooses to betray her family or herself.
Awards: Newbery Honor; International Reading Association Young Adults’ Choices; Notable Book in the field of Social Studies; IRA Teachers’ Choice; Horn Book Fan Fare Honor Book; New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year; ALA Best Book for the Young Adult;
ALA Notable Book
Like the fiery desert birds caged on her husband’s veranda, Shabanu longs for choices she’s not free to make. Rahim, an older, powerful clan leader, adores his youngest wife but fails to protect her and her daughter Mumtaz from the pampered women in his household who despise Shabanu for her youth and for her influence over Rahim. Shabanu plans carefully for a future for herself and Mumtaz, knowing they will have no place in the family home at Okurabad after Rahim’s death. A visit to the haveli – Rahim’s home within the ancient city of Lahore – starts a sequence of events that threatens Shabanu’s plans and, ultimately, her life. In the haveli, she falls totally and unexpectedly in love with someone who is as bound by tradition as she is.
Awards: Family Choice Award; ALA Notable Book
The House of Djinn
In this commanding sequel to Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind and Haveli, Suzanne Fisher Staples returns to modern-day Pakistan to re-examine the juxtaposition of the tradition of arranged marriage and modern ideals of love.
Awards: Society of School Librarians International Book Award Honor Book; Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year
Recommendations: Booklist; Bulletin-Center Child Books; Horn Book; Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review; Publishers Weekly, Starred; School Library Journal; VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates)
Born during the worst storm ever seen by her small village in India, Parvati is both blessed and cursed with mysterious powers that confound her family and neighbors. Wild animals flock to her; she is able to charm fish, birds, even deadly cobras. But Parvati’s truly exceptional talent is her ability to dance like the Hindu god Shiva himself. At age 6, she hurls herself into a cooking fire and dances safely through the flames, emerging without a single burn. These powers terrify the other villagers. Only her mother Meenakshi loves and believes in her, protecting her from their curious and hostile stares. The guru Pazhayanur Muthu Kumara Pillai, a famous master of classical dance, hears of Parvati’s talent and comes to offer her a position in his gurukulam, in the city of Chennai. Once there, she questions her dharma, as she experiences both a devastating loss and a blossoming romance. Through it all the fire of Shiva burns within her, and Parvati knows that, despite all other callings, she was born to dance.
Awards: New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age List; Parents’ Choice Gold Award; Parent’s Guide Award, 2000; Publisher’s Weekly Best Books; .Book of the Year, Bank Street College; YALSA Popular Paperbacks
Under the Persimmon Tree
“As long as you know the stars, you will never be lost. . . .The Koran says that Allah gave us the stars to be our guides . . .Everything depends on the stars. From them you can tell time and distance and you can find your way home.”
Najmah, a young Afghan girl whose name means “star,” suddenly finds herself alone when her father and older brother are conscripted by the Taliban and her mother and newborn brother are killed in an air raid. Elaine, whose Islamic name is Nusrat, is also on her own. An American, she has come to Pakistan with her Afghan doctor husband so that he might run a clinic in Mazaar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan. She waits out the war praying for her husband’s safe return, while teaching refugee children in Peshawar in her garden under the persimmon tree. Najmah’s father had always assured her that the stars would take care of her, just as Nusrat’s husband had promised that they would tell Nusrat where he was and that he was safe. As the two look to the skies for answers, their fates entwine. Najmah, seeking refuge and hoping to find her father and brother, begins the perilous journey through the mountains to cross the border into Pakistan. And Nusrat’s persimmon-tree school awaits Najmah’s arrival. Together, they both seek their way home.
Awards: International Reading Association Notable Book for a Global Society; Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award Master List; Book Sense Notable Book,; New York Public Library List of Best Books; Parents Choice Gold Award; American Library Association “Best Book”; YALSA Selection; New York Public Library’s Books for the Teen Age selection; Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choice; Skipping Stones honor award; Tennessee Volunteer State Award Master List; Maine Student Book Award Master List; Montclair (NJ) Reads selection, Arlinton (TX) Reads selection
Dangerous Skies is the story of a friendship that takes root among the grasses and mud flats of the back creeks of the Chesapeake Bay. Buck Smith is descended from the settlers who came from England in the 1700s to farm Virginia’s Eastern Shore, Tunes Smith from slaves who were brought from Africa to work the Smith farm. They were raised together from infancy; their friendship is as true and constant as the tides. But as they grow older, the adults around them become more watchful. Buck resists change, but the sudden and horrifying events of a spring afternoon change their world forever.
Awards: IRA Notable Book for a Global Society; American Library Association Best Book for YA; National Council for Teachers of English Notable Children’s Book in the Language Arts; Publishers Weekly Best Book list; Bank Street College Children’s Book of the Year; Dutch Foundation for the Collective Promotion of the Dutch Book Golden and Silver Kisses recommendation; The Black Experience in Children’s Books; Maud Hart Lovelace Award; Minnesota Youth Reading Awards; Virginia Young Readers Program Reading List; Pennsylvania School Librarians Association’s Best of Best Fiction; Parents’ Choice Gold Award
The Green Dog
The summer after fourth grade, a lonely girl wants a dog. It’s all she can think of. She tries everything to convince her parents to let her have one, but her brother’s allergies and the general bother of owning a dog keeps her parents from saying yes. She is sure she’ll spend another whole summer alone — dogless and friendless — with no one to share her adventures in the woods and waterways of northeastern Pennsylvania. Just when things look bleakest, a charming dog finds her. He looks exactly like the dog she’s been dreaming of, and together they spend long, golden days fishing, swimming, and exploring the woods. Jeff works his magic on everyone in the house and becomes part of the family, but it’s soon evident that he has a nose for trouble. Suzanne’s father rapidly loses patience with Jeff. “One more incident,” he warns, “and that dog is going to the farm.” Suzanne does not know what or where the farm is, but she’s certain this is not good news. Suzanne Fisher Staples’ heartwarming and funny story taken from her childhood will remind readers of all ages what it’s like to wish for something so hard — and to love something so completely — it makes your heart ache.
Awards: American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults; IRA Notable Books for a Global Society; NCTE Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts; Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year; Books for the Teen Age, New York Public Library; Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Books of the Year.