Ask a Bookseller: 'Ahmed Aziz's Epic Year'

A book cover showing a boy with a backpack.
"Ahmed Aziz's Epic Year" by Nina Hamza

This week's book recommendation travels full circle from Washington state bookstore back to Minnesota author. Shannon Brown of Wishing Tree Books in Spokane recommends Nina Hamza's debut novel, "Ahmed Aziz's Epic Year." It's a middle grade title, which Brown says will appeal to readers in 5th through 8th grade.

The school year for 12-year-old Ahmed Aziz has the potential to be epically awful. He is starting a new school, having moved from Hawaii to Minnesota so that his father can seek medical care for his serious, rare disease. Ahmed lands himself a bully on the first day, but he hesitates to add to his parents' worries by turning to them. His little sister seems to be getting along fine. Why can't he?

"I love that the story doesn't talk down to children about the hard times they are going through," said Brown.

She also appreciates that the situation starts to shift thanks to Ahmed's excellent English teacher, who assigns him three classic books: "Holes" by Louis Sachar, "Bridge to Terabithia" by Katherine Paterson, and "From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler" by E. L. Konigsburg.

Reading isn't Ahmed's favorite thing, but he finds he connects with these books, and, what's more, the stories prove helpful on his journey through the year. Ahmed realizes that this year has the potential to be epically awesome, given the right perspective.

Before you keep reading ...

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