“Good summer holidays?” Bai said, plunking down on the seat beside me.
“My gran died. I miss her a lot.” My voice wobbled and I looked out the window, trying not to bawl so Matt wouldn’t have more to tease me about.
Bai gave me a big hug. “Sorry I wasn’t here for you. My parents had a lot of stuff to take care of, and we stayed in China longer then we’d planned. We only came back a day ago, or you and I could have hung out before school.”
“At least you came back! I don’t have to face third grade on my own.” We both glanced at Matt.
Genie Meanie is about a young girl, Kiara Prasad, and her efforts to stop a bully from picking on her or her best friend, Bai. Kiara is excited to discover a genie in a bottle left to her when her grandmother passed away. Kiara believes that his genie, named Zayn, is the solution to her bully problem, and she can’t wait to use wishes to end the bullying! An important plot point to note is that Zayn is invisible to all but Kiara. Unfortunately for Kiara, Zayn (the genie) is next to useless as he refuses to help her, claiming he is on vacation.
The story has two occasions where Kiara could stand up to Matt (the bully) with Bai, but she runs away, leaving Bai to be roughed up and robbed. Kiara feels upset with herself for running away. She also is quite irritated with the so-called genie who does nothing. Zayn only reminds her that he is on vacation and that he does help people who help themselves. Kiara is determined to repair her relationship with her best friend and deal once and for all with Matt. Zayn does provide Kiara some advice intended to give her self-confidence, but he still withholds his magical powers. Kiara discovers that anything Zayn holds becomes invisible and arranges a plan to record Matt bullying her. Zayn is recruited to hold Kiara’s phone and record Matt’s bullying of her. The plan works, and Matt is forced to not bully anyone again or else the recording will be turned over to the appropriate authorities. Kiara shows Bai the video recording, and the friendship is repaired. Zayn remains living in Kiara’s room and life for perhaps further adventures.
When reviewing this book, it was important to consider whether this could be a resource for a school library or classroom. The short answer is, “Yes.” Kids would get quite irritated with Zayn who might possibly have bullying issues himself or at least be nominated for “Worst Genie of The Year!” The conversation between Kiara and Bai (see excerpt above) may not be typical third grade discourse. However, if a book makes the reader respond emotionally to the characters or in some way relate to the circumstances described by the author, then it is worth a look. Mahtab Narsimhan keeps the plot moving, and readers will really want to keep reading to hear how the bully is defeated.
This short novel would fit into a teacher’s classroom library nicely. Orca Books paired the author with illustrator Michelle Simpson with great results. The publisher is to be commended for providing materials that reflect the broad cultural backgrounds found within our society today. If children need to see themselves in the materials being published, then Orca is doing a commendable job.
If a teacher is looking for something new and different to read to their class about bullying, friendship, and resilience, then give Genie Meanie a go.
John Dryden lives in the British Columbia’s Cowichan Valley.