Yasmin in Charge
Yasmin in Charge
Ethnic and linguistic diversity is a familiar part of life for many Canadian children in the 21st century, but there is still a gap. There are many beautiful renditions of folkloric tales and, from some publishers, storybooks with black and Hispanic characters. But there are few everyday stories about the South Asian or Middle Eastern children who are present in our immigrant population.
This little book will go a small way to amend that situation. Yasmin in Charge contains four separate stories at a reading level just above a primer which feature a feisty young heroine of Pakistani background.
“Yasmin the Teacher” uses the scented markers given to her by an aunt to calm down her unruly fellow pupils when the real teacher is called away from the classroom.
“Yasmin the Chef” helps prepare food for a family party.
Nani was cooking biryani. “Here, try this,” she offered.”
Yasmin did, then fanned her mouth. “Too spicy!” she said with a gasp.
Nana laughed. “Here, drink some chai,” he suggested.
All the dishes seem to be too hot, too sour or too messy. But while admiring the sparkly shalwar kameez that she is going to wear at the festivities, she has an idea. Her dish, “Chicken, veggie and fruit kebab. A complete meal on a stick!”, is proudly served to the guests with all the other food.
The other two stories are “Yasmin the Zookeeper”̊ and “Yasmin the Superhero” in which her simple, helpful behaviour towards others is characterized by an admiring father as “being what real superheroes do”.
Bright, if somewhat unsophisticated, illustrations are provided by an Egyptian-born artist who now lives in New Brunswick. The author is a Pakistani-American described as “a writer, interfaith activist and cultural sensitivity trainer”. At the back of Yasmin in Charge, there is a helpful glossary to the Urdu vocabulary which has been carefully integrated into the stories. Additionally, there is a list of discussion points relating to the themes in the book; a page of “Pakistan Fun Facts”; and directions for making a paper bag superhero mask.
Yasmin in Charge, a book in a comfortably small format, should be added to classroom or public libraries where it will satisfy a new audience.
Ellen Heaney is a retired children’s librarian living in Coquitlam, British Columbia.