Safia is happy with her culture and her home life even when things are thrown in to chaos when her father comes to England after years of being apart from the family and living in Somalia. Her brother starts to make poor choices and get into trouble, her cousin Firdous is dealing with having to live with an aunt by making poor choices herself, and Safia debates whether or not strict adherence to her upbringing is the way that she should behave. What I liked about this was the description of the family life and traditions, including liberal use of Somali words and phrases. While set in Great Britain, I think that my students here will find this an interesting read. Young Adult fiction centers largely on issues of personal identity, and I am so glad that there is a book that speaks to one version of an experience that many of my students have had in acclimating to another culture.
Mary Hoffman's The Color of Home is a picture book. Hassan starts school in the US and does fairly well despite his limited language skills. However, when the class does paintings, Hassan starts off with a pleasant home scene but then adds flames to the house and shows his uncle's death. An interpreter is brought in, and Hassan's past is discussed. He then paints a new picture for his mother, takes it home, and starts to see that his new home is not as gray as it had seemed. I'm not sure that this is quite right for the middle school, but was a very interesting book. I did not realize that Hoffman also wrote Stravaganza: City of Stars. (City of Secrets, book 4, is out now.)