Monday, February 14, 2022

MMGM- Wishing Upon the Same Stars and Fashionopolis

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Feldman, Jacquetta Nammar. Wishing Upon the Same Stars 
February 1st 2022 by HarperCollins 
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Yasmeen (pronounced yez-MEEN) Khoury lives in Detroit with her family; a father who is a Christian from Palestine and a mother who is from Lebanon, who met each other as graduate students in Michigan. When her father gets a better job in Texas, the parents are glad to move back to a warmer climate. Younger sister Sara is fine with it, and brother Salim is too young to notice. Yasmeen doesn't want to leave her best friend and her familiar community, but things are even harder once she starts school. She doesn't know anyone, and the secretary doesn't know how to pronounce her name. She has a welcome face in Waverly, whose father works with her father, and whose mother set up their house for them. Unfortunately, Waverly is good friends with resident mean girl Hillary, who makes fun of Yasmeen for her cultural identity, a rarity in their area. Yasmeen's teachers notice that she is good at math and have her become a member of the math team. This is coached by neighbor Mr. Cohen, who is from Jerusalem like her father, but is Jewish. Since the father's mother, Sitti, is forced out of her home, family feelings about Jews in Jerusalem are running very high, and Yasmeen is not supposed to have anything to do with the daughter, Ayelet, who is also on the math team. She lies to her parents, saying a teacher is coaching the team, and that she is with Waverly when she is really with Ayelet. Yasmeen slowly becomes friends with her, as well as Esme, who is from Mexico. Sitti moves in with the family, Yasmeen starts dancing with a group at the family's new church, and the family all struggles with their new life in Texas and finding the balance between being "American" and embracing their own culture. When her parents find out about Mr. Cohen's involvement with the math group, will they be able to put aside their cultural differences and try to become friends with their traditional enemies? 
Strengths: It was interesting to get a look inside Yasmeen's house, with all of their non-US furniture, cooking, and the mother's particular style of dress. I had a friend whose parents were from Greece, and walking into their home felt very similar. I was especially glad that Waverly, while she sometimes made missteps in her treatment of Yasmeen, was very welcoming and friendly. I also enjoyed Yasmeen's love of math and her involvement not only with the math club but with her church dance group. She felt very uncomfortable with just about all aspects of the dancing, but gave it a good try, and ended up enjoying it in the end. This is a great message for young people about trying new things even though they are hard. The inclusion of a strong church family is realistic, although not as prevalent as it once was, and I learned a bit about the Maronite Church. (Which, by the way, has nothing at all to do with the Maronite Center in Youngstown, which has stuck in my mind even though I haven't thought about it in 40 years!) Yasmeen and Ayelet's friendship despite their family's prejudices was certainly something we need to see more of in middle grade fiction. 
 Weaknesses: There were so many different things going on in this book, that Yasmeen's back and forth with Waverly, Hillary, and Ayelet slowed down the middle of the book a bit. 
 What I really think: I'd love to see more from Nammar Feldman, perhaps a book set in the very vibrant immigrant community near Detroit. This is a great book about an immigrant experience that will go well with Kelkar's As American as Paneer Pie, Hirandani's How to Find What You're Not Looking For, Dumas' It Ain't So Awful, Falafel, Yang's Front Desk, Faruqi's Unsettled, Ferruolo's A Galaxy of Sea Stars and Warga's Other Words for Home. There have been so many interesting books about different cultural experiences since the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement started in 2014, and I can't think of too many Arab-Israeli books except Nye's 1999 Habibi. Definitely purchasing. 

Thomas, Dana. Fashionopolis (Young Readers Edition): The Secrets Behind the Clothes We Wear 
15 February 2022, Dial Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

I find fashion fascinating. Frustrating, but fascinating. I’ve never really moved past the Seventeen Magazine August, 1982 edition in the way I dress, which is probably why I had no idea that in the 1990s, the fashion industry changed so drastically, with “fast fashion” taking over. (I’ve never even heard of Zara.) Luckily, that was about the time that I started buying all of my clothes at thrift stores.

In this young readers’ edition of the 2019 adult nonfiction book, we get a good overview of the history of the fashion industry, and descriptions of how it has changed over time. These changes are not usually good for workers and the environment, but there is some light at the end of the turtleneck. A lot of excellent concepts like supply change and mass production are described for readers who might have a very faint idea of what these are.

Considering that in 1980, 70% of the clothing bought in the US was made here, and that figure is now under ten percent, there has been a huge shift in the way clothing is made, transported, and even worn and discarded. Companies like Levi’s, who for many years centered itself on local philanthropy, discarded these practices and moved manufacturing to developing nations where conditions were horrific for workers and wages were low. While this company has tried to return to better practices, many companies have not.

This book deftly mixes historical statistics with interesting interviews with people involved in the fashion industry. From company owners like Natalie Chanin in Alabama who practices local sourcing for everything involved in producing her products to Sarah Bellos, who grows indigo, to fashion designers like Stella McCartney, Thomas uses her contacts in the fashion industry to delve into a large number of topics and show how the fashion industry could be more sustainable and better for workers.

There are so many interesting things in this book that it is hard to list them all. The writing style was quick and engaging, and my only small quibble is that, for younger readers, it would have been nice to have a few more pictures. The tips at the end on how readers can change their habits in order to effect changes are fantastic. Pair this with Klymkiw’s and Haninson’s Fashion Conscious: Change the World with a Change of Clothes, which has a bit more information about mending and creating clothing.

Middle school students, especially now, are not terribly concerned with fashion, and are usually a bit more concerned with the environment. That makes Fashionopolis a great choice for young readers, so that they can understand what goes into the manufacturing of clothing and how this impacts both people and the environment before social media lures them into the culture of consumerism.


  1. Fashionopolis sounds interesting. I wasn't aware of the adult nonfiction book, but I want to check it out.

  2. Thanks for this intro to these books, both new to me!

  3. I will have to get a copy this one as I had already read many of the immigrant books you compared it to. Thanks for featuring your post today on MMGM.

  4. I love the themes in Wishing Upon the Same Stars -- agree we need more books about immigrant communities and learning to accept one another. Adding this to my list.
    The book on fashion is interesting to me. My grandmother designed clothing for a company in Columbus during the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Everything was made here. And my grandfather designed fur coats. All I had to do was show her something I liked and she designed something special for me. I was spoiled. Clothing was so much better made until somewhere in the mid- to late 1990s. My sister has my grandmother's talent, so I think I'll send her a copy of this book. She's enjoy it.

  5. Both these books sounds really good. I do love the immigrant stories that are coming out these days. This one is going to be a great addition to those stories. I didn't think I would be interested in a book about fashion, but after reading your review, I might try to get hold of a copy. Thanks.