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The Picture Book Buzz

Banana Dream - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

This week's #PPBF book is about the sheer joy of having what may seem like an impossible dream come true. It also offers a peek into the architecture of Iraq, the societal effects of war on children and their families, and opens the door for a discussion on bullying. It's a poignant and hopeful book.

Cover - smiling boy with a banana dancing in the center of the market streeet.

Banana Dream


Author: Hasan Namir


Illustrator: Daby Zainab Faidhi


Publisher: Neal Porter Books/Holiday House (2023)


Ages: 4-8


Informational Fiction


Themes:

Effects of war, Iraq, sanctions & rations, dreams, bullying, and simple the joy of a banana.


Synopsis:

A young boy in Iraq yearns to taste the bananas that have been made unavailable by warfare.


Growing up in Iraq after the Gulf War, Mooz didn’t always like his name, which means “banana”. But when he learns the story behind it, he’s proud, even when being teased by his classmates. Now all he yearns for is to taste a banana—a lofty dream in a time when few countries are trading with Iraq, where bananas don’t grow.


Inspired by author Hasan Namir’s own childhood, Banana Dream is at once a celebration of a seemingly ordinary fruit and a snapshot of how war can alter a landscape. Artist Daby Zainab Faidhi’s background in architectural illustration is evident as she brings the story’s setting vividly to life.


Opening Lines:

My name is Mooz.

It means banana in Arabic.


What I LIKED about this book:

At first, Mooz seems like most other boys. His room is full of cars and tracks, books, a robot, and a batman figurine. And there are many other items kids will enjoy finding and identifying with.

Opening spread - Mooz in his room with cars racing around a track, books, on the floor, and a robot on the shelves.

Text © Hasan Namir, 2023. Image © Daby Zainab Faidhi. 2023.


But we quickly learns he stands out in his family - where all his cousins are named Ali or Mohammad - and at school where the kids tease and make fun of his name. Like his name, bananas were unusual in Iraq, because of environmental factors and post-war conditions. Hasan Namir succinctly and honestly explores the conditions in Iraq for the general population and a boy dreaming of eating a banana. Daby Zainab Faidhi's colorful and slightly cartoonish illustrations, created with a mix of digital, charcoal, and pencil, candidly captures Mooz's emotions surrounding his name, life in Iraq, and his big dream.

Long line of Iraqi families waiting to get their ratons.

Text © Hasan Namir, 2023. Image © Daby Zainab Faidhi. 2023.


All Iraqi families received monthly rations;

rice, flour, sugar, beans, tea, and milk.


Bananas were not included.

Bananas were a dream.


When Mooz finally asks his mother why they chose his name and learns the special story behind his birth and the reason for their choice, he "gains a new appreciation" for his name. And quickly a confidence that allows him to stand up to the other kids. Then, when Mooz turned eleven, things changed. International sanctions lifted and "Bananas seemed to be falling from the sky."

A boy running towad a vendor with a push-cart full of bananas

Text © Hasan Namir, 2023. Image © Daby Zainab Faidhi. 2023.

The ending is tender, joyous, and fulfilling. It's even more poignant and touching after reading the author's note and discovering the book is based on his actual experiences as a child in Iraq. Wrapped into the center of Mooz's discovery about his name, standing up to teasing, and holding onto his dream, Hasan Namir and Daby Zainab Faidhi introduce children to Iraq and the reality of life for kids caught up in the turmoil of war. This is a great glimpse into Iraq and a poignant story with multiple layers which allow for many nuanced discussions based on the age, empathy, and experiences of the reader.


Resources:

On left - a single origami banana. On right a green and a yellow origami bunch of bananas.
Composite image of banana snacks for kids.

- make an origami banana or a bunch.

- what's a special treat of food you've always wanted to try? What makes it special to you?

- even if bananas aren't your favorite, try some of these fun banana snacks.

- list a couple of ideas, or draw an image, of ways you stand up for yourself and others against teasing?


This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions and resources see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

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Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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