Each book for beginning readers contains three short chapters, a guide to the Urdu words included in the text, fun facts about Pakistan, and a story-inspired craft. In Yasmin the Zookeeper, it’s a bendy monkey made of construction paper and pipe cleaners.
The stories about Yasmin are filled with humor and action and trying new things. She is a typical kid, more adventurous than some, often finding herself in situations where problem-solved is her challenge.
When Dave the Zookeeper chooses Yasmin to feed the monkeys or bandars, she trips and the monkeys’ food goes into the pond. The monkeys are disappointed. Yasmin feels bad but what can she do? Thinking quickly, she figures out a solution that makes everyone happy.
The illustrations are done cartoon-style by the talented Hatem Aly, particularly the spot illustrations, but the book includes a good number of full illustrations with backgrounds, depth, and style. The humans and animals are appealing in their energy and facial expressions. I especially enjoy the bright color palette.
There are 12 books about Yasmin, her family, and her friends at this point. I wondered how each book would add to her story, so I also read Yasmin the Builder and Yasmin the Fashionista. Filled with self-doubts, her teacher Ms. Alex invites the class to build a city. Watching what the other students do, Yasmin feels that she has nothing to contribute. But, wait! After observing the city coming together, she determines what’s missing to create a community … and she builds it. Yasmin becomes a builder.
In Yasmin the Fashionista, Yasmin is at home with her grandparents and she’s bored. Wandering into her parents’ bedroom, she finds the clothes in her mother’s closet and enlists her grandmother, her nani, in a fashion show. A mishap occurs in this book, too, and Yasmin and her grandmother set out to fix the problem and to be honest about the accident when they tell her mother.
I read Zookeeper in paperback format but the other two books were e‑book versions … and I appreciated that the unfamiliar Urdu words were clickable, bringing up the definition right away.
A recommended addition to primary classrooms, libraries, and home bookshelves.
Yasmin the Zookeeper
written by Saadia Faruqi
illustrated by Hatem Aly
Picture Window Books, 2019