Yasmin the ZookeeperOnce I fin­ished read­ing Yas­min the Zookeep­er, I was charmed. I want­ed to find out more about this young Pak­istani Amer­i­can girl who is curi­ous about everything.

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.

Yasmin the Zookeeper
two-page spread from Yas­min the Zookeep­er with illus­tra­tions © Hatem Aly, Pic­ture Win­dow Books, 2019

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

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