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A Place at the Table Hardcover – August 11, 2020
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“For or all the novel’s sober themes, there’s a lightness and brightness to the story borne out by the girls’ spunky quest to win the [cooking] contest."—The New York Times Book Review
"Writing in alternating voices, the authors elegantly interweave issues of racism, financial insecurity, and mental illness into a familiar middle school narrative of identity formation....This tale of a diverse friendship tackles hard topics."—Kirkus
"A solid story of unexpected friends coming together to break bread."—School Library Journal
"Told in alternating voices, Faruqi and Shovan’s nuanced tale about the thrill of budding friendship is relatable without sacrificing challenging topics." —Publishers Weekly
“I would love to sit at a table with Sara and Elizabeth: two entirely believable characters and a lot of delicious food for thought.”
"Sara and Elizabeth's rocky relationship rings true to tween dynamics, and the writing maintains a hopeful tone as it confronts bigotry with modeled behavior....Short chapters, heavy dialogue and descriptive writing—particularly about food—should appeal to both younger and reluctant readers....This authentic cross-cultural novel offers tastes of identity, assimilation and allyship for fans of middle school friendship stories." —Shelf Awareness
—LINDA SUE PARK, Newbery Medalist and author of the New York Times bestseller, A Long Walk to Water
"A Place at the Table is a sensitive and honest book about friendship, family, cultural and racial identity, and one of the most important things that brings us together as people—good food. Faruqi and Shovan skillfully handle these complex topics with nuance, humor, and a joyful culinary appreciation that will leave any reader inspired and hungry!”
—VEERA HIRANANDANI , author of The Night Diary, a Newbery Honor Book
“A feast of a novel, full of warmth and insight. Without minimizing the challenges faced by immigrants in our country, Faruqi and Shovan have written a charming, hopeful story about two girls from different cultures who find common ground in the kitchen. Readers will eagerly pull up a chair for this lovely tale of friendship, food, and family.”
—BARBARA DEE, author of Maybe He Just Likes You
About the Author
Saadia Faruqi is a Pakistani American author, essayist and interfaith activist. She is the author, with Laura Shovan, of A Place at the Table, a Sydney Taylor Notable Book. Her book Meet Yasmin!, the first book in an early reader series about a Pakistani-American girl, received starred reviews, and she is also author of the adult fiction book Brick Walls: Tales of Hope & Courage from Pakistan. She lives with her husband and children in Houston, Texas, where she is editor-in-chief of Blue Minaret, a magazine for Muslim art, poetry, and prose.
Laura Shovan is the author, with Saadia Faruqi, of A Place at the Table, a Sydney Taylor Notable book. Her debut middle-grade novel, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, was a NCTE 2017 Notable Verse Novel, a Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Book of the year, and won a Cybils Award for poetry, among other recognition. Her second children's novel, Takedown, published recently and her novels sit on over half a dozen state reading lists. She lives with her family in Maryland, where she is a longtime poet-in-the-schools for the Maryland State Arts Council.
- Publisher : Clarion Books (August 11, 2020)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 336 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0358116686
- ISBN-13 : 978-0358116684
- Reading age : 10 - 12 years
- Lexile measure : HL680L
- Grade level : 5 - 7
- Item Weight : 15.2 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 1.16 x 8.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #25,488 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Sarah is starting a new school, a public one, having been at a small Islamic school prior to 6th grade. She is not happy about it and to top it off, her mother is teaching an after-school cooking class at the school that she is required to attend. Hoping to sit in the back drawing and go unnoticed, she finds she can’t sit quiet when her classmates start giving her mom a hard time. Unaware of why she had to leave her previous school, and tired of her mom needing her help with her catering business, Sara also has to help her mom study for her citizenship test, handle two little brothers, deal with no friends at school and not being able to celebrate Halloween.
Elizabeth loves cooking. Her mother does not. She is excited to learn Pakistani food at the cooking club even if her best friend thinks they shouldn’t be learning things from “them.” Elizabeth is admittedly nerdy, and struggling with a life-long friend finding others to spend time with, her life at home is difficult too. Her dad is always traveling for work, and her mom is depressed with the recent passing of her mother in England, to the point of not really functioning. With Elizabeth doing the cooking at home, and trying to get her mom to study for her citizenship test, Jewish holidays and obligations get neglected, and Elizabeth not knowing how to help her new Muslim friend handle racism, is spiraling herself.
When the two girls decide to give each other a chance they find they might be able to be more than just cooking partners, but it seems like one of them always does something to mess it up. Either saying something hurtful, getting defensive, or not sticking up for each other. The girls get their mom’s together to study for their test, but it isn’t so easy for the girls, who are hesitant to trust one another.
An upcoming cooking competition, offers the girls a chance to make a cross cultural fusion dish that can wow the judges, help Sarah’s family’s financial situation, prove to the school that diversity is a good thing, and hopefully give the two girls a solid friendship.
WHY I LIKE IT:
I love how authentic it sounds and feels and how it doesn’t focus on boys or crushes, but on friendship between two girls at an awkward point in their lives and the family stresses they are experiencing. The book is for all readers and does a great job of not going overboard with what the girls face. I love how tolerant they have to learn to be with one another and that they have to learn to drop their defensive guards.
I read the book in two settings and didn’t want to put it down, it has enough pull that you really want to see where the book is going and are happy to overlook the slight repetitiveness of them stressing about the competition, but doing nothing but talking about the stress. Really the competition doesn’t even seem that important at the end, but considering everything going on, that to me is exactly as it should be.
I love the rich culture of Pakistan, England, Islam, and Judaism that seep in and never get preachy or dogmatic, but get celebrated and experienced. This is why OWN voice books are so beautiful and powerful. Admittedly, Elizabeth’s family is not super religious, but a few more similarities would have been nice. Yes her brothers are eating pepperoni Hot Pockets, but a shout out about halal/kosher marshmallows would have really rung true for so many of us that stock up at Passover.
I also love how the side characters have substance and aren’t just used as a foil to show something about the main characters. They get a little flesh on their own, and that enhances the richness of the story. Seeing that they have their own struggles to overcome as well shows how none of us have it all together, and that we are all capable of improving ourselves.
The girls meet during school hours when Elizabeth lies about her period starting to get out of class. Sarah mentions that hers has already started. Elizabeth mentions that her Jewish grandmother is visiting her son and his husband, nothing more is said, just that. There are some derogatory things said about Sarah and being Muslim and Pakistani, but really mild.
TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:
I want to find a way to do this book for a middle school book club. I’ve already told my 13 year- old daughter it is required summer reading. The Muslims have diversity within themselves, some wear hijab, Sarah does not. The book is so relatable and the personas sound the age for their views and struggles and perspective. The financial stress, the mental illness, the immigrant experience, the racism, the politics, are all wonderfully woven together, and the food, well, there is a reason I didn’t recommend this book at the beginning of Ramadan, you are welcome. Happy Reading.