Seven is Special by Shagufta Malik is an early chapter book about 7-year-old Maryam. The book opens with Maryam really excited about a trip she’s taking with her mother and father to umrah. I won’t say any more than that to avoid spoilers, but I was a little disappointed with the direction this took. While a lot of themes are dealt with in this book—growing up/maturity, family, sickness, dealing with disappointment, umrah, fitting in—there is no real narrative arc to speak of. Lots of smaller events happen during the book, and Maryam reacts to them, but the lack of a single unifying plot line to bring everything together didn’t work for me.
Maryam as a character didn’t resonate with me. She is sometimes confused and sometimes nervous about fitting in, but for the most part, she is always super excited or super disappointed. Her character is slightly two dimensional; we know that she doesn’t like maths, wants to be like other kids, and wants to have fun, but I still feel like I don’t know her. She fails to stand up off the page.
I really enjoyed the diary format—the book is presented as entries in Maryam’s diary. The font is a handwriting font and the headings are either Maryam’s age at the time of writing, “7 years and 4 months,” or a title, “the good news and the bad news.” The little drawings interspersed throughout the book were really cute, and I felt like they belonged perfectly. The different fonts for single words in the text didn’t work for me at all. The text should have been able to stand on its own; the addition of emotion didn’t help.
Then again, you can take my opinion with a grain of salt. My seven-year-old is the intended audience for this book, and she really liked it. Perhaps I’ll post her opinion in a future blog post.
Seven is Special is published by IIPH (2016), and you can get a copy here.