Oftentimes, the only way kids learn about other countries and
cultures is from the news media or from textbooks. While the facts
and figures may be fascinating, they may not "stick" if they don't
have meaning or relevancy to the student. Stories have the power
to enliven all subjects and to make details significant and memorable.
Written from the perspective of Bobby, a nine-year old boy who
loves adventure, Bobby's Friends is about a family of
five who travels around the world. Bobby's dad has a job as that
requires him to go from country to country helping to fix flooding
problems and his mom is responsible for running the household and
educating the children (Bobby, his ten-year old sister, and his
five-year old brother).
The family moves to Pakistan and the reader explores a new
country and culture along with Bobby--from the airplane coming
in to land to the mansions with servants and the tent homes of
the poorer people to the varieties of food and people. There are
new children to meet, new traditions to respect, and new fun to
find! There is mystery, adventure, and a bit of growing up too.
In many ways, the novel incorporates universal challenges to which
the targeted readers (ages 9-99) can relate. The story is about
leaving friends and making new ones, leaving the known and learning
about the unknown, testing authority and the consequences of disobedience,
and the lessons realized when different faiths collide.
Bobby's Friends is quick and easy to read. It would
be appropriate as a read-aloud book or for read-alone time. Besides
its use as a language arts tool, the story touches on the subjects
of geography, history, religion, and even some science. The novel
would be a good choice for a summer reading program as well.
Pros: My nine-year-old remembers things better when
he can put them in perspective. Bobby's Friends helps
the reader do just that. It's easy to assign and discuss. It would
also be interesting to see if he notices that it has been translated
from another language.
Cons: It doesn't come with discussion questions, so
it's not really a complete tool as is. However, it is a good complement
or supplement for other curricula.
I am looking forward to discussing Bobby's Friends with
all of my children, ages 7 to 14. I am sure we will all come away
with a richer understanding of Pakistan and, perhaps, more of
a general awareness of foreign countries, cultures, and religions.