The Truth About Peacock Blue, by Rosanne Hawke

9781743319949.jpgMrs Abdul and the officer stopped in front of me and I stood in respect. She had been angry with me constantly, regularly beat me, but she had never spat words at me like she did then, as if I was a bazaar dog with rabies.
‘This is the girl, officer, who blasphemed the Holy Prophet, Peace Be Upon Him.’
Rabi gave a cry. I couldn’t say a word; I was too shocked.

Aster was named after a girl who had to fight against the persecution of her minority faith. Aster, too, belongs to a to a minority. She is a Christian growing up in Pakistan. When she is given the opportunity for a high school education she plans to study hard to make a difference for herself and for her grieving parents. But not everybody at the school is welcoming, and one teacher dislikes her intensely – because of her faith. Aster tries to keep her head low and study hard to please the teacher, but a mistake in an exam has devastating consequences, when she is accused of blashpemy. Marched out of school by police and thrown in prison, Aster’s predicament escalates rapidly.

The Truth About Peacock Blue is a gripping tale of life for one girl in Pakistan, giving an insight into the predicaments of minority faith groups and indviduals, as well as the rights of women. In prison, Aster meets other women who have been wrongly accused and are harshly treated, left in limbo for lengthy periods of time. Communication with her Australian-based cousin, who runs a blog and starts a petition, allows other perspectives, incuding those of commenters on Maryam’s blog.

Aster’s case is fictional, but mention is made of real life cases including those of Asia Bibi and Malala. As well as being an absorbing story, The Truth About Peacock Blue will also aid in understanding such situations, which can seem far removed from contemporary Australian life.

An important look at social justice and freedom.

The Truth About Peacock Blue, by Rosanne Hawke
Allen & Unwin, 2015
ISBN 9781743319949

The Perfect Flower Girl, by Taghred Chandab & Binny Talib

‘Oh, Tayta,’ said Amani. ‘I can’t wait for the wedding! I’m going to have a special dress and wear make-up-‘
‘And throw rose petals,’ added Mariam.
‘You will be the most adorable flower girls, and Sarah will be the most beautiful bride.’

The Perfect Flower Girl

Amani is going to be a flower girl, and she is going to do it perfectly. She practices stepping exactly one, two, three, and makes sure that her dress is just perfect. With her little sister Mariam, also a flower girl, she counts down the dasy to the wedding. But when the time comes to walk into the room full of guests, she feels suddenly shy. With some loving encouragement from Aunty Sarah, Amani is the perfect flower girl.

The Perfect Flower Girl is a wonderful celebration of flower girls and of weddings, especially Lebanese Muslim weddings. At the same time, it is about the specialness of playing an important role in a special event – and the challenges that may pose for a young child, including shyness, worry and even excitement.

For those who may not have experienced Muslim practices, the book offers a glimpse into the rites and traditions of a Lebanese Muslim family, making it a useful learning tool, especially showing the family in their home situation, celebrating, having fun and nurturing each other. For Muslim children, The Perfect Flower Girl is a lovely opportunity to see familiar situations brought to life in book form. And, whatever cultural background they come from, who can’t resist a pretty pink wedding story with sparkly stars on the cover?

The Perfect Flower Girl is perfectly lovely.

The Perfect Flower Girl, by Taghred Chandab & Binny Talib
Allen & Uniwn, 2012
ISBN 9781742375731

Available from good bookstores or online.