My Grandfather’s Masbaha

14 Jan

Today’s book review is for My Grandfather’s Masbaha, written by Susan Daniel Fayad, illustrated by Avery Liell-Kok, self-published through Author House. I received a free paperback copy of this book through a First Reads giveaway on Goodreads, with the expectation that I would post an honest review.

My Grandfather's Masbaha book cover

My Grandfather’s Masbaha begins with a little boy, Adam, throwing a temper tantrum when his friends all go home and he’s left with nothing to do. As his hyperbole grows, his Jidoo (grandfather) starts to laugh. Then he pulls out a string of prayer beads known as a masbaha to help Adam count his blessings. At first he is reluctant to share his grandfather’s perspective, but by the end he is able to understand.

Like many self-published works, this book would have benefited from an extra round of editing. There were numerous typographical errors, however, it was the writing style itself which I felt could use refining. First of all, the descriptive language has a lot of redundancy–“more and more”, “redder and redder”, etc. These sorts of repetitions don’t add to the story, especially since there is still plenty of other descriptive language. Next, I found a lot of the dialogue to feel stunted and unnatural. In particular, I thought that the lack of contractions in the first couple of pages felt awkward–it made me think of Data in Star Trek. Finally, a lot of the dialogue tags were also poorly written. In an attempt to add variety to her language, the author sometimes made odd word choices such as “chimed Adam.” I think of bells as chiming, but not so much children.

The illustrations were servicable. They were a bit flat and amateurish, but they did accompany the story well. I just wish there had been more dimension to them. The black outline and flat color style just didn’t work for me. Jidoo was depicted with some pretty good facial expressions, but in contrast, Adam’s seemed lacking.

What I did like about the book was that it gives children exposure to Lebanese culture. I enjoyed learning more about the masbaha and how different people use it for different purposes. There is even a page at the end that provides more information about the masbaha. I also liked how the story focused on learning to recognize one’s blessings.

Overall the book had a nice concept, but the execution was lacking. With stronger editorial oversight, higher quality illustrations, and professional design, this could be a great book. As it stands, though, it was a mediocre book whose biggest appeal is unusual content. I’m giving it 2 stars. Kids will probably like the story alright and enjoy being exposed to a new culture, but I don’t think it’s worth the money to purchase it.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

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4 Responses to “My Grandfather’s Masbaha”

  1. Kris January 14, 2014 at 7:02 pm #

    Just a note that when I was doing licensing approvals for children’s books some years ago, I noted and objected to the lack of contractions in the dialogue, for the same reason you state — it made the speech feel stilted. I was told by the editor they avoided contractions to make it easier to read for beginning readers.

    • Destiny January 14, 2014 at 7:07 pm #

      That is a good insight. Unfortunately in this case, the contraction thing was inconsistent. Because they do start to creep in. That might be why it actually drew my attention–I’m sure that many of the children’s books I read avoid contractions… but it’s not something I am sure I would notice if it was applied consistently.

  2. Susan Daniel Fayad January 16, 2014 at 1:59 am #

    Destiny,

    Thank you for the candid review. Please be advised that the book has been revised. You can even see the changes if you flip through it on Amazon. Also, since you enjoy reviewing children’s books, you should be interested to know that January 27 is Multicultural Children’s Book Day. You can visit http://www.jumpintoabook.com for more details.

    Susan

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  1. Weekly Round-Up of Kid Lit Reviews and Posts: Week #2 | Mother Daughter Book Reviews - January 18, 2014

    […] My Grandfather’s Masbaha ~ Reading and Sharing […]

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