A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Green Bicycle, Haifaa al Mansour's book version of her acclaimed film Wadjda, is the story of a spirited 11-year-old girl in Saudi Arabia, which is not the easiest place to be a spirited girl. Her best friend's a boy, he has a bike, and she wants one so they can race, but she quickly hits the wall of restrictive gender stereotypes that forbid girls to do any such thing. Meanwhile, her father's being pressured to take a second wife because Wadjda's mom can't bear sons. There are a lot of positive, uplifting messages here about family, friendship, loyalty, hard work, determination, and following your dreams and also some fleshing out of culturally significant details from the movie. The window into daily life in present-day Saudi Arabia will be a revelation to many Western kids, from the practical difficulties of commuting to work when you're forbidden to drive because you're a woman, to a Saudi stock-market crash that wiped out many people's life savings.
What's the story?
In present-day Riyadh, the fast-growing capital of Saudi Arabia, 11-year-old Wadjda stands out from her classmates, especially for her much-loved Chuck Taylors that serve her well running around town with her BFF Abdullah. When he gets a bike, she wants one, too, so they can race, and she quickly sets her heart on a beautiful green bike that just turned up in a local shop. She soon learns that Good Muslim Girls aren't allowed to ride bikes, whatever girls do in those Western magazines. She refuses to take no for an answer, setting to work to earn the money to buy her dream bike. When she's busted at school for selling bracelets and mixtapes of forbidden Western music, she's determined to win the prize money in the school's Quran contest.
Is it any good?
This book treatment of the movie Wadjda offers a cultural epiphany to many Western readers about daily life in Saudi Arabia, especially resonating with kids who have non-stereotypical interests. Readers will root for Wadjda, laugh at her snarky remarks, feel her pain as the story progresses, and be left with lots to think about.
As a book, THE GREEN BICYCLE often fleshes out, at some length, the movie's quick visual details, as in the backstory about the late crooner whose songs Wadjda's mom loves to sing, or explanations of how women cope with various restrictions, such as being at the mercy of a cranky driver or a mean mother-in-law. This sometimes bogs the story down just a bit, but it pays off in a better understanding of life in a different culture.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about stories of kids living in other countries. Does learning about their experiences make you look at your own world differently?
Do you think you'd like to live in Saudi Arabia or at least visit for a while? What would you really want to check out? What would you miss about home?
Among your own friends and classmates, are there rules (official or otherwise) about what girls and boys are supposed to do, how they're supposed to behave, and the like? Are there any differences? How do they compare to the rules for Wadjda and her friends?
- Author: Haifaa al Mansour
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Dial Books
- Publication date: September 22, 2015
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 18
- Number of pages: 352
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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