________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 8 . . . . December 5, 2008

cover Many Windows: Six Kids, Five Faiths, One Community.

Rukhsana Khan with Elisa Carbone & Uma Krishnaswami. Illustrated by Patty Gallinger.
Toronto, ON: Napoleon, 2008.
84 pp., pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 978-1-894917-56-8.

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10.

Review by Myra Junyk.

***½ /4


I explore the school grounds. Hmm. Maybe this place isn’t that bad. There’s no one I couldn’t take if I had to. I’ll show them. Just because I’m the new kid, I won’t be pushed around.

By the basketball court, there are some kids from my class. There’s that girl, Stephanie. Then there’s Deepa, the one whose “personal space” I was getting into and another one, her friend. And then two boys. Are they all friends?

They’re playing two on three. Deepa comes charging down toward the key, dribbling the ball expertly. There are two guards, one of the boys and a girl. They’re double-teaming her. She says, “Stephanie heads up.”

Stephanie runs past the two guards catches Deepa’s pass and in one motion launches it toward the basket. Swish! Not bad! They’re all high-fiving each other.

TJ is the new kid in class. He has just moved and misses his friends. His teacher wants the classroom to be a “no-put-down zone” where all students co-operate and respect the personal space around them. At first, TJ struggles with the concept, but then decides to give “community” a try.

internal art

     The first section of this book is a series of seven short stories based on six students in the same class – TJ, Natalie, Jameel, Deepa, Benjamin, and Stephanie. TJ is the focus of the first and last story in this section. The other short stories explore various relationships in the context of a religious celebration in the faith community of each student. For example, Natalie discovers a silver locket in her father’s jewelry store just as she is preparing for the celebration of Buddha’s birthday on May 10th. Benjamin later purchases the locket as a present for his mother because it resembles great-grandmother’s locket.

     The focus of the remaining four stories is also on relationships and religious celebrations: Jameel’s uncle has returned from Pakistan for Eid ul Fitr at the end of Ramadan; Deepa misses her friend Bani during the celebration of Diwali, Benjamin plays dreidels (an important element in the history of Hanukkah) with his grandmother; Stephanie learns that the joy of Christmas is in giving – not in receiving gifts when she and her friends Benjamin, Deepa, Jameel, Natalie and even TJ all volunteer to help at the soup kitchen on Christmas Day.

     Many Windows was authored by the three writers – Rukhsana Khan, Elisa Carbone and Uma Krushnaswami. This collection of short stories includes an appendix which briefly explains the roots of the five faiths discussed in the book. Readers will learn interesting information about Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism and Christianity.

     The aim of this book is to promote understanding among various faith communities in a time of global turmoil. “Through our many windows look, and you will see a world of celebrations in one community.” (p. 6) The three writers are friends who represent three different faith communities – a Muslim, a Christian and a Hindu. Although the aim of this book is a noble one – to bridge the barriers of religious intolerance – the differing voices of three writers and the mixture of short story and nonfiction descriptions of various religions could be confusing for some readers. The graphic elements of the short stories are wonderful and add important detail to the narrative; however, the graphics used in the appendix are rather simple. All in all, this book is a wonderful way to promote religious tolerance through “many windows!”

Highly Recommended.

Myra Junyk is the former Program Co-ordinator of Language Arts and Library Services at the Toronto Catholic District School Board. Currently, she is working as a literacy advocate.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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