Huda and Me
30 Mar. 2021
Paperback / softback
Huda’s sitting in the airport lounge, fiddling with our tickets. I can tell she’s excited because she has a little smile on her face and she keeps glancing at her pink digital watch. I can’t believe we’re doing this. I can’t believe we’re running away from home. Well, we’re not really running away. We’ll come back. We’re running to our parents. On the other side of the world.
When their parents have to travel to Beirut unexpectedly, twelve-year-old Akeal and his six siblings are horrified to be left behind in Melbourne with the dreaded Aunt Amel as their babysitter. Things do not go well, and Akeal’s naughty little sister, Huda, hatches a bold plan to escape. After stealing Aunt Amel’s credit card to buy plane tickets to Lebanon, Huda persuades her reluctant favourite brother to come with her. So begins Huda and Akeal’s hair-raising and action-packed journey to reunite with their parents half a world away, in a city they’ve grown up dreaming about but have never seen.
A fresh and funny story of sibling love, adventure and courage, Huda and Me is one of a kind.
InformationBook Type: Junior Chapter
Age Group: 9 to 13 years
Traffic Lights: Green/Amber
Class Novel: No
Good Reads Rating: 5/5
Literary Rating: 4.5/5
Akeal’s parents have always wanted to take him and his siblings on a trip to their home country of Lebanon, but when his grandmother gets sick, his parents have to change plans. Akeal and his siblings are left in Melbourne under the care of Amel, a friend of their mother’s, while their parents fly overseas.
At first it seems like a fun holiday. But it soon turns into a nightmare as Amel forces the children to wait on her hand and foot, going without sleep or school. The kids can’t fight back because Amel keeps their baby brother Raheed with her at all times. They can’t call their parents for help because they have international roaming turned off. The teachers at school think they’re just unused to doing their own chores.
In desperation, Huda—the second youngest—hatches a plot for her and Akeal to fly to Lebanon alone.
Flashing back and forward between Huda and Akeal’s chaotic experiences in international travel—from a glitzy layover in Dubai to a racist passenger in First Class and a daring escape from a sceptical flight attendant—and the days leading up to their departure—in which Huda is forbidden from speaking to her siblings and their kind Polish neighbour secretly documents evidence.
When they arrive at their grandparents’ place in Lebanon, their parents are alarmed—even more so when Huda shows them Mr. Kostiki’s evidence. Soon, Akeal and his dad are on a plane back to Melbourne to make sure Raheed is alright. They manage to find Amel before she can take him to New Zealand with her.
Back in Lebanon, Huda is getting to know their family. Their grandmother is looking much better. Akeal’s parents tell him that they’re going to take a family trip to Lebanon next school holidays.
A highly enjoyable read. Huda and Akeal’s sibling dynamic takes centre stage in a chaotic, fast-paced adventure. There’s discussion of racism and religion, as Huda is discriminated against for her hijab and Akeal does his best to observe his religious practices in difficult circumstances. Akeal’s relationship with his culture and language is complex and nuanced, as he feels both distanced from and drawn towards a country he has never been to.
Huda and Akeal’s experiences are reminiscent of a classic Dahl novel: horrifying to the adult observer, but a triumph for the younger reader, and with a message of hope, love, and perseverance at its core. Overall, a layered and gripping read.
travel, adventure, siblings, family, racism, religion, culture
1. Racism: Huda tells Akeal about a boy she met in First Class who called her a ‘terrorist’ and tried to pull off her hijab (p. 83-84). 2. Akeal trips and hits his head; he gets a small graze and bleeds (p. 127). Akeal and Huda see a soldier with a gun directing traffic in Lebanon (p. 157).
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