Ahmed Aziz's Epic Year

by Nina Hamza (Author)

Ahmed Aziz's Epic Year
Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

This hilarious and poignant tween debut about dealing with bullies, making friends, and the power of good books is a great next read for fans of Merci Suárez Changes Gears and John David Anderson.

Ahmed Aziz is having an epic year--epically bad.

After his dad gets sick, the family moves from Hawaii to Minnesota for his dad's treatment. Even though his dad grew up there, Ahmed can't imagine a worse place to live. He's one of the only brown kids in his school. And as a proud slacker, Ahmed doesn't want to deal with expectations from his new teachers.

Ahmed surprises himself by actually reading the assigned books for his English class: Holes, Bridge to Terabithia, and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Shockingly, he doesn't hate them. Ahmed also starts learning about his uncle, who died before Ahmed was born. Getting bits and pieces of his family's history might be the one upside of the move, as his dad's health hangs in the balance and the school bully refuses to leave him alone. Will Ahmed ever warm to Minnesota?

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An affecting reflection on this boy's tumultuous sixth-grade year.

Kirkus Reviews

The author seamlessly incorporates details of Ahmed’s heritage alongside his father’s Midwestern childhood, in the process accurately and unapologetically portraying Ahmed’s multifaceted identity.

An emotionally perceptive book about grief, identity, and change. (Fiction. 10-14)

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 3-7--Ahmed Aziz recalls the year when he was 12 and forced to move from Hawaii, the only home he'd ever known, to his father's hometown in Minnesota so that his father could receive lifesaving medical treatment for a genetic illness. Frustrated by his parents' choice to move to Minnesota and his lack of control over his life, Ahmed reluctantly embraces his new community and faces the looming legacy of his late uncle's life and death. When a neighborhood bully targets him, Ahmed must decide who it is he wants to be; it is an epic year indeed! In this moving and well-paced novel, Hamza sensitively offers a multidimensional portrayal of characters, young and old, and skillfully weaves in a narrative of the power of good teaching and literature. Young readers resistant to reading may relate to Ahmed's initial feelings about books, while fans of the works discussed within (including Louis Sachar's Holes and Katherine Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia) will be delighted. References to the family's Indian heritage and Muslim religion are seamlessly interspersed throughout, offering a warm and authentic depiction of an American Muslim family. VERDICT A strong debut destined to become a classic. Recommended for classrooms and libraries of all types, particularly where Zanib Mian's "Planet Omar" series flies off the shelves.--Mahasin A. Aleem, Oakland P.L., CA

Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Quill Tree Books
Publication date
June 20, 2021
BISAC categories
JUV039050 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Emotions & Feelings
JUV047000 - Juvenile Fiction | Books & Libraries
JUV039090 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | New Experience
Library of Congress categories
United States
Books and reading
Middle schools
East Indian Americans

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