The Children's Book Compass

Big Red Lollipop

Posted on: November 15, 2010

Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan.  Illus. by Sophie Blackall.  (2010).  Pages not numbered.  Viking.  Grades 1-4.  Picture Book/Realistic Fiction.

Lively second graders hung on every word when I read aloud this outstanding book to them.  Of course, they would because Khan writes about issues that concern children – acceptance by peers, parental demands, sibling challenges and birthday parties.  Rubina and her family appear to be new immigrants to the United States.  The children thought that the family might be from Iraq because the mother wears a headscarf and as one boy told us, “that’s how mothers dress there, my father served there and he told me.”

Rubina rushes home from school because she is excited to be invited to a birthday party.  Her mother, Ami, says, “What’s a birthday party?”  It is clear right away that Ami needs to be educated about birthday parties, especially when she says that Rubina’s younger sister, Sana, can go too.  When Rubina says – “They don’t do that here!”  Ami tells her to call her friend and ask if she can bring Sana or she can’t go.  Sana goes with her sister and ruins the party.  She even eats the big red lollipop Rubina receives in a party favor bag.  Sadly, Rubina is not invited to any more birthday parties.  The second graders’ eyes got very big when I read that part.  They had opinions as to what Rubina should do to her sister.  But this author surprised them when her plot twists in an unexpected way.  Sana comes home with a birthday party invitation and the mother says she must take Rubina and their youngest sister.  The problem is resolved with a generous act on Rubina’s part.  This story gave the students lots to talk about.  They wanted to discuss Rubina’s kindness to her sister and the powerful connections with other books they made – My Rotten Red Headed Older Brother by Patricia Polacco and The Can Man by Laura Williams.  The illustrations by Sophie Blackall expand the characterization and give additional understanding of the events.  Some pictures give an unusual perspective on the scene, showing a series of actions going on from above.  Blackall adds texture to her illustrations with patterns and prints in the clothes of the characters and the interior decorations of the home.  This book is an excellent choice to share as a mentor text for realistic fiction.

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Pointing the Direction to New Books for Children and Teens

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