My Friend Jamal

103863851My Friend Jamal
By Anna Mcquinn and Illustrated by Ben Frey

Jamal and Joseph were born in the same hospital in the same month. Now they’re best friends. The two like to play at each other’s homes. Joseph’s mom knows Jamal can’t eat pork sausages because he’s Muslim. She knows, too, that he can’t have ice cream because of his eczema. Some things that happen at Jamal’s house are a lot different from Joseph’s: the food his mother prepares, the way they sit to eat, and the special clothes they sometimes wear. Jamal and Joseph like to play superheroes and cheer their favorite basketball stars. They even say they’re going to sign with the same team when they grow up.  A poignant story about a childhood friendship where unfamiliar cultures meet, My Friend Jamal lets readers sample the differences and recognize the powerful bond that draws two boys together. The visuals, which combine photography and original art, are wonderfully playful and imaginative.

Find a copy at Portland Public Library | Local Bookstore | Amazon | B&N

Publisher: Annick Press
Info: ISBN 9781554511228, Paperback, $8.95
Setting: Toronto, Canada
Featured Community: Somali Canadian, Polish Canadian
Ages: 5-Adult
Theme: Neighbors
Note: Not set in Maine, but an excellent representation of a friendship between a Somali Canadian boy and a Caucasian Canadian boy.

Discuss and Engage with the My Friend Jamal Reader’s guide
Download PDF here

Reviews & Accolades
“Joseph describes his friendship with Jamal, a boy whose family immigrated to the United States from Somalia. He discusses their similarities-they both like to play superheroes and basketball and they sometimes get in trouble at school for talking too much—as well as their differences…A useful title for discussing friendship or the reasons for emigrating.” —Lucinda Snyder, School Library Journal

“…What’s great in this book in the new My Friend series is that the friendship celebrates not only connections but also rich diversity.” —Hazel Rochman, Booklist

“…Joseph’s notes on what he has learned about his friend’s culture add to the usefulness of this matter-of-fact picture of mutual respect and cross-culture harmony. Frey combines McQuinn’s photographs of faces, arms, and some items, like food, with casual paintings of clothing, bodies, buildings, and so forth. Together, they fill the pages, defining the personalities of the two friends while offering sufficient images of places to give a sense of their experiences.” —Children’s Literature

“…This book does a great job of characterizing Somali cultural habits without reducing Jamal and his family to those cultural differences and it subtly shows that Joseph too has an ethnic background and cultural habits. Making Joseph the narrator, the one who explains Jamal, is an interesting choice. It works well in this book and it is likely that the “My Friend Series” will create a range of story-tellers from different backgrounds to tell about their friends.” —Lidwien Kapteijns, Africa Access

“This is a delightful and interesting book about two young friends called Joseph and Jamal. They both come from very different backgrounds, religion and culture. Their friendship transcends these differences.The story of this enjoyable relationship is written in a very poignant, natural and spontaneous way as it is explored by two small children finding out about each other. It deals with their acceptance of the fact that they can still be close friends although there are many areas of their lives that are different.” Khalida Alvi, Paper Tigers

Suggested Supplemental Readings

From I Remember Warm Rain
“Promises” by Navid Sabeti

From New Mainers
Laura Val, Romania
Oscar Mokeme, Nigeria

One thought on “My Friend Jamal

  1. Pingback: Online Edition and Teaching Resource for My Friend Jamal | I'm Your Neighbor, Portland, Maine

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