Author: Darlene Foster
Year published: 2010
Number of pages: 108
Recommended age: 8+
Daughter Rating: ★★★★½
Daughter Rating: ★★★★½
Grown-up Rating: ★★★★½
Grown-up Rating: ★★★★½
Reviewed by: Renee and Danielle (Mother and Daughter)
Summary (from back cover): Amanda Ross is an average twelve year old Canadian girl. So what is she doing thousands of kilometers from home in the United Arab Emirates?
It’s her own fault really, she wished for adventure and travel when she blew out those candles on her last birthday cake. Little did she know that a whole different world awaited her on the other side of the globe, one full of intrigue, mystery and folklore. A world with a beautiful princess, a dangerous desert and wonderful friends.
Join Amanda on her first adventure as she discovers the secrets behind The Perfume Flask.
***This review contains spoilers.***
What it’s about: This book is about a girl named Amanda who goes to the United Arab Emirates to visit her uncle and aunt. Amanda meets a man in a shop who sells her a perfume flask which used to belong to a princess named Shamza. Amanda has to return the flask to the princess.
What I liked and disliked about it: I thought the story was cool and interesting. I liked that there was a mystery and that you didn’t know what was going to happen next. For example, I was surprised when Amanda gets kidnapped and when it turns out that the shopkeeper knows the princess. But I was scared for her when she was kidnapped. I thought something bad was going to happen to her.
I liked learning about another culture. I learned that in Arabia, you use camels and jeeps for going places in the desert. I also learned about broken dunes that are smooth on one side and broken on the other. I liked the camels and learned that they come in different colours. I also learned all kinds of other things too.
I thought it was a bit scary that Amanda went to a foreign country by herself and explored the country with another girl her age. But it was also cool and a fun adventure and maybe something I would like to do one day.
The names of the people in Arabia were a bit awkward to pronounce and I had to ask my Mom how to say them.
My bottom line: I really, really, really liked this book – it was fun to read. I would recommend it to girls 7 years and older.
What it’s about: Amanda in Arabia: The Perfume Flask follows the adventure of a 12 year-old girl from Canada who embarks on an adventure to visit her uncle and aunt living in the United Arab Emirates. Soon, Amanda gets entangled in a mysterious plot involving an ancient bejeweled perfume flask, a loyal camel named Ali Baba, and a beautiful princess. A world away from her family in Canada, Amanda must unlock the secrets surrounding these three pieces of a puzzle all the while avoiding the dangers lurking in her midst.
What I liked and disliked about it: This book review marks a first for us here at Mother Daughter Book Reviews. A few months ago, we learned that Darlene Foster, the author of Amanda in Arabia, was doing a book signing in a book store located in the Lower Mainland in British Columbia just 30 minutes away from where we live! My daughter and I were so thrilled to be able to meet Ms. Foster, purchase her book, and have her sign it, dedicated to my daughter, all in person! My daughter commented that she felt she was meeting a celebrity. So, thank you Ms. Foster. We really enjoyed meeting you.
Amanda in Arabia is a fast-paced adventure that has a captivating plot line filled with twists, turns, and intrigue, a likable and strong female main character, and a setting richly described within the cultural context of the United Arab Emirates. I’m going to discuss these three points in more detail.
This book contains an actual story. I know that sounds like such a strange thing to say, but in comparison to other books with female main characters, such as Ivy and Bean or Clementine or Judy Moody for example, Amanda in Arabia contains a story with an interesting and intricate plot. There are good guys and bad guys; there is a mystery involving danger and intrigue; there are clues to help solve the mystery; and there is a hero. There is A LOT of action packed into this little book! Every morning after reading this book the night before, my daughter would love reporting back to me what had happened in the book. Both she and I were hooked.
Ok, I admit it…I’m a bit biased. I liked Amanda partly because she was a Canadian girl. There I said. Aside from that, I loved her sense of adventure. First, she traveled halfway across the world to a completely foreign land to visit with her aunt and uncle. She also enthusiastically soaked in the culture in which she was immersed (more on that later). She relied on her courage and wits to escape danger instead of being helpless, weak, and in need of rescuing. I’m all for middle grade literature portraying female characters as capable, intelligent, and strong.
But perhaps what I enjoyed the most from this book is the attention given to describing the cultural context of Amanda’s adventure. It made the adventure feel authentic. Arabic terms for everyday items are scattered throughout the book. For example, Amanda (and the reader) is introduced to the souqs (i.e., shopping markets) where Amanda spies the khanjars (i.e., ceremonial daggers) and purchases the perfume flask using the local currency, dirhams. In a key part of the book, Amanda visits a desert village consisting of mud-brick houses, once inhabited by Bedouins, who are nomads living in the desert and the mountains. The examples abound and both my daughter and I enjoyed learning about the rich culture of this Arabic world.
I do have one comment about the age-appropriateness of Amanda traveling by herself in Arabia. On the one hand, it is realistic that a 12 year old could be put on an airplane to go to a foreign country and be picked up by her aunt and uncle when she arrives. But on the other hand, there are a few occasions where Amanda, along with her equally young friend Leah, find themselves exploring the area alone without adult supervision (e.g., in the deserted village where Amanda finds Princess Shamza). I think it would be more appropriate for a 16 year old to be going on these adventures unaccompanied. I wouldn’t let my 12 year old girl go off exploring by herself in a foreign land. This point doesn’t take away from my enjoyment of the story though.
My bottom line: I really, really enjoyed this book. I ripped through it in one sitting because it had me captivated from start to finish. I would highly recommend this book and the other Amanda books to girls in particular ages 8+.
Also, be sure to check out the next two books in Ms. Foster’s Amanda series: Amanda in Spain: The Girl in the Painting and the recently released Amanda in England: The Missing Novel.
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