"Amira & Hamza" Book Club: Day 1By: OwlCrate Jr
“I have learned something about the capacity of Mortals …
Your true heroes aren’t the ones who are fearless.
They’re the ones who are scared but fight anyway.”
Welcome to day one of our book club read-along of Amira & Hamza: The War to Save the Worlds by Samira Ahmed, featured in out October 2021 'Science Is Magic' theme! This month’s read-along was written by Cheryl of And Other Tales, a fantastic book and lifestyle blog.
Just a reminder that this will be a SPOILER FILLED discussion for Chapters 1-5 of Amira & Hamza. Discussion questions are listed below, and anyone who participates in the comments will be entered to win a free OwlCrate Jr box per post!
Take it away, Cheryl!
The story so far...
We open our story with Amira feeling pretty down about herself. She has just failed her fourth karate test, to a girl younger and smaller than herself, and she’s had it with can-do attitudes and “believe in yourself” advice from adults. Most of all, she no longer believes in wishes.
But things are looking up for our self proclaimed science nerd as she is about to witness a once-in-a-lifetime, one night only, celestial trifecta phenomenon: a super-moon, a blue moon and a blood moon—an eclipse on the second full moon of the month while the moon is closest to earth than any other time AND it looks blood red! Even better, she’ll be attending a special eclipse-viewing party at the Medinah Temple along with her Ummi, Dad, and ever-so-pesky little brother, Hamza.
The night is off to a pretty good start … aside from the constant peppering from Hamza’s nerf gun and Ummi threatening to bring back the “get-along t-shirt” to stop their squabbling! The Medinah Temple in Chicago is home to amazing artifacts such as an ancient flute playing automaton, but Amira is eager for the eclipse-viewing party on the roof to begin and is salivating over the chance to touch the telescopes. Only problem is, Hamza is MIA. On orders to go find her brother, Amira heads back downstairs to find him TOUCHING AN ANCIENT ARTIFACT! Amira is furious and knows she should be telling Hamza to put it back, but this beautiful artifact, known as the Al-Biruni Box of the Moon, holds a strange pull over her. Instead, she finds herself wrestling Hamza over it! When the inevitable happens and the squabbling siblings drop the box, the world screeches to a halt … literally. All the adults on the roof - in fact, everyone but Amira and Hamza - have fallen into a deep sleep. Time has seemingly stopped, nothing is moving, and three important things become immediately clear: the box has suddenly come to life, the moon has cracked and a large piece has broken off and is hurtling towards Earth! Oops.
Well, this isn’t good. All the adults are asleep and a large chunk of the moon is on track to collide with earth … but wait, is it a piece of the moon? As the siblings argue over whether yes, this is really happening (Hamza) or maybe this is simply a bit of indigestion from some bad parathas (Amira), it appears this shiny object is not a runaway chunk of moon but is, in fact, a large flying golden throne!
Amira and Hamza flee the museum and take refuge behind an alley dumpster as the golden throne skids to a stop on the street. Sounds of indecipherable voices and the thundering herd of footsteps soon follow, but it is the conversation of two people that really grab Amira and Hamza’s attention. They are looking for the Box of the Moon and, wait, did they just call themselves “Jinn”?? In a valiant attempt at heroics, Hamza launches himself over the dumpster, lobbing a volley of nerf gun foam darts at the Jinn only to find himself magically frozen and floating midair with two silver skewers pointing right at his eyes!
Okay, maybe these jinn aren’t so bad. After a few tense moments it turns out that the dangerous looking metal eye skewers are actually a device that help Hamza and Amira to see the jinn by sweeping Collyrium onto their eyelids - a substance that enhances the range of mortal vision. (Basically, a mythological liquid silver eyeliner with sight granting properties.) The two jinn introduce themselves as Maqbool, an orange jinn with Clark Kent glasses, and Abdul Rahman, a ginormous blue jinn, Vizier to the Emperor of Qaf. Turns out there is a great prophecy on the Everlasting Scroll of a great war that would divide the Eighteen Realms, a war that could end all life on Earth and only the two children of Adam and Eve will be able save everyone. That’s right, you guessed it, Amira & Hamza.
Okay, back up. Let’s get some information straight. So Qaf (rhymes with *cough*) is a parallel dimension - a universe of jinn, peris, devs, and ghuls - made up of eighteen realms united under a single king. The moon is a stopper (or plug) between all these worlds and the King of Qaf is the guardian of this stopper. But an evil Ifrit is leading a rebellion against the king, promising each of the eighteen realms their own piece of the moon, which would allow all manner of demons and cruel devs direct access to Earth. The only way to protect the realms, the moon, and the safety of everyone on Earth is for Amira and Hamza to face this evil Ifrit and defeat him in battle, ending the war.
Phew! Just a small favour …
The siblings have very mixed responses to this news: Hamza is thrilled to be a “chosen one” and Amira … less so. While there is much debate over whether the prophecy stated chosen one or chosen ones, Abdul Rahman notes the moles on both children’s right temple as a sign of sacred duty. With no time to lose, the siblings run back to the roof to share a tearful goodbye (did you know beings of fire cry ash?) with their still sleeping parents, a quick run to the bathroom (who knows what the washrooms will be like in Qaf) and grab a quick snack from the museum break room, then they’re off to the golden throne, the apparent transportation mode of the jinn. Here, a long line of jinn soldiers—the Khawla ki Supahi (Khawla Warriors)— kneel before them. These gender fluid warriors —meaning they can choose to represent as male or female—have beautiful jewel toned skin with flecks of shimmer, long silver braids, and daggers tied in sashes at their waists. Basically they’re pretty fabulously cool and it is their sacred duty to safely transport the children to Qaf.
The Khawla Warriors arrange themselves into the black cauldrons that surround the throne (yep, you read that right!) and then they’re off! Flying atop a golden throne through the night skies above Chicago, a most beautiful sight to see … except for Hamza, who has fallen asleep.
- Do you have a sibling? Did you/do you get along as children or were you more like Amira & Hamza?
- Do you relate more to Amira and her cautious studiousness or Hamza and his bold adventurousness?
- (Regarding favourite quote above) What is something you’ve been afraid of doing but had to anyway?
- There is a lot of talk about superheroes of Lore, Mythology and comic book heroes in this story so far … do you have a favourite comic hero or hero from mythology?