From the critically acclaimed author of Amina’s Voice comes a new story inspired by Louisa May Alcott’s beloved classic, Little Women, featuring four sisters from a modern American Muslim family living in Georgia.
When Jameela Mirza is picked to be feature editor of her middle school newspaper, she’s one step closer to being an award-winning journalist like her late grandfather. The problem is her editor-in-chief keeps shooting down her article ideas. Jameela’s assigned to write about the new boy in school, who has a cool British accent but doesn’t share much, and wonders how she’ll make his story gripping enough to enter into a national media contest.
Jameela, along with her three sisters, is devastated when their father needs to take a job overseas, away from their cozy Georgia home for six months. Missing him makes Jameela determined to write an epic article—one to make her dad extra proud. But when her younger sister gets seriously ill, Jameela’s world turns upside down. And as her hunger for fame looks like it might cost her a blossoming friendship, Jameela questions what matters most, and whether she’s cut out to be a journalist at all…
Reading Group Guide
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Hena Khan offers middle-grade readers a modern story inspired by the classic novel Little Women. When a work contract takes their father overseas for six months, the Mirza sisters—Maryam, Jameela, Bisma, and Aleeza—find their lives changed unexpectedly. Jameela, an aspiring journalist, wants to find the perfect subject for her next school newspaper article: one that will make her father proud and position her to become senior editor next year. But when her latest story threatens to end a new friendship with Ali, a boy from England with a charming accent and sense of humor, and her beloved younger sister becomes dangerously ill, she discovers that there is more to the stories she wants to tell.
1. Describe the relationships that the Mirza siblings have with their parents and one another. Which sisters are the closest? Which sisters have conflicts? How does each sister relate to their mother and father? Explain the ways that the relationships in the book are similar to and different from relationships you have with your parents, siblings, or others you live with.
2. Why does Baba have to be away from home? Have you ever had to be separated from someone close to you, like a parent or sibling? What did you do to stay in touch? How did the distance affect your relationship?
3. How do the characters in this book encourage one another? Why do you think it’s important to support and encourage others?
4. Jameela says, “‘That’s why social media is messed up. It makes you worry about what you’re not doing, or lets everyone else know what they’re not doing. And then you can’t enjoy what you’re doing now.’” Explain why you agree or disagree with this statement. Can you identify any positive uses of social media in the book?
5. What advice does Jameela’s mother give her about handling her emotions? How does Jameela’s temper cause her trouble? Are you quick to show anger like Jameela, or do you have a different way of dealing with things that bother or upset you? What advice have people given to you?
6. Why is Jameela offended by Kenzie’s and Maureen’s comments that she’s good at archery because she’s “Indian”? Do you think Kenzie and Maureen were trying to be offensive? Do you think Jameela, Kenzie, and Maureen handled this situation correctly? How would you respond if you realized you had unintentionally offended or hurt someone’s feelings?
7. Jameela’s parents don’t want their daughters to worry about the family’s finances, so they try to protect them from finding out too much. Do you think parents or guardians should be open with their children about things like financial challenges, or is it better for them to keep these problems to themselves?
8. Why does Ali refuse to contribute to Jameela’s newspaper article about microaggressions? Why do you think he reacts the way he does when she tells him that she wants to change the focus of the article? How would you have handled the situation if you were Jameela?
9. Travis and Jameela have to work together on the school newspaper even though they disagree about many issues related to journalism. How do they learn to work together? How have you dealt with disagreements with a partner on a group project or other activity? Why is it important to work with people who have ideas that are different than yours?
10. What does Jameela help Ali realize about the reason he has given up playing soccer?
11. Why was it wrong for Jameela to include Ali’s anecdote in the article she published on microaggressions? In chapter thirty-five, Ms. Levy discusses the ethical rules of journalism with her students. Identify these rules and explain why each one is important.
12. Aleeza feels like she should be allowed to have a phone even though she is not yet thirteen, which is the age that Jameela and Maryam received their phones. Do you agree or disagree with her reasons for wanting a phone? How would you make an argument for receiving your first phone? What responsibilities come with having one? Explain your answers.
13. How does Bisma’s illness bring the Mirza family closer together? Why do you think it can sometimes be difficult to ask for help?
14. Do you think that Ali and Jameela feel the same way about each other? How do you know? Explain your answers.
15. Why does Jameela decide to shave her head? How do you think her gesture made Bisma feel?
16. Jameela’s article is about microaggressions, which are comments or actions based on stereotypes or prejudices that are intentionally or unintentionally insulting. The media often perpetuates stereotypes in the way it portrays people and communities. How does Hena Khan’s book challenge stereotypes about Muslim families? Why do you think books that challenge stereotypes are important?
17. One of Jameela’s characteristics that helps her to write well is her ability to view others with empathy. How does she demonstrate empathy toward Bisma? Why is empathy especially important for a journalist?
1. Jameela wants to publish a digital version of the paper rather than continuing to print paper copies. Work with a group to write and publish an edition of a class or family newspaper. Before you begin writing, debate and decide whether you want to publish a physical or digital newspaper, and the merits of both. Each group member should choose a story to write, keeping in mind Ms. Levy’s ethical rules of journalism. Make sure you’ve chosen diverse content in various styles and formats that showcases your group’s personalities!
2. Hena Khan’s novel is inspired by Louisa May Alcott’s 1868 novel Little Women. Read Alcott’s novel or watch a film adaptation of the book, and create a chart comparing characters and plot elements in More to the Story and Little Women. Does seeing the parallels give you a deeper understanding of any of Hena Khan’s characters or their motivations?
3. When Bisma is diagnosed with cancer, her friends and family create a support network for her. Research an organization or event that supports cancer patients, survivors, and their families. Some research possibilities include Relay for Life, St. Baldrick’s Foundation, Light the Night, Rally for the Cure, CaringBridge, Beads of Courage, and Make a Wish Foundation. Deliver a presentation about the organization you’ve selected, including ideas about how you or your classmates can get involved. Why do you think communities like this are so important?
4. Research microaggressions, including what they are, why they matter, and how to avoid them. With your newfound knowledge, create an awareness campaign that encourages your school community to be mindful of the words they use. Develop a slogan, a poster image, and a call to action.
5. Jameela considers the role of English classes and an after-school writing club in fostering her love of journalism and her friendship with a fellow writer, Lily. Create your own piece of creative writing, inspired by More to the Story. You may want to write a short story that imagines where one or more of the characters will be five years after the end of the novel, or rewrite a scene in the book from a different character’s point of view. You may even want to try writing a contemporary retelling of a classic story.
6. One article that Jameela proposes for the paper is a debate about whether or not schools should ban football. Research this issue, and then divide into two groups for a class debate about this controversial topic.
7. Baba’s career takes him away from his daughters as he travels overseas with a short-term contract for work in Abu Dhabi. Locate Abu Dhabi on a map or globe and research some key locations and facts about Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Then create a travel guide for Abu Dhabi that includes information about local currency, transportation, climate, places to see, food, and culture.
Guide prepared by Amy Jurskis, English Department Chair at Oxbridge Academy.
This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
Hena Khan is a Pakistani American writer. She is the author of the middle grade novels Amina’s Voice, Amina’s Song, More to the Story, Drawing Deena, and the Zara’s Rules series and picture books Golden Domesand Silver Lanterns, Under My Hijab, and It’s Ramadan, Curious George, among others. Hena lives in her hometown of Rockville, Maryland, with her family. You can learn more about Hena and her books by visiting her website at HenaKhan.com or connecting with her @HenaKhanBooks.
"Priya Ayyar's straightforward narration provides a positive and loving portrayal of a contemporary Pakistani-American family in this story inspired by LITTLE WOMEN. . . . Ayyar is engaging and relatable as Jameela . . . [and] she gives Jameela's three sisters distinct voices reflecting their personalities: mature Maryam; timid, compliant Bisma; and spoiled Aleeza. Listeners who know LITTLE WOMEN will recognize their counterparts, but it's not necessary to enjoy this audiobook."