Published: 2nd February 2012
Genre: Contemporary, Junior Fiction
Recommended Reading Age: 7+
Ramzi’s dad is acting very strangely. He climbs trees in the middle of the night, and even goes into Ramzi’s wardrobe looking for a hen. The trouble is, he’s sleepwalking because he’s homesick for his native Algeria. So Ramzi, Dad and Mum go back to Dad’s Berber village in the desert region of North Africa, and Ramzi meets his Berber grandmother and cousins, and even braves the scary Sheherazad. But can Ramzi help his dad and what will happen when they get back home again.
Multicultural children’s books can, sadly, be difficult to find. A Hen in the Wardrobe is a fun, easy read for children, and despite its quirky title, is, at heart, about mixed families, cultural differences, community and acceptance. There are also some nice little spot illustrations by the author dotted throughout.
Ramzi lives happily with his mother and father in England. But lately Ramzi’s father has been sleepwalking, a sign of just how much he has been missing his family back in Algeria. Together, they decide to visit his childhood home and Ramzi gets to meet his many Aunts, Uncles, cousins and his Nanna for the first time since he was a baby. Along the way he has a few adventures, makes some new friends, and runs into some very strange characters.
The story is, at times, a little random, but Meddour gives the reader some fascinating glimpses into life as a Muslim in England and the Berber culture, which some children may be unfamiliar with. Alongside Ramzi we experience a little of their way of life in Algeria and Meddour weaves in information about their call to prayer, the wedding season, traditional childhood games, Muslim dress and so on. There is also a great section at the back of the book, written by Ramzi himself, that explains certain phrases or words that can be found throughout the story.
I really liked that this was a children’s book about a multi-racial family and that it looks at some of the difficulties that can arise when half the family feels at home in one country, and the other half feels more at home halfway across the world. I also really liked the particularly close relationship between Ramzi and his father. A Hen in the Wardrobe probably isn’t destined to become a favourite, but it is well worth a read, particularly if you are looking for a children’s book that subtly introduces a young reader to different cultures.
Review originally posted at Mostly Reading YA
*Many thanks to Mostly Reading YA and the publisher for sending this through for review*