Allen & Unwin
Imprint:A & U Children
This is a really fun read but more than that, it’s a delightful look at family relationships and community interactions. When their dad loses his job as the neighbourhood security guard, Huda and Akeal set out on a campaign of mischief, with the goal of pressuring the Body Corporate to reinstate him. They’re not criminals as such, but they do become known as the Crimanimals (due to Huda’s spelling error in their first foray into graffitti). They don’t want to hurt anyone or steal anything so all their misdeeds are aimed at low-level misdemeanors like knocking over all the rubbish bins, running off with the shoes outside the mosque door and ‘kidnapping’ their baby brother. They narrowly escape some police attention and run into older boy Fadey, who becomes their chief ally, and along the way they uncover a nasty plot of fraudulent financial management from the very Body Corporate who have given their dad the sack.
Huda reminds me very much of Kevin from Home Alone – that same quirky kind of kid who is a cross between super-smart and super-annoying, but definitely precocious and passionate. There is no doubt she is very single-minded in her goal to get her dad back in his job and in their family home.
Unsurprisingly, given H. Hayek has based Huda and her family on her own, there are strong themes here of identity, being Muslim and Lebanese-Australian, and the funny and sometimes fraught interactions between family members.
While it is a light-hearted read in many respects, there are also opportunities to explore more serious aspects and it would lead to some interesting conversations around what is right and wrong and when, if ever, being ‘naughty’ or breaking rules is acceptable or justified.
This would make a terrific serial read aloud for any class from around Year 4 upwards and a great reading circle title. Recommended for kiddos from around 8 upwards.