A girl navigates friendships, school, and moving to a new town in the picture book Hope by Sahaala Mireh.
Hope is a fairly typical girl living in the U.K., but she worries that her modest household doesn’t measure up to those of her rich friends. The book begins a year before she enters high school and details several changes in her life, including starting high school, moving, and meeting new friends. Hope harbors doubts and insecurities, but always manages to get through her troubles.
This is rich territory for any author. Unfortunately, Hope is often a puzzling read. The first chapter shows Hope attending a birthday party, embarrassed by her ripped school uniform when everyone else sports expensive clothes from the mall. Then, with little transition, the story talks about children being pulled from school because of a major thunderstorm, followed by a paragraph stating that later that year, news stories about a volcano erupting cause Hope to sob. Readers will wish for more connections.
Similarly, Mireh’s references can be cute, as when she notes her four friends names—Tiffany, Adele, Ariana, and Camila—with the aside “(not the singers),” but others are confusing. While explaining that Hope’s family is looking to move, Mireh writes, that “their old house was tiny and felt like Wembley Stadium.” This is baffling, as Wembley Stadium isn’t small.
There are also issues with word usage (“bare” vs. “bear”) and tense (“Since she was five, Hope’s been nagging her mum for a puppy.”) And while the book’s illustrations are engaging, one strange section features a full-page image of a wrecked classroom, with desks overturned, multiple broken windows, and rain pouring in, as the teacher and students laugh. There’s no explanation until two pages later, when it’s revealed that this was the work of Hope’s new dog Pupcorn at the school’s “Pet Day.”
Hope shows flashes of the author’s potential, but the story requires revision in order to provide more clarity throughout.