Sonderbooks Stand-out

Sonderbooks Book Review of

The Eleventh Trade

by Alyssa Hollingsworth

Home Stand-outs Blog Knitting Info
The Eleventh Trade

by Alyssa Hollingsworth

Review posted April 14, 2020.
Roaring Brook Press, 2018. 298 pages.
Starred Review
Review written November 4, 2018, from a book sent by the publisher.
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#4 Contemporary Children's Fiction

Sami has newly arrived in Boston with his Baba from Afghanistan by way of Iran, Turkey, and Greece. His father had been an interpreter for the American army, which made him a target of the Taliban.

Baba’s rebab, a stringed instrument like a lute, is one of the only things they still have from Afghanistan, and Baba plays it in the subway station. But after Sami’s first day of school, he’s playing the rebab while Baba takes a break – and a thief snatches it out of his hands and gets away on the subway.

Well, Sami finds a new friend who looks up the instrument and finds the shop where the thief took it. But the shop wants $700 for it. It’s the start of Ramadan and Sami wants to get it back for Baba to give him at Eid al-Fitr. But Sami has no money.

Then a bully notices Sami’s Manchester United key chain. He’ll trade an ipod for it. Of course, then it turns out the ipod is broken. However that new friend of Sami’s knows how to figure out how to fix an ipod.

Thus begins a series of trades. If Sami can trade each thing for something a little better, maybe he can get that rebab back for Baba by the end of Ramadan.

This is the second book I’ve read recently about “elevator trades.” But in the other book, it was more of a scam. This book has heart. Sami doesn’t have to scam anyone – he finds what people want. And I love the way he builds connections with people as he finds out what they care about and what they want.

Along the way, we find out about Sami’s story, watch him join a soccer group, and see him learn about the power of friendship as he adjusts to this new place.

You end this book wishing all good things for Sami and his Baba. You also have a feeling they’ll find them.

Added later: Looking back at this book a year and a half later, I still have such warm feelings for this book and its characters. Just a wonderful book.