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Reading Group Guide Zara’s Rules for Living Your Best Life
By Hena Khan About the Book
In Zara’s Rules for Living Your Best Life
, Hena Khan presents the third installment in a series about Zara Saleem, a girl who approaches life by creating plans and rules to solve any problem she encounters. In this case, the problem is a spring break that seems doomed to failure when her mother informs her that she and her brother will have to spend each day with their grandparents instead of their neighborhood friends. To make matters worse, Zara’s once energetic grandfather is staying in his pajamas watching television and napping all day now that he has retired. The solution is clear: she needs to get them active and engaged in activities they enjoy. To help her grandparents live their best lives, she’ll need to create Camp Zara.Discussion Questions
1. Where would you travel to if you could plan your perfect spring break? What would you want to do if you planned your ideal spring break but had to stay at home?
2. Zara’s “number one neighborhood rule for having fun” is that everybody must be included. Why would including everyone make things more fun? What challenges might there be to including everyone in an activity? How could you creatively solve those challenges?
3. Zara is disappointed to learn she won’t be able to spend spring break with her friends. Her mother explains that she will be allowed to stay home alone when she is twelve. Most states do not have a law stating the recommended age for a child to stay home unsupervised, and those that do list ages ranging from six to fourteen. Discuss what you think is the right age to be allowed to stay home alone. Explain the reasons for your answer.
4. When Zara and Zayd arrive, Naano has their favorite breakfast foods, like parathas and halwa, prepared. When you visit family members, are there particular foods or treats they like to serve? Why do you think food is a common way for people to express their love?
5. Describe Zara and Zayd’s first day with their grandparents. What is disappointing about the day? What causes Zara to be concerned about her grandfather, Nana Abu?
6. When Naomi tells Zara about all the fun things she is doing in day camp, how does Zara respond? Do you think it was hard for her not to be jealous? What idea did Zara come up with by listening to Naomi and being happy for her?
7. Consider Zara’s Rules for Camp Zara. (Chapter six) Explain why each rule would be important. Would you change or add anything to these rules?
8. After the first day of Camp Zara has limited success, who does Zara call for help? Who is the trusted adult that you can call on when you need help or advice about a challenge you’re facing?
9. In chapter ten, Naomi tells Zara about her bad experience on the zip line at camp. How does she plan to confront and overcome her fear and anxiety? Describe an experience where you were afraid to do something or tried something new. How did you feel before you tried this new thing, and were you able to complete the activity? How did you learn to navigate your fear and discomfort?
10. What does Zara realize about her grandfather’s interests and skills during their high tea celebration? What idea does this give her?
11. What does Zara call “the best day of spring break so far”? (Chapter fourteen) What made this such a good day?
12. Explain how Nana Abu’s birdhouse leads to his family learning about the Senior Center. Why do you think Nana Abu and Naano are hesitant about visiting the Senior Center? How does Zara help them overcome their hesitancy?
13. Naano and Nana Abu take Zayd and Zara to the masjid, or mosque, for Jumuah prayers. In Islam, Friday prayers are communal, meaning people come together to pray and worship. Early in chapter seventeen, Zara describes their visit to the mosque with her grandparents. In addition to prayers, what else happens while she is there? Why do you think communal activities, where people come together and meet in person, are important?
14. What helps Naano and Nana Abu feel comfortable at the Senior Center? What can this teach you about helping people feel like they belong and are needed?
15. What would Nana Abu and Naano’s life have been like if Zara and Zayd had not stayed with them over spring break? What do Naano and Nana Abu learn from their grandchildren? What did Zara and Zayd learn from their grandparents? Extension Activities
1. Zara’s Rules for Living Your Best Life
begins with Naomi suggesting building a marble roller coaster as a spring break activity. Rube Goldberg is an artist and inventor whose creations have inspired Rube Goldberg competitions that involve using everyday materials (like marbles) to build elaborate machines. Read more about Rube Goldberg here (https://www.rubegoldberg.org/), then work with a team to create your own Rube Goldberg machine.
2. In chapter one, Hena Khan describes the neighborhood clubhouse, which the children made from a converted toolshed. Design your own ideal clubhouse by creating a floor plan of the space. The Glazer Children’s Museum has a short video that explains the basics of floorplan design: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HI_ZMJt9PQw. What would you include in your clubhouse, and why? Who would be invited, and what would you do in your clubhouse?
3. Naano and Nana Abu sometimes speak Urdu, the language they spoke in Pakistan. While Zara does not speak Urdu, she says, “I understand Naano well enough to figure out she’s saying something like, ‘I'll show you fun.’” (Chapter four) Make a list of all the Urdu words and phrases you find in the book and create an Urdu-to-English dictionary. First, use context clues to guess what the words mean, and then look up the translation to see if you are correct.
4. Naano teaches Zara and Zayd to play a card game from Pakistan called Rung, or Court Piece. (Chapter five) Research Pakistani children’s games and pastimes to discover new things to play with your friends. Start by looking up instructions for how to play Rung. There are even sites that let you play online!
5. As an activity for Zara and Zayd, Naano plans a high tea. High tea is a tradition in many parts of the world. Originating in England, it is popular in countries including America, India, Pakistan, Hong Kong, and even Dubai. Research the rules of etiquette, menus, and traditions that afternoon tea celebrations have in common, then work with your friends or classmates to plan a special afternoon tea celebration.
6. Most communities have at least one senior center. Brainstorm ways that your class can connect with your local senior center. You can send cards or letters to celebrate holidays, help with a service project, or learn more about a previous decade via Zoom or in person with a senior.
7. Find out more about your family history by interviewing an older family member or person in your life. Find out what their interests are and ask about their favorite memories. Then write an essay about the person that you interviewed. At the end of the essay, answer this question: “If you could spend one day doing any activity with your person, what would you want to do and why?”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.