Books for Ages 8-10: Karma Khullar’s Mustache
Wientge, Kristi, 2017.
New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.
Karmajeet Khullar is a sensitive, smart sixth-grader who has never found a keychain with her name on it at a tourist kiosk. She and her best friend Sara are both nervous about starting middle school, but when Karma notices seventeen hairs on her upper lip one morning, she starts to think that maybe growing up is scarier for her than other people. Things get worse when Sara seems to drop Karma for a new, mean girl at school named Lacy, who is constantly giving all the other girls advice about what kinds of makeup or makeovers to use to fix things that are wrong with their appearance. Karma isn’t sure what to do—her family’s Sikh tradition insists that changing your appearance out of pride is wrong, but at the same time, she hates getting called “Stache Attack.” She makes friends with a girl named Ginny who is really into recycling and listens to her ideas about school gardens and peer tutoring, but she really wishes Sara could be her friend again. After Lacy makes fun of Karma’s homemade lunchboxes and points out the hair on her lip to everyone at school, Karma has to figure out why things are going so wrong—does she have bad karma?
This book is about going into middle school and dealing with your body and with other people who try to tell you what to do with it. It’s funny, sincere, and earnest, and great preparation for weathering middle school. Wientge talks in a real way about how awkward it is to know that your body is changing in ways that set you apart from your friends. Karma’s relationship with her multiethnic family’s history and religion is healthy, but her Midwestern classmates’ racist bullying around the Indian food she eats and the way her body looks still makes her doubt herself in ways that are hard to explain to her parents but which she has to address.