Mustafa and Arwa go on a Prayer Adventure by Mekram Mohammad

Mustafa and Arwa go on a Prayer Adventure by Mekram Mohammad


This short rhyming book introduces toddlers and little ones to the five daily prayers as it presents the brother sister duo on a typical day.  Ok, so maybe not a typical day, unless dressing up as knights and battling each other, winning medals, and climbing mountains is typical.  But, it presents the salats in time sequence that little ones can understand, more than as hours on a clock or as the various position of the sun.  Fajr is early, and it guards your day, then you go to school, but the book reminds you to remember Allah, then you take a break for duhr and if you do, inshaAllah Allah will help you pass, then you come home and have a snack and then pray Asr, etcetera.  By combining daily activities like spending time with family and reading Quran with the five prayers makes the routine seem doable and inshaAllah making it regular will truly allow us all to battle, win, and reach new heights, ameen.

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The book is a great tool to learn the names of the prayers, and their order, while strengthening a child’s Muslim identity.  There is no glossary or further detail about Salah or how it is performed, but I think assumes that that the reader would be able to provide additional information to the listener.  The book is more to get children excited to pray, and get closer to Allah (swt).

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The illustratrions are adorable and the font and text appealing  to little children.  The book is one in an adventure series by Muslim Pillars, and I look forward to reading Mustafa and Arwa’s other adventures.

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Ticket to India by N.H. Senzai


In terms of plot and and believability, this 274 page 6.3 reading level book has moments of unrealistic twists, but the historical flashbacks and context make up for it as it delves into Pakistan, India partition without getting overly bogged down in politics and bitterness.  You can tell that the author writes from a place of love and warmth, as she talks about all sides involved: Pakistan, India, Great Britain.   The stories, fictional and historical, that weave through the novel make it informative and entertaining irregardless of one’s prior knowledge.


Maya is 12, and a little shy, especially compared to her older sister Zara.  The book starts with her writing a journal entry about her visit to Pakistan in an airplane somewhere over the ocean.  Maya, her older sister Zara, and their mother are heading to Karachi from America because of the death of Maya’s beloved grandfather.  Frequent visitors to Pakistan, Maya is familiar with the sights, traditions, and language.  As other family members arrive, Maya and Zara overhear their elderly grandmother planning to runaway to India to retrieve family heirlooms that were left during partition.  The plan had been in the works for the whole family to go, visas were already obtained, but with the unexpected death, the urgency is amplified.  Grandma wants to find a ring to bury with her husband.  In Islamic custom burials happen very very quickly, often the same day, so the delay and sending the body to America, is something you just have to go with as the reader.  Rather than convince Grandma to stay, the girls threaten to tell their mother if she doesn’t take them along, and the next thing you know the trio are off to India and on a treasure hunt.  There is a map at the beginning of the book, which is very helpful.  However, the adventure isn’t straightforward, not only in the trio’s adventures, but in that grandma ends up in the hospital, Zara and Maya decide to pursue the lost items on their own, and then Zara and Maya get separated.  Twelve-year-old Maya then is forced out of her shell as she is kidnapped, and running for her life, trying to keep her promises, and also in desperately trying to save her family from having to pay a ransom to save her.  A lot happens, and the intensity amplifies as it starts out as a elementary aged family story and turns into a middle school adventure.  A long the way are beautiful passages about the scenery, amazingly simplified, but factually and emotionally accurate explanations about partition and ultimately, through Maya, about finding your voice. 


The framing of the fictional story and the historical context is wonderful.  Partition, is such a pivotal moment for those that lived through it, but has less and less relevance to today’s generation that lives abroad.  So, to find a book that makes the gist of the events come through, is why I love using fiction to connect people and ideas.  I am making my daughter read this tomorrow, no question. She needs to know what her own grandmother endured, what decisions her family had to wrestle with, and this book allows us to have those discussions in an informed way.  I’m sure many would disagree and say that the reader should know about partition before reading the book, but I think the tidbits and delicate way the author convey the horrors, the agony, the manipulation, and the struggles in todays time, is far better than I could do to a sixth grader. 

Maya’s abilities seem to grow overnight, so while she was an ok protagonist, she might annoy some.  I actually had to google in the middle of reading how old Maya is, at times she seems like she is eight or nine and at other times like she is 15.  I do like that Maya constantly remarks how alike India and Pakistan are, a reality that today’s generation definitely agrees with, but is often afraid to voice to their parents.  I also like that there are good and bad everywhere, a theme that doesn’t get old, especially in books that deal with cultural and religious elements as presented to a wide audience.

There isn’t much religion in the book, the characters don’t stop and pray or wear hijab, but the setting does allow for mention of masjids, and a kind Imam back in California, the characters identify as Muslim and they discuss Muslims as a minority and political entity regularly.  One of the treasures the grandma is looking to retrieve is an old Qur’an with the family tree drawn within.  The book talks about how intertwined the two countries and many religions of India are, and Maya’s name articulates many of these crossroads.  In the end, perhaps the best lesson from the book, is how much alike we all really are.

There is a wonderful Author’s note in the back, along with a glossary.


The book has some violent images as it discusses trains coming from India to Pakistan with only a few living aboard and vice versa.  The intensity as Maya is robbed, and then kidnapped, and then held hostage, could also be jarring for some younger readers. 


Like all her other books, I would absolutely include this in a Book Club, there is a lot to discuss, lots to understand, and lots to enjoy.

Author’s website:

Reading Group Guide:

YouTube book trailer:

I’m New Here by Anne Sibley O’Brien

I’m New Here by Anne Sibley O’Brien


Three new kids, not just at school, but to America as well. Maria is from Guatemala, Jin from Korea, and Fatimah from Somalia.  All three telling about what they are faced with as they settle in to their new life and routine, and all tell a bit about how things were back home.  FullSizeRender (48)

This book is not entertaining or fun, it is educational.  Written for ages 5-8 this book is very straightforward as the three characters stories are interwoven to show the growth and settling in that they experience.  The simple sentences, allow the reader to learn real, tangible ways that this children are finding the transition hard.  It also alleviates any sense of pity as it shows the full lives they had before coming to America. 

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I love that the other kids in the class are involved in real life ways to help welcome the new kids to class. Sometimes we are harsh on kids that don’t show empathy or compassion, forgetting that often they don’t know how.  This book works for adults and children in all situations.  We all need to put ourselves in other peoples shoes and see what struggles they are facing, we all need to help one another, and we all need to facilitate environments where these actions can take place.

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The book in many ways would fit well with One Green Apple, as it gives the perspective from the character who is new and articulates some of the obstacles they are facing, while also showing the interactions that help one to feel welcome and comfortable.

The pictures are crucial to the story as they show the feelings of the children and give context to the simple storyline.  I love that their is so much additional diversity in the illustrations: children of all body shapes, there is a student in a wheel chair, Fatimah wears a hijab, and there are male and female teachers in the book.

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The Author’s Note at the end of the 32 page story tells of her experience as a white American child living in South Korea, and some of her feelings and thoughts of being in a new country.  There is no mention of Islam, just implies Fatimah is a Muslim based on her dress, her mother’s clothing, and her country of origin.  

My Mummy’s Tummy by Suzanne Stone illustrated by Suzanne Stone and Omar Faruq

My Mummy’s Tummy by Suzanne Stone illustrated by Suzanne Stone and Omar Faruq


The copy I have is called My Mummy’s Tummy, but the binding says My Mummy’s Fat Tummy, I would assume that they are the same book except for this one word, and I’m hoping they opted to remove it at the last minute.  Actually, while on the title, it only  works well for the first four pages and yes, it sets up the story of a new sibling, by page five, the baby is born and mom’s tummy is the least of big sister, Maryam’s worries.

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The 24 page rhyming book, is a good introduction to what kids ages 3-6 can expect with a new sibling.  From Mummy’s large tummy, to having to stay with an Aunt when Mummy’s tummy starts hurting, Maryam is excited to have a new baby sister, except it ends up being a baby brother.  And while she is promised someone to play with, initially all he does is cry and sleep.  With gentle prodding by her parents and islamic reminders of patience and kindness, by the end of the book the baby is nearly one and his favorite person is his big sister Maryam, alhumdulillah.

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I love the diversity of the parents, and the acknowledging that changes are hard without being condescending or dismissive.  The book stays positive and hopeful and reminds us to keep Allah close to us when dealing with challenges and dreaming of the future.


Zaydo Potato: Can Allah See Me Now? by Randa Taftaf and Maz Galini illustrated by Lovyaa Garg

Zaydo Potato: Can Allah See Me Now? by Randa Taftaf and Maz Galini illustrated by Lovyaa Garg


The book starts off simple enough with a little boy, Zayd playing hide-and-seek with his friend (or maybe cousin), Kareem, and his cat Pepper, when the challenge of hiding where they can’t be found, spawns a lesson in how Allah (swt) is always watching and watching over us.  As the kids hide in different places, the mom uses the names of Allah (swt) to emphasize the point.  The story presents the names of Al-Baseer, the All-seeing, Al Aleem, the All-knowing, Al-Khabeer, the All-aware, Al-Raqeeb, the Watchful, and Al-Shaheed, the Witness.

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The book is 32 pages, with the story taking up 24 of those pages. An ayat from the Quran, surah Hadid verse 4, starts the story and there is a glossary of the names of Allah at the end.  There is also some suggested activities for the book.  Hidden on each page is Pepper the cat and a potato.  There are other activities of finding shapes, counting blocks, finding different animals, etcetera,  that encourage children to go back to the book to engage in the pictures, and inshaAllah the message presented.

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There are two books thus far in the series and one E-book, the order doesn’t matter, as each is a standalone book.  The husband and wife authoring team also have a publishing company, Rummana Publishing Inc, and based on their website seem to have plans for more in the future.  This book came out about six months ago, and with its Glossy cover and large colorful pages, children will enjoy the story and activites.  The pictures are warm and engaging, and overall they are very well done.  The sentences are short, and the amont of words on the page is appropriate for the target audience.  There seems to be some arrant spacing on new text lines, but I doubt anyone would notice, and a few sentences are awkward either in their wording or lacking commas, but again, it is minor.

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A good story premise, easily conveyed to younger Muslims, makes the book an asset for Muslim children establishing a foundation and building a relationship with Allah swt.


My Mum is a Wonder by Michele Messaoudi illustrated by Rukiah Peckham

My Mum is a Wonder by Michele Messaoudi illustrated by Rukiah Peckham

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This book published in 1999 was one of the first books I remember reading regularly to my Sunday school class, and reading it now as a mum myself makes it warm me all the more.  In 34 warmly colored illustrations, this 8×8 book shares the story of how a little boy sees his mom.  How impressed he is by her and how truly he loves her for all that she does, all that she is, and all that she shares with him.


As the story progresses from what she does within the home and family, to what she does for others, the little boy also imagines himself all grown up and his mum as a nan.  He imagines that she will need him and he is ready and willing for when that time comes, to take care of her.


The book and illustrations target ages 3-6.  Written in rhyming couplets, four lines per page, the story moves at a steady pace and the pictures are detailed and familiar enough to engage most kids at bed time or in small settings.

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There are little Islamic specific tidbits sprinkled throughout that give parents or readers a chance to use it as a more specific teachable moment.  Saying “salam, reading Quran, thanking Allah for the food they have, praying salat, giving charity, visiting the elderly, celebrating eid, obeying her, and caring for her in her old age to achieve jannah, inshaAllah.


Nanni’s Hijab by Khadijah Abdul-Haqq illustrated by Vitchapol Taerattanachai

Nanni’s Hijab by Khadijah Abdul-Haqq illustrated by Vitchapol Taerattanachai

Nanni's Hijab

MashaAllah, there are so many things to like about this 36 page, brightly illustrated, elementary aged story.  Nanni, the main character, is spunky.  Not only is she strong enough to wear hijab to school, but she also is brave enough to confidently handle a bully on her own.  Surrounded by a supportive teacher, friends, classmates, and her mom, Nanni’s creativity and understanding that Allah swt will help her find a way to handle her predicament results in a happy ending, and many empowering messages.


The book would work for most children, but I think second grade and up would get the most out of it.  The girl might be young to be wearing hijab, but it seems like she wears it because she wants too.  I like that the illustrations have her and her mom uncovered at home, and that there is a glossary at the back, opening up the book to muslim and non muslim kids alike.


I also really like the larger messages of acceptance, trying new things, and doing better when you know better.  The supporting cast in the book resonates with muslims who go to schools where they are the minority, but have support and encouragement to practice their faith none-the-less.  Nanni’s teacher remarks that her “hijabs are as regal as a princess’s crown,” and the other students like seeing what color or design she is wearing each day.  Although a children’s book, the author does very clearly explain that the hijab is part of Nanni’s faith, although not mentioned by name, and that it is an act of worship. Nanni wants to handle the problem on her own, and for as bad as she wants to punch Leslie, she knows it isn’t the right thing to do.  As she wrestles with what is the best approach, she puts her trust in Allah, swt, which perhaps is the greatest lesson for us all in the book, alhumdulillah.