The intent of this 48 page chapter book is good, however, a few things rubbed me the wrong way about how Ramadan and Islam are presented.
Nearly eight-year-old Magid wants to fast on the first day of Ramadan, but everyone says he is much to young. He decides to deceive everyone and fast anyway. I’m actually okay with this main story line, as I could genuinely see a child wanting to do it so much they would lie about it. The author even has the family sit down after the truth comes out and discuss how honesty is important and this is not how Ramadan should be celebrated. Lesson learned for Magid and the reader, right? Nope, the author kind of blows it and takes it to the other extreme.
Magid’s sister Aisha is twelve and is “forced” to fast so she isn’t the only girl not fasting at her all girl’s school in Egypt. What a sad reason to fast, The whole reason Magid wants to fast is to be a “truly obedient Muslim” which sounds great on the surface, but it get’s repeated so often that Magid at one point is judging a classmate who isn’t fasting and isn’t always at Jummah (Friday) prayers. The parents decide at the end to let Aisha fast until school is out, hence shortening the day for appearance purposes, and Magid can fast til lunch. He is told he can fast full days when the days are shorter. Again a really odd reason to wait when fasting has been prescribed for us, to make it an issue of convenience.
So aside from the very negative view of Ramadan and the kids rejoicing at the end that they don’t “have” to fast, the lying, the disobeying your mother, and the judgmental laden diction of being truly obedient, the book does cover a lot of ground well. The book shows the characters doing wudu and praying, it shows them trying to be kind to one another, it talks about how the Quran was revealed in the month of Ramadan and it does have a plot.
The water color illustrations are nice, and I also like how it showed a bit of Egyptian culture with the lanterns, singing, and food. Interestingly the author says it is harder for Muslim’s in America to fast, but elsewhere says that Aisha has to watch the girls at school not fasting, eat lunch.
I really wouldn’t recommend this book, for the intended audience of 3rd through fifth graders I think it would do more harm than good in promoting Islamic values in Muslim children and in showing non-Muslims what Ramadan means to Muslims.