We all experience disappointment and frustration and feeling like a gray cloud is weighing us down, and for Zaid, it really is! In 36 bright colorful pages, children ages 5 and up can see that bad days happen to everyone, and that sometimes it seems like nothing is going right.
Zaid has been waiting for months for a weekend camping trip with his uncle and cousin, but when Ahmed comes down with the chicken pox, the trip is cancelled. That night Zaid barely sleeps he is so upset, and in the morning notices a small grey cloud hovering above him. As he waits for the bus, the autumn leaves remind him that it will soon be too cold to play soccer outside, then he has to sit at the back of the bus, and needless to say its just the beginning of many disappointments in his day, that make the cloud above him grow. But then, a little something out of the ordinary, in the form of a small bird needing help, presents Zaid with a change of pace and a chance to turn his day around. Slowly but surely the cloud starts to shrink and Zaid copes with the rest of the day with a bit of perspective and a growing smile.
The book is a much needed one in showing children coping with emotions in a somewhat autonomous manner. The book doesn’t judge his feelings, but shows how he finds a way to see the silver lining and make do with a string of frustrations. The adults don’t lecture him or solve his problems for him, but are definitely supportive and caring should he need them. The story does a good job of flowing and not getting preachy. I can’t wait to read it to my 6-year-old who has a gray cloud pop up at the slightest disappointment, but currently my 10-year-old has been sent to her room with the book to see if she can relate Zaid’s predicament with her own. The handy discussion questions at the end also can help talk about feelings through Zaid, and hopefully making the child’s connection from a fictional character to their own experiences more poignant.
This book really cemented in my head the growing subcategories of Islamic fiction picture books. Naturally there are books that are geared for Muslim kids only and ones that work for Muslim and non Muslim kids alike. But this book, along with a few of the new releases like it, cover universal themes with Muslim characters (at least by name) and have diversity in their pictures. They show a few characters in hijab but do not mention or explain it, in this book the marshmallow package says halal, again with no explanation. However, there is no specific ayat or hadith that the book stems from or an Islamic pearl that is meant to get through. The characters do not greet each other with salam, or say alhumdulillah and mashaAllah, making it more appealing to a wider audience, but words I hope when the story is being read aloud to Muslim kids, can be sprinkled in. I think it is a great addition to the literary world when Muslims are seen in a larger community and is not jarring. I hope parents of non Muslim children also appreciate this diversity in literature and I pray that it leads to more acceptance in the “real” world, ameen.