Be Sure to Pray, Zain! By Humera Malik illustrated by Gonmuki

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Be Sure to Pray, Zain! By Humera Malik illustrated by Gonmuki

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A very relatable 31 page early elementary chapter book about not only establishing salat, but doing it for the right reasons.  The book is not preachy or reprimanding, and even with a moral purpose, Zain manages to connect with readers and be funny and likable along the way.  Told from the view of the young narrator, realization is achieved, confessions made, understanding gained, and inshaAllah regular prayer established.  A great book to share with your own children when salat integrity is in question, and a great reminder of the power of salat that kids will enjoy reading even when it is not, alhumdulillah.

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SYNOPSIS:

Zain starts off by introducing himself as a kid who lives with his parents and is having an  awful week.  He rewinds and begins with recapping Monday.  Right away he acknowledges that Monday actually started out ok as he was having an awesome dream, but that sometimes when he is mad he only sees and remembers the bad things.  Because of his awesome dream he didn’t want wake up and pray Fajr, but his parents reminded him that when you pray you can ask anything you want from God and that praying protects us from bad decisions.  He drags himself up to pray and asks God to help him on his spelling test.  Later that day he took his test, said Bismillah, and aced it.  So he concludes that maybe Monday wasn’t so bad, and Tuesday wasn’t either.

On Tuesday, Zain sticks up for his neighbor Joey who is being picked on by some older bullies.  Later that night Joey’s parents come over to thank him and take him out for ice cream in appreciation.  Wednesday, starts out great at school, and after school he gets to bake blueberry muffins with his mom.  When the muffins are done he was suppose to pray Asr and then take the muffins to his friend Ali’s house.  His mom reminds him to take the safe way and not cross the busy street.  But, Zain forgot to pray Asr and sees no cars coming and chooses to take the short cut across the road.  When he gets to Ali’s house his backpack is open and the muffins are missing.

The rest of the week continues with highs and lows.  Many of the lows coming when he doesn’t pray.  At one point a friend comes to tell him to come to the park to play soccer, and he knows his mom is going to ask him to wait a so they can pray together, so he pretends not to hear and rushes out the door.  Another day he chooses to not miss the end of a show he is watching to pray and heads off to tutoring without praying at all.

When the book rejoins Zain in the present he is feeling bad about kicking a friend playing soccer, cheating on a math test, and not getting to taste his muffins.  He unloads everything that has happened over the week, and his parents calmly and patiently ask him if he has been praying.  When Zain realizes he has been neglectful his mom likens prayer to bricks in a wall that help keep bad things out.  His parents tell him that when we miss our prayers, we end up with holes in our wall and bad ideas can sneak in.  Resolved to stay strong, Zain wakes up the next morning to pray Fajr and have a good day, inshaAllah.

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WHY I LIKE IT:

I love that it stays with a young kids perspective and doesn’t get weighed down with hadith and ayats and lectures.  The parents let him learn from his mistakes and he comes to his own realization, not through their reprimanding or catching him in his deceitfulness.  The book is a great way to remind kids that it is their responsibility to pray and that Allah swt knows everything, so that connection has to be made between the person and their creator, it isn’t something you do only when someone is watching or telling you to do it.  I do wish that when he did resolve to pray that there would have been a bit of an outpouring to Allah.  I love that he had tears in his eyes when he told his parents everything, but I think it would have been really powerful to see Zain ask Allah to forgive him and to help him keep his wall strong.

The book reads smoothly, and the illustrations are well done and inviting.  Early chapter book readers will enjoy the font and format and knowing where the story is going with the days of the week chapters.  On one occasion I wish the word “wudu” would have been used instead of ablution, and I’m not sure what Zain has against carrots, but nothing too major will keep kids from enjoying the story and understanding it.

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FLAGS:

none.

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TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

This book is for children learning to pray and realizing how important salat is.  So while it won’t work for a book club, I really hope teachers in Islamic Schools and Sunday Schools will read the book aloud or assign it to their students.  It is a great teaching tool, a great reminder, and a fun story too.

 

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