Category Archives: Eid Al Fitr

R is for Ramadan by Greg Paprocki

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R is for Ramadan by Greg Paprocki

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This book is fabulously fun, but incredibly puzzling.  The book without a glossary is presumably meant for Muslim children, with words like U is for Umrah and T is for Tasbeeh, and N is for Night of Power.  Which is interesting, because it seems to be written by a non Muslim, who writes and illustrates a lot of various alphabet books, and published by a mainstream company.  I’m sure this adorable book will appeal  to many non Muslims but after reading it, I’m fairly certain they will be 80% clueless as to what most of the letters are about.   Maybe they would be able to make a guess based on the pictures, but with the pronunciation for Arabic words being given underneath, it sure makes for an odd juxtaposition in a toddler board book.

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Additionally, if you are Muslim reading the book and can describe the Arabic to your 3-5 year old, you will possibly have to explain some of the “big” English words too.  H is for Hospitality, G is for Generous, O is for Obligation.

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Thrown in are also some completely silly, random letter prompts.  W is for Watermelon and Y is for Yay.  So, I probably shouldn’t like this book, but it is an absolute delight to look at and read through if you can account for all the aforementioned things.

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The illustrations are engaging and detailed and oh so happy and fun.  The book feels good in your hands reading it with a little one snuggled up beside you at 8.5 x 6.5 and 32 thick pages long. 

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I guess I can’t offer a finalized opinion on the book, just know what it includes (or doesn’t include) before you buy.  I was able to check it out at my public library, and online it is just under $10, so hopefully people won’t be disappointed with the purchase, if nothing else for the pictures alone.  But maybe don’t get excited to send it off to non Muslim friends and family this Ramadan, as it might not offer much in terms of understanding what the blessed month is all about.

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The Jinni on the Roof: A Ramadan Story by Natasha Rafi illustrated by Abdul Malik Channa

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The Jinni on the Roof: A Ramadan Story by Natasha Rafi illustrated by Abdul Malik Channa

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This 37 page culturally Pakistani Ramadan story is super sweet and fun.  There is so much I feel like my critical self should not like about the story, but by about page 15 each time I read it, I find my self full on smiling and thoroughly enjoying little Raza’s antics and his endearing grandma’s method for dealing with him.

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Raza is too young to fast, but with a house full of relatives gathered for Ramadan, Raza awakens to the sound of his uncle snoring before the siren to signal the start of fasting and the azan calling the worshippers to pray echo through Lahore.  Before he can go back to sleep, however, he hears the cook heading up the stairs to wake up grandma and then the smell of the food hits him and he wants a paratha more than anything.

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Raza embarks on a mission that involves him sneaking up to the roof, pretending to be a jinni and scaring Amina the cook through the chimney to convince her to send up food and a blanket.  

Scared out of her wits, Amina gets the grandma, culturally wards off evil, and delivers the goods to the jinni on the roof.  But the joke is on Raza who is out-witted by his grandma and gets the punishment of washing dishes for the rest of Ramadan, and learning that fasting a whole day will take a lot of will power, if he couldn’t even wait a few hours to get his beloved parathas.

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The book informs the reader that the following year Raza is able to successfully fast, that he is rewarded with gifts and that all is well and forgiven.  There is a glossary, information about Ramadan and a recipe at the end of the story as well.

I love that the plan just happens, it isn’t premeditated or considered, so it takes the reader along for the ride as it is unfolding.  It isn’t a deep story, but there is room for discussion as to whether Raza was naughty, or just caught up in the moment.

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The book is illustrated well and with big 8.5 x 11 pages, the book is engaging for first and second grade readers and listeners, as there is a lot of text on the pages.  The book takes a bit to find its stride as the author tries to use Urdu words, show their Arabic counterparts and then describe them in English. 

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There is a lot of cultural stage setting with everyone in grandmas house, the traditions of the family, of Ramadan, etc.  I think Desi familiar kids will get the most out of the book, but theoretically Muslim kids and non Muslims too could learn and enjoy it too.  I wish jinn and jinni were explained just a bit in the text, not just in the glossary, along with why an 8 year old wouldn’t be fasting or be required to do so. 

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My own kids, aged 8, 9, and 12, struggled on the first two pages, but when I told them to keep reading they zoomed through the rest smiling and ended saying it was good while giggling and shaking their heads.  We are Pakistani American and I think they enjoyed seeing familiar words and phrases in the book and sympathizing with Raza as well, and his sneaky plan that almost nearly worked.

 

Bashirah and the Amazing Bean Pie by Ameenah Muhammad-Diggins illustrated by Amir Doumy

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Bashirah and the Amazing Bean Pie by Ameenah Muhammad-Diggins illustrated by Amir Doumy

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Oh, how glorious to learn something new while having things you know presented so well at the same time.  In 42 pages the reader will feel all the excitement of Eid (it doesn’t specify which one, nor does it really matter), sharing your culture with your classmates, participating in a family tradition, cooking with your grandfather, sharing with neighbors, and learning some life lessons about diversity from the Quran.  Ages 5 and up will enjoy the story and seeing Eid being celebrated, and older kids that know about Eid will love learning about bean pies and appreciate the African American Muslim culture, if they don’t already know about it, and those that do will hopefully feel proud to see it represented.  The best part is that there is a recipe at the end, that I can’t wait to try.

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It is the end of the school day and the teacher is reminding the students that Monday is Culture Day and they need to bring a dish to share, over the weekend it is also Eid.  Bashirah is excited that this is the first year she will get to make her own bean Pie with her Pop-pop who is going to teach her the family recipe.

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At home Bashirah can’t stay still as her mom puts on the finishing touches of her Eid outfit, she is so excited for all the fun about to happen.

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Early the next morning the family all heads out to the Masjid for Eid Salat in their beautiful clothes.

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After prayers its cooking and eating time as Bashirah and Pop-pop make the pies and enjoy a big meal as a family.  Three generations make salat together, food is taken to the neighbors, and then the big reveal.  All the desserts, including Bashirah’s are served, and alhumdulillah it is delicious!

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Back at school on Monday the teacher reminds them all that, “neither our languages or heritages make us better than anyone else.  Allah looks at our good deeds.” She quotes Surah Hujurat, ayat 13 “Oh, mankind indeed we have made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another.  Indeed the noblest of you in the sight of Allah (swt) is the best in conduct.” And they all dive in to the delicious desserts including Bashirah’s wonderful pie.

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My only criticisms of the book are the margins and the amount of text on the pages.  I have a hard time reading the book aloud to small groups as the margins are so small and run in to the binding.  Also, some pages have one sentence on them, some have nearly a half a page of text.  This disparity can be off putting at the start of the book to appeal to younger listeners and early readers.

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The illustrations are warm watercolor complimentary pictures.  There is nothing wrong with them, but I wish they were just a tad more defined and vibrant like the picture on the cover.  I love the warmth they radiate, but a little more detail would give the listeners something more to look at on the text heavy pages.

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All in all a great book that I am glad I own and can share with my own children and those in my community, now if I can convince someone to make me a bean pie I’ll really be set, alhumdulillah!

 

My Name was Hussein by Hristo Kyuchukov illustrated by Allan Eitzen

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My Name was Hussein by Hristo Kyuchukov illustrated by Allan Eitzen

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It isn’t often that a 32 page AR 2.4 picture book will haunt you after you read the last page.  Especially a book with short simple sentences, that is poorly organized and reads like two separate nearly disjointed stories, but alas this book has stayed with me for months and upon rereading it to write this review, the images and empathy and reflections stirred have not lessened.  This is an important book to read, to think about, and to return to sporadically as your children and their understanding of the larger world grows and evolves.

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Hussein is a Roma, or a gypsy living in a small village in Bulgaria.  Their ancestors migrated many years ago from India and they are Muslim.  Hussein and his family love Ramadan and the delicious smells of food and warmth of grandparents and family all year round, but particularly during the blessed month.  

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Eid is the best, with family and fun and new clothes.  Hussein loves his life and his name.  It was his grandfather’s name and his grandfather’s grandfather’s name.  But then one day all that changes.

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Tanks and soldiers with guns come to their village and close that mosque and tear up their identity cards and tell all the minorities that they must choose Christian names and give up their culture and identities.

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Hussein and his family do not want to give up Islam and their names and their traditions, but they don’t know what to do.  Feeling like they have no choice they change their names and Hussein asks the reader at the end if you would call him Hussein or Harry?  

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The last page of the book is an author’s note, and tells that this is based on his own life story.  That in the 1980s Bulgarian minorities were forced to change their identities.  That more than one million Muslims, including Roma, Turks and other minorities were forced to choose Christian names and that until he was 22 years old, his name was Hussein.

The illustrations are illuminating to the images that the simple words discuss.  Truly they are a powerful and integral part of the story.  The women wear hijab and the use of color to set the tone is spot on.  The book is hardbound and the 8×10 size allow the pictures to be enjoyed fully.

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The book published in 2004, was not easy to find which is unfortunate as it really sheds light on a recent history not known in the US at all, and one that should be known and remembered.  The first part of the book reads like a Ramadan story detailing iftaar and Eid and how Ramadan is celebrated by this culture, but the second half goes back to Ramadan and how it is different with the soldiers and the pressure to give up who they are.  There aren’t a lot of details about who the soldiers are or why they have come or what they are going to do to the Romas, but the fact that in recent history and this was what people were faced with, should be a powerful reminder to us all at how fragile this world is and make us appreciate that we aren’t forced to make such a decision.

 

Mustafa and Arwa go on a Ramadan Adventure by Mekram Mohammad

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Mustafa and Arwa go on a Ramadan Adventure by Mekram Mohammad

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Ramadan is two months away and this little book is a great way to introduce and stir up excitement for little Muslim toddlers and preschoolers. It could work for non Muslims, but the general overview given would need some details and explanations, and this book seems more geared to introduce excitement and a few key concepts for the blessed month.

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In 27 rhyming pages the brother sister duo explore some of the feelings of the month, activities that make the month special and what to expect at suhur, iftar, and taraweeh at night.  

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I like that it makes it clear that you don’t eat one bite, that you fast even if you are at work or school, that you use your time to do good and help people, and that you ask Allah for paradise.  

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The end is Eid and while the text presents some great general info, the illustrations are what really give the minimal clear text life.  Seeing the kids giving presents to people and looking for the moon and enjoying iftar together with smiling faces, show kids the warmth of Ramadan.  

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The book doesn’t have a story, it just talks about Ramadan, but the tone in this book and in Mustafa and Arwa go on a Prayer Adventure is very fun and light.  It doesn’t get into rules or articulate what little kids are expected or required to do, or even why Muslims do it, it just gives them some knowledge and some emotion to create the feeling of it being a grand adventure.

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The book is paperback 8.5 x 8.5 and the thickness, sheen and quality of the pages makes it durable and enjoyable to read at story time (in small groups) and bedtime alike.  This book most likely will be on repeat in the weeks leading up to Ramadan and then referenced throughout the month to remind children about what they are seeing and experiencing.  

Hassan and Aneesa Celebrate Eid by Yasmeen Rahim illustrated by Omar Burgess

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So, cute, mashaAllah, I remember last year when I read about these two siblings celebrating Ramadan how pleasantly surprised I was by their relatable sweet story, and once again, I am thrilled that such a little book packs so much information in a fictionalized story to smile at.  Really its size is my only criticism, the book is tiny in size at 7 inches by 8.  The length of 24 pages is fine, its just hard to read it to a group, and really is only ideal for bedtime (not that I won’t read it to a group of kids, its just hard).  Even the price is fabulous, alhumdulillah, and also available in the public library.  Overall, the book is pretty sweet.

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Hassan and Aneesa are getting ready for Eid after a month of fasting.  Their parents are having a party so there is a lot to do to get ready, cleaning, cooking, sampling food, and wrapping gifts. The morning of eid is chaos with everyone running around (so relatable)!  They finally are out the door and heading to the park to pray outside, following Prophet Muhammad’s example.  They listen to the imam give a speech about sharing food and then its off to hug everyone and wish one another an Eid Mubarak.

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When everyone heads to the siblings home, you see kids having fun, dad cooking, and presents being exchanged.  After everyone leaves, they take food to the neighbors, as the imam reminded and the fictional family concludes a wonderful eid that they don’t want to end.

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There is a glossary at the back and the pictures are colorful, bright, and expressive.  While there isn’t a plot or any character development, the situations the kids find themselves are relatable.  The joking that Aneesa will help her mom by sampling the food, and the picture at the end of the kids playing in a messy room with the parents passed out from exhaustion on the couch is pretty fun. 

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There are a few books out there that timeline an eid day, but this one does it well. Kids two and up will enjoy the excitement and feel ready to celebrate eid themselves.  It shows the holiday as fun and desirable and something to look forward to.  Because the kids are in a handful of books, it also does create some identity confidence, as kids see themselves in the various situations that Aneesa and Hassan explore.

Eid by Maria Migo

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This linear story works great for toddlers that might not remember what a typical eid day is like, or those that do well to know what to expect.  There isn’t a ton of detail, but each page has a sentence or two that move the story from spotting the moon, to putting on new clothes, going for prayers, opening presents, and falling asleep at the end of the day dreaming of next year.

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The gentle pictures convey that Eid is a time of family and love, but don’t necessarily convey that chaos and excitement of the day.  The kids are smiling, as are their parents, and the interaction is playful and safe.  I feel like this book is really ideal for kids with anxiety or that need some reassurance when their daily schedule is altered.  For kindergarten kids and older for the most part, I think they might find the book a glorified timeline list.  After one reading, I’m sure they will not ask for another nor remember much from the 32 page book.

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As seems to be the unwritten rule for books like this, the story is framed through a brother sister duo, however the simplicity of the text doesn’t name them, nor give them any role other then to show what an Eid day is like.  

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I like that they do go to the mosque and that it remarks that it is a little squished.  I also like that it mentions Eid is in summer, and implies that it isn’t always, something that could be discussed with older readers.  It doesn’t clarify if it is Eid al Fitr or Eid al Adha, so it would work for both.  The hard back binding and size are beautiful and ideal for story time and bedtime.  

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It isn’t my favorite book, but there is nothing wrong with it.  The Muslim Children’s Books publisher seems to have changed the cover, I’m not sure if anything else has changed.  The book would be a great addition to a book shelf, or in an Eid basket, but I don’t know that it has the wow-power to be a great stand alone gift or book to generate excitement for the blessed holiday.