Category Archives: Hajj

I went for Hajj by Na’ima B. Robert illustrated by Paula Pang

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I went for Hajj by Na’ima B. Robert illustrated by Paula Pang

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Before I review this delightful book, I would like to make a public service announcement of sorts.  It is not Hajj season, not even close.  I pre-ordered this book on June 23 from Amazon, I should have/was supposed to have it before Hajj in the middle of July.  I got it TODAY! When I realized that the US publication date was delayed for a book already published in the UK, I reached out to Kube Publishing and they suggested trying “an independent bookseller such as IslamicBookstore.com or CrescentMoonStore.com.”  I know this.  Noura is a dear friend, but I messed up.  Please don’t do the same.  SUPPORT LOCAL BOOKSELLERS! I’m sorry, lesson learned.

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Now back to the book that already feels like a classic staple that needs to be on every Muslim families book shelf, and in every public learning space for non Muslims to enjoy and benefit from as well.   The 31 page “inspirational, semi-fictional narrative” is perfect for ages two to seven as it mimics the beloved Eric Carle and Bill Martin, Jr. classic, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? but framed around Hajj and what is seen, done, and heard.  Each two page spread begins with, “Hajji, hajji…”.

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The book starts with a detailed Note to Parents and Teachers that explains the points to highlight, and discuss with children.  The story is then organized by the steps of hajj in broad strokes and illustrated with both charm and detail that will hold readers and listeners attention.

Hajji, hajji what did you wear?

I wore two white sheets

And my shoulder was bare.

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The book starts with the little boy narrator on the plane looking down on the clouds and sea. He then puts on his two sheets, hears the call to prayer,  sees the black stone and the station of Ibrahim before he makes his seven tawaafs, runs between safa and marwa and heads to Mina. He prays at Arafat like the Prophet (saw) did, and falls asleep in the cold night desert air.  He sees stones being thrown and eats meat on Eid before getting his head shaved.  The book concludes with a glossary.

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The book is well done and is a great mix of information and entertainment, alhumdulillah.

Eid al-Adha: Festivals Around the World by Grace Jones

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Eid al-Adha: Festivals Around the World by Grace Jones

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I had hoped to go through all the recently published non fiction hajj and Eid al-Adha books at my local library, the same way I went through the Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr ones to check for errors and accuracy, but they really didn’t have many, and those that they did have were not published in the last few years.  I did find this book from 2017 and because it has some errors: saying Eid is in September every year, not mentioning all the parts of Hajj, which is ok, but overly stressing the stoning at the jamarat, pronouncing Hajj as Harj, etc.,  I thought to share it with you all, so that you too can contact the publisher and your local library and/or bookstore to see about pulling it if you are so inclined (booklifepublishing.com)

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The 24 page non fiction book is a large 9.5×12 horizontal layout with beautiful pictures of diverse Muslims worshipping and celebrating.  A little cartoon character, Noor, guides you to word pronunciation with a glossary at the end.img_2346The book starts out with a two page spread defining what a festival is.  The next two pages define Islam.   Page 8 then states that “Eid al-Adha is a festival celebrated by Muslims in September of every year.”  And page 9 of the book says we throw pebbles at a wall, not that we throw pebbles at three representative pillars.  It also says that Eid is celebrated for two to four days depending on the country.  Religiously, it should say it is a three day holiday.

img_2347It then tells the Story of Eid al-Adha aka Ibrahim (as) being to told to sacrifice his son.  I’m not sure why the book doesn’t says that Muslim’s consider Ibrahim a Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), and instead call him a wise man.  Indeed he was, but it seems very awkward to not mention how Muslims regard him, and seems to go out of its way to not say he is a prophet in Islam.

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The next section is about Hajj which tells that it is performed in the last month of the Islamic year and that we walk around the kaaba seven times.  No other info is given, but in the next section it again mentions the throwing of pebbles,  really dismissing any other steps and making the sacrifice and stoning rituals seem to be the whole of Hajj which is incredibly misleading and erroneous.

The book shows that those not at Hajj, pray in congregation wearing new clothes, give and receive gifts and giving charity.  In the section about Festive Food it only Buriyani from India is featured, it seems random.  It should have been stronger that one third of the sacrifice goes to the poor, one third to friends and family, and one can be kept for oneself.  This would show that meat is the highlighted festival foods in any culture celebrating.  On the “Noor Says” page at the end, it has Hajj pronounced as “harj” which is wrong, it is Hajj, or possibly hadj.

My standards have dropped considerably, and would sadly not consider much of this major.  But, it does provide another example of how involved and aware we need to be in our representation in mainstream nonfiction publications.

The Colours of My Eid: Memories of Hajj and Eid al-Adha by Suzanne Muir illustrated by Azra Momin

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The Colours of My Eid: Memories of Hajj and Eid al-Adha by Suzanne Muir illustrated by Azra Momin

 

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At 18 pages, this 8 x 8 book focused around colors contains a lot more information than what initially meets your eyes.  The warm beautiful, full page pictures fall opposite a highlighted color and a description of that color in the child’s world that reminds the characters of their time at Hajj or celebrating Eid al-Adha.  On each of the fun text pages is a light green text box at the bottom with factual information that older children or adults will benefit from and be able to share with younger listeners.  The main text is ideal for toddlers and up, and older kids up to 3rd grade will benefit from the nonfiction highlights that can educate or remind Muslims and non Muslims alike, about the importance of Hajj and Eid al-Adha.  

The book starts with an introduction about the Islamic language and perspective used, and clarifies that the colours emphasized are to help visualize the point being made, it also gives information about Eid al-Adha.

The colors highlighted are: white, black, brown, green, grey, yellow, and purple.  The large simple text takes something relatable such as the monkey bars, or balloons, or the sky and corresponds it to a memory of Arafat, or ihram, or the hills of Safa and Marwa.

The nonfiction text gives specific dimensions of the Ka’aba, the story of Hajar and baby Ismail, the requirement of Hajj and some of the steps.  There is a lot of information conveyed which at times is incredibly detailed, and sometimes, rather vague and generic, i.e. Tawaf is when Muslim pilgrims circle the Ka’aba as part of the Hajj rituals. Overall, this little book packs a punch, and I was equally impressed at how it held my five year old’s attention with the colors, and my interest with the facts detailed below.

 

 

 

The Beauty of Your Face by Sahar Mustafah

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The Beauty of Your Face by Sahar Mustafah

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I had debated picking up this book knowing that it isn’t labeled YA and I’m painfully behind on a stack of books I want to review, but after reading @muslimmommyblog’s review I opened the first page: that was 24 hours ago, I couldn’t put it down.  I’ve seen a lot of comments about this book being more YA than adult fiction because it tidies everything up so precisely at the end.  I’ve also seen critiques from non Muslims that it is overly preachy at times.  Many Muslims are so swept away by the rawness and presence in Islam in the book that they are making their teens read it.  So I wanted to read it and review it to determine if it is appropriate from my perspective for teens, and offer my take on it.  Ultimately I think while much of the Palestinian-American protagonist’s life story in the book occurs as a child and young adult coming of age, that the “flags” are so critical to the story and so numerous, that no matter how deftly and non specific she handles these issues and moments, that the book really is meant for more mature readers. I’ll detail it more below in the FLAGS section but to highlight a few mature spots mentioned in the book to varying degrees:  extra marital affair, alcohol, making out, groping, nudity, sex, voyeurism, killing, shooting, physical abuse, profanity, suicide attempt, bigotry, etc.  The writing is absolutely superb, and it isn’t sensationalized, but it is there and provides understanding as to why the characters often are as they are to a point that you need to understand them with a certain clarity.  I would think this 298 page book would most appeal to early college age readers where one is hopefully open minded enough to understand the characters relationship with religion whether they are Muslim or not, old enough to have some of their own life to reflect upon, and on the cusp of a new chapter that they realize the role their choices can make as they move forward.

SYNOPSIS:

Afaf’s life story unfolds out of order and with occasional interruptions from an outside point of view.  It opens with her at work, as a principal of an Islamic girls high school in Chicago as we see her dealing with parents upset with things taught at the school and the balance she tries to achieve in guiding her girls to be strong, confident, well-informed Muslims in a diverse America.  It then flips back to 1976 and begins the tale of Afaf’s life with her parents, immigrants from Palestine, her older sister and younger brother.  Not ever feeling like she fits in at school, she loses any sense of normalcy at home when her 17 year old sister Nada goes missing.   There were problems at home before: her mother never being happy, Afaf never feeling her mother’s affection, her father having having an ongoing relationship with another woman, but as days and months go by, and no clues can find Nada, it will be the event that seemingly tore the family apart.  Afaf’s mother has a mental breakdown, Afaf’s father takes to drinking, and thus Afaf and her younger brother Majeed have to navigate much of their life on their own.  In high school Majeed finds baseball and becomes the ideal student and son.  Afaf lets white boys feel her up and has a reputation for being easy.  She doesn’t cross the line, but her reputation and name on the back of bathroom stalls is fairly accurate.  When their father is involved in a car accident, he finds Islam.  The family is very cultural, but not religious at all.  Eventually Afaf and her brother accompany their father, much to their mother’s protests to the Islamic Center and while Majeed has no interest in religion let alone Islam and never returns, Afaf feels an instant peace and the opportunity to redefine herself and continues to go and study Islam.

The book jumps regularly in sections, not every other chapter, and at some point it shows Afaf as an elementary school teacher making the commitment to wear hijab and preparing to wed a Bosnian man with a broken war filled past.  It jumps and has her brother home from law school visiting and her mother attempting suicide by drinking drano and being found laying naked in a bath tub.  After recovering, her mother returns to Palestine and never returns.  In yet another vignette, it has Afaf and her husband and father preparing to go for Hajj, where her father passes away, and has her returning to find she is expecting her third child a little girl.  There are other surprises that I’ll not reveal, but some of these jumps are interrupted by a voice of a radical alt right mant who walks into the girls school and starts shooting, finding himself face to face with the principal, Afaf.

WHY I LIKE IT:

I am seriously blown away at the quality of writing, and the interweaving of religion and culture.  It is a main stream book and it has a lot of religion in it.  It isn’t so much long passages of preaching, the father would like it to be that way, but the other characters keep him in check.  But the quiet transformation of Afaf and having Islam save her from a life she was not content with.  I love that it has joy and happiness despite all the tests and obstacles.  The book could have been really heavy and drag, but it wasnt, it was compelling and hard to put down.  The characters will be with me a while and I can see myself rereading the book just to visit them again.  

I was a little confused with Afaf’s limited Arabic and her mom’s limited English.  How did they communicate? I get that perhaps it was symbolic of their broken relationship, but seriously when Afaf is seven and not understanding Arabic and her mom is not understanding the police and neighbor in basic English, something is a bit off.  I like that insight is given as to why Afaf is fooling around with any boy that wants her and that it shows it isn’t about the acts themselves.  I also like how it showed her conflicts in reporting an Arab child in her class being abused at home by her father and how the response was so sad by the community.  While Islam saves her and holds her to a higher standard, it doesn’t appeal to her brother, it doesn’t remove the hypocrisy of people who are Muslim: abuse, owning liquor stores, and it doesn’t make everything better for her.  She has to suffer consequences of her choices, she just feels that Islam gives her the tools to persevere and understand and have hope.  

I love the food, oh man, hearing all the dishes being cooked and served and cleaned up after, really made me very hungry.  The cultural elements of the music and songs and oud really ground the book and make the OWN voice value ring so true and strong.  The racism and bigotry feels very real as well.  The author is the daughter of Palestinian immigrants and the way that she articulates such pointed examples of not being given the chance to move up in the elementary reading group, side comments the high school coach makes to her, and the general stereotypes thrust upon her, are very powerful.

FLAGS:

So there is a lot, as stated in the intro, but I want to articulate a bit of why I maintain older teens for the book even though it isn’t overtly sensationalized. I’ll walk through some of the major flag themes.:

Take the drinking. The father is an alcoholic, but the mother and children hate it, Majeed drinks beer with his friends, but isn’t Muslim, yet the Khalti is somewhat religious and they pour amber drinks at Thanksgiving. So there is some moral lesson, which I think you could argue is fine in YA or even middle grades.

Relationships/sex/body: The father is having an affair with a much younger woman, they refer to her as sharmoota and everyone knows about it, no other details are given. Afaf lets boys touch her naked body, but draws the line at intercourse, she says she on some level doesn’t want to do that to her parents or something of that nature. Right before proposing marraige, her and Bilal do kiss. Once they are married it mentions them making love in the mornings. It mentions masterbating and blow jobs. The shooter and his girl friend have sex, the shooter watches an Indian neighbor nurse her baby through the door and sees her exposed breast with some detail and then goes home and masterbates. When the mother is pulled out from the tub after attempting suicide it doesn’t just mention she was naked, it comments on her pubic hair.

Violence: An Arab Muslim male classmate, drives Afaf away from her bike and the slaps her telling her basically that she should not be such a slut. Afaf punches another girl in a fight at school. A child in Afaf’s class is being hit by her father. Mother lashes out at Afaf, she ends up burned. The climax is a mass shooting where 14 students and a teacher are gunned down and killed. Self harm: car crash while drunk, suicide attempt with drano.

Minor: Yeah there is music, and Halloween,

TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

This would make a great book club selection for those in their early 20s and up. It is well done, just not for younger readers. The book is very popular and numerous author interviews can be found with a quick Google search.

The Green Dinosaur Umbrella: A Hajj Story by Amina Banawan illustrated by Rania Hasan

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The Green Dinosaur Umbrella: A Hajj Story by Amina Banawan illustrated by Rania Hasan

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This 36 page Hajj story covers the steps of Hajj by following a green dinosaur umbrella as it gets passed around to those that need it more than the person who currently holds it.  A great story for ages 4 to 8, the large 8.5 by 11 colorful pages-full of diversity, kindness, and bits of information help inspire and amuse our little Muslims.

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Ibrahim is getting ready for hajj and picks out a green dinosaur umbrella to take to Makkah.  When he gets separated from his father while making tawaf, it his umbrella that his father sees to find his grateful son again.

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Outside Ibrahim sees an old man sitting in the hot son and gives him the umbrella realizing the old man needs it more that he does.  The old man takes the umbrella to Mina and makes dua’as for the generous boy at Arafat.

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When a tour leader comes around to hand out water and juice, the old man determines that he needs it more than he does and passes it on.  The leader carries it toward Jabal Ar-rahma and Muzdalifah.  He is awoken from his sleep by two men arguing and uses the dinosaur to defuse the tension.

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The next morning he sees a mother carrying a young child and gives her the umbrella as the rain starts to come down.  She and the baby are kept dry as they go to throw their pebbles as the jamarat, and kept them dry as they walked back to Mina.

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After they trim their hair and prepare for Eid, she sees a little girl looking sad and gifts her the green dinosaur umbrella. After performing the Sa’ee, her father offers to take her to feed the pigeons and she runs off forgetting the umbrella, as it rolls under a book shelf of Qurans.

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After making his farewell Tawaf, Ibrahim goes to get a Quran for his father and finds his special umbrella peeking out from under the shelves.

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A beautiful fun book that shows the steps of hajj for even the little ones to enjoy all while teaching lessons about generosity, selflessness, and worshipping Allah swt, alhumdulillah.

The Story of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him): Ramadan Classics: 30 Stories for 30 Nights by Humera Malik

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The Story of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him): Ramadan Classics: 30 Stories for 30 Nights by Humera Malik

the story of prophet muhammad

I debated posting about this book for so long that Ramadan is more than half over.  But as a reference for years to come, I thought I should go ahead and throw my late support toward this Ramadan tradition and a book deserving of space on your shelf for children 4th grade and up.  I’ve seen people praising it for a few years, and finally I ordered it this year, however, I wanted to not only read it, but also test it out first: reading a story a day, discussing and asking the correlating questions with my own children, before reporting back.  I cannot and thus won’t comment on the accuracy of authenticity of the book, nothing stood out as erroneous to me and there is a bibliography at the back, but there is a reason I try and steer clear of non fiction, I’m just not qualified to comment.

SYNOPSIS:

The book starts with the birth of Prophet Muhammad (saw) and ends with the selection of Abu Bakr (ra) as the first Khalifah.  Each chapter is between one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half pages and the 30 chapters plus one Eid day chapter (so a total of 31), covers 103 pages in all.  There are a few pictures of where the Battle of Badr took place, the Cave of Hira, not many.  There are three questions at the back of the book for each of the chapters, but no answers.  The book is pretty linear, just the second chapter bounces back to Prophet Abraham (as) and Hagar and the story of Zamzam and then the rebuilding of the Ka’bah.  It is a glorified timeline, which in this case is a good thing.  It doesn’t go off on tangents or provide a ton of outside references, it is concise and general, but hits the key parts: marriage to Khadijah, first revelation, migration to Abyssinia, Taif, Hijrah, treatment of slaves, year of sorrow, Battle of Badr, Battle of Uhud, Treaty of Hudaibiyah, it talks of tensions with various tribes, coming to an agreement about the Khalifah, and more.

I think younger children might possibly be able to have the short chapters read to them and then explained, but really, it would be a lot to process.  The words are simplified and the gist of situations are conveyed, but topics aren’t necessarily shied away from.  It discusses that Prophet Muhammad (saw) had more than one wife, and that there were slaves, and there were tensions with the Jews, and Bilal was tortured, all things that picture books might skip over.

WHY I LIKE IT:

I like that even my young teen could read and involve herself without feeling like the exercise was childish.  Many of the answers are open ended in nature and require more than just a one word answer.  It allows for children to add other facts that they know about RasulAllah to the dialogue and make connections to our history with our current life very easily.  Even children that know the story of Prophet Muhammad (saw) will find the book engaging and smooth enough to read through again (and hopefully again each Ramadan) and learn new tidbits, understand concepts more clearly and be reminded about the beauty of our Prophet.

FLAGS:

Nothing

TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

If I was a teacher, I would definitely start each morning reading a chapter and doing the Q and A, whether it was Ramadan or not.  I think we need to be more connected to our Prophet and grow our love and appreciation for him, so books like this are such a great tool in accomplishing that goal.

 

Once Upon an Eid: Stories of Hope and Joy by 15 Muslim Voices edited by S.K. Ali and Aisha Saeed

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Once Upon an Eid: Stories of Hope and Joy by 15 Muslim Voices edited by S.K. Ali and Aisha Saeed

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I’ve never been a huge fan of short stories, but this book has me reconsidering such an arrogant approach, as every single story in this collection has me feeling the warmth of Eid, the joy of authenticity, and the beauty of being a part of a faith with such strong female writers.  Fifteen entries for middle graders in mind: short stories, poetry, and even a graphic novel, spread over 304 pages that shine light on Eid in today’s world,  Eid al Fitr and Ramadan make up the bulk of the focus, but Eid al Adha and Hajj are in there too.  And the best part of the book is that you will see yourself in it, possibly all through out it, but reading such diverse OWN Voice stories are sure to make a Muslim reader feel represented and right at home, and give non Muslim’s a peek at us from the inside, inshaAllah.

SYNOPSIS:

I don’t know how to review the book as a whole since there really are 15 different stories, that are each heartfelt and strong in their own right and yet somehow made better by the company around them.  There were no weak links.  There are stories with bickering siblings, annoying cousins, different cultures, mixed background familes, divorced families, converts’ stories, stories of families where money is tight, stories with illness, stories of loss, a story from the perspective of a refugee, and stories of reaching out of your comfort zone.  There is one story about Eid al Adha and a story starring a Shi’a muslimah feeling different within Islam.  There are stories told from boys voices and girls voices and every single story has a take home message, some more subtle than others, but all there and all real.  I feel like even a summary of a story would prove a spoiler and take away from one just falling in to the collection and receiving the warm hug that awaits.   I’ll leave the summaries to their titles and well known authors to spark your curiousity.

Perfect: Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

Yusuf and the Great Big Brownie Mistake:  Aisha Saeed

Kareem Means Generous: Asmaa Hussein

Don’ut Break Tradition: S.K. Ali

Just Like Chest Armor: Candice Montgomery

Gifts: Rukhsana Khan

The Feast of Sacrifice: Hena Khan

Seraj Captures the Moon: G. Willow Wilson and Sara Alfageeh

Searching for Blue: N.H. Senzai

Creative Fixes: Ashley Franklin

Taste: Hanna Alkaf

Eid Pictures: Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

Not Only an Only: Huda Al-Marashi

Maya Madinah Chooses Joy: Ayesha Mattu

Eid and Pink Bubble Gum, Insha’Allah: Randa Abdel-Fattah

WHY I LIKE IT:

I recieved this book as an Advanced Reader (digital) copy and I am thinking I want a hard copy too, (I wasn’t able to view the artwork).  A lot of people ask me and I see postings in various social media groups asking for suggestions of books to read each night as a family in Ramadan, and I think this one would work for grades 3 and up.  Have each kid read the story throughout the day and then discuss in the evening.  Every story will have something that is familiar, probably something new, and each has a teachable moment.  I think different kids will identify with different aspects of the story and to articulate them in Ramadan will really bring the already memorable characters to life.

The book is very well done, and reads very smooth and cohesive, it really has a unified tempo and mood which is remarkable because so many different author’s and voices are included.  The book stays focused on the feeling rather than getting too weighted down by doctrine.  There are stories that feature hijab prominantly, and a bit of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), and some slight mention of islamaphobia, but it focuses on the friends and the love that support us, both Muslim and non, that make Eid and life hopeful.

FLAGS:

Clean

TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

I would consider this as a book club book to be hosted just as I hope to do this Ramadan with my own children in my home (see above).  I think really I just want to buy a bunch of copies to give as gifts to the fabulous elementary aged children I know, alhumdulillah.

Neither This Nor That by Aliya Husain

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Neither This Nor That by Aliya Husain

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This 251 page novel reads like a biography that has no climax or real conflict in its linear retelling of the protagonist from 3rd grade to a junior in college.  If you are part or all Desi, raised in America in the ’80s and ’90s and have fond memories of NBC’s Must See TV, rolling your pants up, your family packing Corning Ware sets to take to the homeland, and the joys of TJ Maxx, you might enjoy the nostalgic similarities you too experienced, but even at that, with no plot or character arcs, the book is easily forgettable and you might forget to finish it.  For all my critiques of Muslim stories that don’t read authentic, this one definitely does, she doesn’t rebel, she doesn’t ever go against Islam, but because she is similarly not ever tempted to, I think most readers won’t relate to this fictional girl, who’s biggest worry is smelling like her mother’s cooking.  The book seems to just want to tell her life story, and getting through it is the point of the book, not making emotional connections, giving the reader something to think about or even inspiring others, which is ultimately a missed opportunity that this book could and should have capitalized on.

SYNOPSIS:

It is the first day of school for Fatima Husein the eldest of many daughters in her Indian American suburban home.  With a mother who doesn’t speak much English and parents that don’t seem to understand Fatima’s desire to fit in, the stage is set that will carry through the entire book of Fatima loving to study and separating herself as the girl at school pretending to be more American than she really is, and the girl at home pretending to be more Indian than she feels.  As the book follows the character through college, along the way Fatima and her family have extended maternal family move to America from India and then move back, they take a trip to India which is not enjoyed at all, her dad’s family then moves from India and settles near them, they move to be closer to the masjid, and they go for Hajj.  Characters bounce in and out: school friends, community friends, cousins, etc.. The only real constant is Fatima’s love of school and her paternal grandmother grumbling about her getting married. There are the ups and downs of life that are shared, most very specific to a ABCD (American Born Confused Desi) living in the ’90s.  Fatima is religious and Islam is important to her and she never waivers in her black and white view of things.  It does take her a little while to wear hijab, but there is no real self reflection and catharsis, it is just states she wants to fit in and isn’t ready.  The conclusion is she finally accepts a proposal from the son of an old family friend who lives in Chicago.  Not so much because she likes him, but more because she has no reason not to say yes and her parents are in favor it.

WHY I LIKE IT:

If this were a biography and it was someone famous, the minutia of day to day living might be compelling, but as it is fiction and you have no idea where the story is going, it just seems to tell a story about a typical girl doing typical things.  It has value in that it shows how normal and boring even, a normal Muslim family is, but it gets really preachy at times and really dry.  None of the side characters are memorable.  I have no idea how many sisters Fatima has, when her grandfather passed away I felt nothing, when two who families died in a car accident Eid morning on their way to prayers, I had to flip back to see if the characters had ever been mentioned before.  It seems like the whole point is to get to the end, and more heart and less tedium would have made this book an amazing example of American Muslims in America.  The first page mentions friends and there is no follow up to where they are or what happened to them, and this happens all through out the book, there are no emotional connections, nor attachments among the characters to include the reader into their plight as well.  The protagonist one must assume gains her voice from the author’s experiences herself, but it just lacks internal dialogue and conviction.

Fatima lives through the Gulf War and makes big changes and has to find her place, yet the book just tells us all this, it doesn’t show us how she internalizes and processes and emerges from the experiences shared, it just gives an example and then comments on it.  The font and layout visually looks like a text book, and at times, the internal structure reads like an essay, sharing an anecdote, backing it up, and moving on to the next event on the time line.

I feel like I know the character, it definitely comes from a place of shared experience and credibility, but you have no idea where it is going, and just like I doubt anyone would want to read my life story, the book needs a little direction and editing.  In the author interview posted below in the “Tools to Lead the Discussion” she mentions that mainstream publishers wanted more rebelling and she wouldn’t compromise.  I agree with her, we need books that don’t follow that assumed track, I think that the presentation of the story, however, as it is, is lacking.  The integrity is there, but the character is really flat, and there are plenty of literary tools that could enhance the story without compromising Fatima’s character to drugs and alcohol and boys.  The book was self published in 2010 and I really hope at some point the author will re-edit it, to make it relevant to preteens and teens today and more personable.  Ultimately making it so that the successes Fatima has are cheered on by the reader, who are also inspired by her accomplishments while staying true to her beliefs.

FLAGS:

Considering how many pages are dedicated to how she and her sister are to behave in India as to not seem naughty or as arrogant Americans, the curse words flow pretty regularly in the book, and the way she speaks to her elders and in front of her elders is not always kind.  There are side comments about hooking up, STDs, and drinking, nothing any of the characters engage in, but judgments regarding these topics for those that do is present. She also talks about her mom’s failure to discuss menstruation before hand, to exemplify how things are only discussed once they need to be dealt with.

TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

I don’t know that as a book club selection today’s youth would voluntarily pick up and read this book.  There might be some ability for a teacher to assign it and then turn around and make the students write something similar about their experiences in a fictionalized form.  I think students would struggle to relate to Fatima with the outdated references and the lack of conflicts and climaxes in the narrative.

 

An Ocean in One Drop: The Tale of Hajar in Hajj by Mariam Hakim illustrated by Layla Abdubaisi & Hameedah Hamadah

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An Ocean in One Drop: The Tale of Hajar in Hajj by Mariam Hakim illustrated by Layla Abdubaisi & Hameedah Hamadah

IMG_7027A story about Hajar (saa), about Zamzam, about Hajj, and how we are all connected through our faith in Allah.  In 32 water color adorned pages, the rhyming couplets tell a well-known historical story for children of all ages, with Hajar front and center.

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The book is framed with a young girl, Jamila sitting with her grandmother who has just returned from Hajj.  She is giving Jamila some Zamzam water as she tells her the story of Hajar, and how at the heart of our Hajj we honor and follow in Hajar’s footsteps.

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Left in the desert with her son Is’mail (as) she runs between two hills, Safa and Marwa looking for water and help. This step of Hajj, Sa’ee, is required by all pilgrims to perform as Hajar did. Grandma explains to Jamila, that after praying to Allah (swt) and after the seventh run, water appeared and still flows today, Zamzam.

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Jamila learns from her grandma the value of the water, and the power trusting Allah has in our lives.  She also learns how the well attracted people and is now the  city of Makkah.  “You see the sacred Sa’ee has many lessons within: Courage, patience, faith and love.” the grandmother tells Jamila before quoting Rumi and liking the desert water to an ocean of history.

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The book contains a two page Glossary of names and terms at the end as well as information about the author and illustrators.  As expected there is also an ayat regarding Prophet Ibrahim and his family from the Quran at the end, and somewhat surprisingly, Bible verses about Hagar.

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I’m not sure that the link to Rumi’s quote and hence the title of the book is smooth, it seems a bit forced.  Also, I’m not sure why the Bible verse and the Bible entry appearing in the Glossary is present.  It seems like an Islamic story for readers of all faiths to know what Muslim’s believe, so I’m confused why the interfaith angle at the end is there.  Perhaps, if there was an explanation or an Author’s Note or a tie-in to the story, but without any of that, it seems inconsistent and random.

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As far as the illustrations on the 8.5 x 11 thick soft bound pages are concerned, they are rather mediocre.  The anime’ style people, the texture, shimmery bits, and the flowing deserts, make me feel like I should love them, and there is truly nothing wrong with them,  I just wasn’t overly wowed by them.  I actually found the illustrations off for the story at hand.  I’m  certain everyone will disagree with me, and some really are gorgeous, but overall I found them collectively, to be just ok.

 

 

Owl & Cat Go To Hajj by Emma Apple

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Owl & Cat Go To Hajj by Emma Apple

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I thought I knew what this latest Owl & Cat book would entail.  I figured like the Islam is… and Ramadan is… books, this book would, in its simplicity, poignancy, and repetitive sentence structure convey the emotions and importance of Hajj.  So imagine my complete surprise when the 78 page book with two familiar characters actually detailed day-by-day the steps of Hajj for young preschool aged readers and listeners and up.

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Owl and Cat show what a pilgrim does on each of the 5 days of Hajj.  Each section is separated by days with color tabs on top to keep the steps clear.  The illustrations are a little crisper than in previous books which resembled little doodles a bit more to me.  And while the simplicity of sentence structure, length, and diction remains, the book is a lot more factual and didactic than sentimental, especially compared to the other books in the series.

The book starts off with a a list of contents and an informative page about Hajj.  Owl and Cat then pack their bags, and travel by plane to Mecca. Day one has them putting on ihram, performing tawaf, sa’iy, and heading to Mina.  Some details about what each step means are given, but nothing overwhelming or too wordy.  The illustrations show what the text means and offer a lot to the understanding, if the concepts are foreign.

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Day two is going to Arafat, and standing in prayer at Jabal ar-Rahma.  They then head to Muzdalifah to rest and collect stones.  It also mentions that “many Muslims who are not on Hajj will fast.”

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Day three takes them back to Mina to throw their pebbles, make sacrifice, cut their hair, and change out of their ihram before they do their second tawaf, sa’iy, and travel back to Mina for Eid.

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Day four is in Mina stoning the jamarat as is day five before they travel back to Mecca to do the final tawaf and drink Zamzam water before their Hajj is complete.

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The book would probably work for non Muslims in that it isn’t preachy, but some base knowledge would be needed as there isn’t a glossary.  The book is pretty thorough for a children’s book, but I think the information is needed.  Many children do stimulations of Hajj or read simplified versions and don’t realize there is some back and forth and many of the actions are done more than once, and that it is a lot of actions, steps, and traveling in a short amount of time.