Category Archives: How-To

Two Pigeons on a Pilgrimage: A Hajj Story by Rabia Bashir illustrated by Aisha Dean

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Two Pigeons on a Pilgrimage: A Hajj Story by Rabia Bashir illustrated by Aisha Dean

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An adorable 40 page paper back book about Hajj aimed at ages 3 and up and told from the perspective of two Pigeons performing Hajj with humans.

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A boy and girl pigeon say Bismillah and spread their wings as they head off to Hajj.  They see pilgrims at the airport wearing ihram before they start circling the Ka’ba like the humans below.  After seven rounds they go to Ibrahim’s Station before they are off to Safa and Marwa while pausing to sip on Zamzam.

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With Umrah complete they are off to Mina, then Arafat where duas are made.  They then go to sleep under the stars in Muzdalifah, before they slaughter an animal, cut their hair, shower, and throw stones at Shaitan.

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The concepts are simplified, but told in sequential order of how hajj is performed with very little commentary or embellishment.  The lines rhyme, so there is some creativity thrown in to keep the pattern and facts in line.  The font size, spacing and overall presentation of the book is good for reading at bed time or in small groups.

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The best part of the book, are the pictures.  They are sweet, colorful, and engaging and to find out at the end that they are done by a 12 year old girl is an extra added bonus.

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The book is factual in the steps for hajj, but because it doesn’t have a glossary, or give much information about why Muslim’s perform Hajj or details about the different acts of worship, it probably is better suited for Muslim kids that will hopefully know some of the answers, or have access to an adult who can answer and fill in the blanks.

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Overall, a good addition to books about Hajj to share with your little ones.  I just wish it would have come out a little bit earlier, as the Hajj starts in a few days and the book just came out.  If you can’t find it this year, inshaAllah get a head start for next year as I think the book has staying power and will be read more than once as both a learning tool, and fun book requested by kids.

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Allah Tells Me… by Ali Gator (Firhana & Ahmed Imam)

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Allah Tells Me… by Ali Gator (Firhana & Ahmed Imam)

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This 28 page, thick glossy full-color book for 3-8 year olds, introduces and describes the five pillars of Islam in an age appropriate manner.

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The book is fact based and informative, but the illustrations and voice of the text reads in a gentle inviting tone that will appeal to small children.  There is no story, but rather a boy that takes you each of the pillars and talks to the reader.

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The short paragraphs about shahada, salat and wudu, fasting, zakat, and hajj are detailed and will need some additional explaining if used to teach kids.  If you are using it to just introduce general concepts, the pictures and sentences will suffice.

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The book is in English but does use Arabic words to describe each tenant with in-text translations in parenthesis, as well as footnote translations on occasion.

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The book is set up as a tool for parents and teachers to use when educating young Muslim children and thus some hadith and ayats are present at the beginning and end, as well as some directions, games and activities.

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Bilal Cooks Daal by Aisha Saeed illustrated Anoosha Syed

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Bilal Cooks Daal by Aisha Saeed illustrated Anoosha Syed

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Aside from me desperately wanting to get Bilal’s family a pressure cooker this 40 page book does a good job, and follows a reliable tradition of using food to introduce a “foreign” culture while simultaneously showing universal themes that show how similar we all are when it comes to family, meals, friends and feeling loved.  

Bilal’s favorite food is daal, lentils, and when he is out riding his bike with his friends, his father calls him in to help him make it.  Confused as to why Bilal’s dad would need to start dinner so early in the day, Bilal’s friends join in, in helping make the slow cooking traditional asian subcontinent dish.

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They line up the spices, they put it in the pot, and then they wait.  They put their shoes back on and play hopscotch, they go swimming, they go for a hike and it still isn’t done. 

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At one point Bilal is worried his friends won’t like it, but after waiting all day and gathering more friends at each activity, when the time finally comes they all dive in and love it.

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I love the diversity of the friends and that the dad is cooking and involving his son.  I also like that everyone is willing to try something new and give it a chance.

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The book would work for all kids ages 4 and up with the expressive colorful illustrations, diction, and amount of text on the page.  The book is 9×8 so it works well in small groups and at bedtime.  

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If you eat daal your kids will love seeing themselves in the pages, if you have never had daal there is a recipe at the end following an Author’s Note. 

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There is nothing religious in the book, and anyone from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh could easily take ownership of the dish and story.  The Author’s note mentions that Bilal’s grandparents are from Pakistan and with a name of Bilal chances are he is a Muslim character.

 

Purity & Prayer: A Rhyming Picture Book of Sacred Rulings by Ameena Bint Abdir Rahman illustrated by Reyhana Ismail

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This book is definitely non fiction, and I’m reviewing it because I figure some of you like me, have looked at it online and wondered how it can do everything it claims.  The book is 50 pages, fully illustrated (with faces), meant for children before the age of accountability, written in rhyme about fiqh (wudu and salah) according to the Hanafi madhab, and everything is scholar supervised and checked.  I’ve read it a few times now, and yeah, it does all it claims to, and is a great tool and resource, and book to have around for kids of all ages, plus I think they’ll really enjoy it.

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The book has a lot of information and disclaimers about how the author wrote the book and verified the information, there is a dua, preface, and Author’s Note at the beginning, and Rulings of Sacred Law by Shaykh Faraz Fareed Rabbani, an Appendix, References, Glossary of Arabic Terms, messages from the Fiqh Teachers, Author, and Illustrator at the end.

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The 8.5 x 11 hard bound horizontal glossy book is divided into sections.  The first section is Du’a and Salah, followed by Purity which covers things like fard parts of wudu, what breaks wudu, etc..  The next section is Prayer and covers the fard conditions and integrals within prayer, wajib things you say, how you recite, postures, what breaks your salah, and incorporated in to the sections are what would need to be redone to make your salah valid.

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Each subheading is a two page spread with a title and either rhyming couplets or quatrains to convey the information.  While naturally at some parts the rhyme is incredibly forced, but because I found myself learning things, I wasn’t as bothered by it as I thought I would.  The repetition sometimes got jarring, but again, because the complex facts are being brought down to a child’s level ,and yet isn’t belittling, I’m willing to overlook a lot. 

I like that it isn’t just facts, the Appendix is there for that, but also similes and metaphors that will help put the concept in perspective.  Du’as can be made at any time like making a call to Allah.  Prayer is like visiting a friend, you have to go at the time you were invited, dressed nicely, wear appropriate clothing.  

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The breakdown of when you have to repeat the whole salah, or do a special prostration is incredibly helpful.  As is knowing what laughter breaks wudu and what breaks wudu and salah.  It is so great that children will see how detailed our religion is, and how everything has an explanation.  Yes, you shouldn’t laugh while praying, but clearly it happens, so when it does this is what you do.  The approach makes the book grow with children as their knowledge and awareness increases.

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I hope to read a two page spread each night with my kids, and have them discuss.  My kids range in age from 3-12 and while my 3 year old won’t add a lot, he will be entertained by the rhyme, fascinated by the pictures, and be included in the early introduction to fiqh.  InshaAllah the older kids will learn or review something and know how to find such knowledge if they have questions in the future.

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Undoubtedly, such a book, was a huge undertaking, may Allah swt reward all those involved, I was pleasantly surprised and greatly impressed at how the book reads, presents the information, and still connects to younger children, mashaAllah.

 

The Young Muslim’s Mindful Book of Wellbeing by Zanib Mian

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The Young Muslim’s Mindful Book of Wellbeing by Zanib Mian

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This tiny book (5.5 inches square) is non fiction and I’m reviewing it, because I think it has a lot of value and will appeal to the parents that check out this site for book suggestions for their middle grade children.  The flower on the cover and the topic, might naturally turn away boys, but the depicted character that presents the information is a boy and while it is a token gesture, it is a nice one, to try and make the book and it’s contents appeal to all children.  Irregardless of if you have teens, or tweens, or toddlers, girls or boys, I think parents should read the book and use the concepts and framing presented when talking with their children.  At least that is what I hope to do.  One doesn’t need to wait until their child comes home crying from friend drama, or losing out on something they desperately wanted, to implement the lessons and reassuring bits of mindfulness, it should be the established foundation of how to handle emotions in a healthy way, inshaAllah.

SYNOPSIS:

The book is broken into 14 chapters based on topics covered, and the directions encourage the reader to read them all in order the first time through, then going back to certain sections as needed.  The headings include: How to be happy, A Way Out of Every Problem, How to Feel OK If You Wanted Something, but Didn’t Get It, Friends, Feeling Sad, and Talking to Allah.  The information is presented in a positive reassuring manner that helps the reader to feel like others have felt this way too, and to try some of the suggestions.  It doesn’t belittle or talk down to the feelings one might be having which is great, as the concept of Allah (swt) is incorporated onto every page.  Strengthening ones relationship with Allah as a way to cope with stresses and know that He is always there, is the central theme throughout.

The book offers advice on dealing with negative people, negative thoughts, and finding your own positivity and strength with the help of Allah no matter what.  The book isn’t dry though, it engages the reader and uses examples children can relate to and comparisons that are tangible.  At one point the book talks about shields that reflect back whatever you are giving off.  So when you are shining from the inside, you feel better, and so do others around you.  When talking about seeing the bigger picture, the book urges the reader to consider seeing an entire room through a key hole and likening it to how we see our own lives seeing only what is happening right now.

The book also takes into account that somethings may take work to feel better, and that it isn’t an easy fix to feel good, but inshaAllah worth the effort.  The end summarizes in two points what the previous 36 pages articulate and explore, concluding how to make you shine and be your best self.

WHY I LIKE IT:

I love that we are talking to and with children, not just toddlers, about their feelings.  We aren’t telling them to just cheer up or be happy or get over it.  We are giving them tools that they can carry throughout their lives, inshaAllah.  The pages are text heavy, granted the book is small, but the book is thick and the amount of words on the pages could intimidate some, but like I said earlier, even if the child won’t read it, parents will benefit from it and implementing it in the home.  Also just having the book sitting around will urge kids to pick it up and thumb through it, I would almost guarantee it.

My critiques are the presentation.  I am no expert on the content and what I read seemed logical, and I liked it.  Vague I know, hence I don’t review non fiction often, because what do I know?  As for the physical annoyances of the book, it is too small.  It doesn’t need to be huge, but for the topics covered, it is trivialized by the size, in my opinion. 

I don’t mind the font, I mind that it changes size so often and for no other reason it seems than to fit everything on the page.  Nearly every chapter is a different size font, but sometimes its even within the same chapter.  A few times for example the page on the left appears to be a size 14 font and the text in the same chapter on the right is like an 11, making it seem inconsistent and jarring..  If the idea needed to be bolded, or shouted or whispered, I support playing with font size, but this is not the case, it is so that the picture and text can all fit without having to turn the page, and its not the best solution I feel, its too distracting. 

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The other inconsistency that I found a bit odd, are the illustrations.  The little boy on the cover with his yellow flower and yellow shirt take you through maybe 80% of the book, but on occasion other characters pop up, which is fine, when they are drawn in the same manner, like the frog.  But the random appearance of the full color super hero, reminiscent of My Dad’s Beard book, and the full color Migo and Ali looking bears, there’s also a one time appearance of a girl in full color, seems bizarre.  I don’t see the cameos as adding a shoutout to the content and author, but more like the books from the 90s that used free clipart to illustrate the pages that otherwise would be text only. 

FLAGS:

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TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

I think this would be a great book for a school counselor to use as a guideline for group discussions.  I think it could be done from the library, but a counselor and students would really benefit from the book and the manner in which the material speaks and empowers youth to shine.

Hind’s Hands: A Story about Autism by Umm Jawayriyah and Juwayriyah Ayed illustrated by Emma Apple

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Hind’s Hands: A Story about Autism by Umm Jawayriyah and Juwayriyah Ayed illustrated by Emma Apple

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This is an important book to show representation of an underrepresented group, not just those with autism, but also those that love them and live with them.  It is also important to spread awareness so that those that do not have first hand experience can show compassion and patience for the individual and those around them as well.

This 16 page book, only 9 pages of text, is written by a mother and daughter about another daughter.  It is told from the perspective of 9 year old Juwayriyah and how she sees and helps her younger sister Hind.

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I love that it makes it super clear that children with autism are created this way by Allah swt and made special just as all of us are unique and special. I also like that Juwayriyah has had to learn to slow down and say bismillah before often dealing with Hind.  It also shows that it is a work in progress and there are good days and bad days.  It isn’t smooth sailing, and it isn’t something that needs to be fixed, it is what it is and we must adapt.

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The book is wonderful, for what it does and what it represents, however, in terms of story, it is kind of dry.  It very much is a nine year old, optimistically talking about her sister and how rubbing her hands has proved a coping skills when she is overwhelmed, but you don’t get to know any of the characters.  You don’t feel a bond, or understand what life is like for Hind, or why sometimes she has outbursts or what her triggers are.  I don’t know that kids will even understand concretely what autims is other than that it means people with it learn and act and think differently, as no real examples are given.  

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There is a lot of text on the pages.  I think if you know someone with autism or have maybe seen a child having a melt down, children younger kids will enjoy the explanation and fact giving the book provides.  Otherwise I think 2nd to 4th graders will get the most out of this book as they start to notice different behaviors and other’s reactions to them.

How to Scare a Monster by Zanib Mian

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I like a lot of books, but this one, well it might be my favorite.  The size, the length, the colors, the fonts, the illustrations, the message, truly it is fabulous for 3-5 year olds.

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The premise is simple and straightforward.  The book doesn’t try and do too much or put too much on its 32 pages.  It identifies ways to deal with monsters, and then offers what some people try and do to scare them away, concluding the best and only solution, is to ask Allah for help by saying, Audhoobillah.  

Kids will laugh at the silly illustrations and attempts to be monster free, and remember the clear strong message of calling on Allah swt when afraid.  

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The only critique for me is the page about the kid with a stink-bomb in their nappy. While funny, the sentence structure doesn’t flow, the narrator’s voice seems abrupt and off to me.  Possibly that it goes from active voice to passive for that line only (its been a while since I’ve articulated grammar structure, so maybe not :)).

Most people try to rrooaaarr!

or hide under the bed.

Sometimes they call their mum, mmummm!

or even better.  A kid with a stink-bomb in their nappy.

Some turn the lights on,

or hold on to their favourite teddy.

Other than that, the book is fun and works well for muslim kids at story time or bedtime alike, alhumdulillah.

 

It’s Jummah! The Sunnah and Etiquettes of Friday! by Najia Rastgar & Lyazzat Mukhangaliyeva illustrated by Zainab Arshad

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It’s Jummah! The Sunnah and Etiquettes of Friday! by Najia Rastgar & Lyazzat Mukhangaliyeva illustrated by Zainab Arshad

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This is a very straight forward toddler board book about what you should do on Jummah.  The simple text, the blocky pictures and the overall size and feel of the book make it a great teaching tool for establishing routine. 

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The book is 10 pages and measures at about 6×6 inches.  It is very sturdy and solid and perfect for babies up to 2 or 3 years old.

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The day starts with waking up for jummah, taking a bath, reading Quran and praying in the mosque.

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I like that it is completely linear, and that the words under the pictures offer the Islamic vocabulary.  There are also no faces in the pictures. There isn’t a story, but the opening line of “Let’s wake up!” make your little one the star.  

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There aren’t a lot of toddler board books out there, and thankfully this one doesn’t have any flaps to lift up or more text than a one year old can handle.  

Zaynab and Zakariya Learn to Recycle by Fehmida Ibrahim Shah

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Zaynab and Zakariya Learn to Recycle by Fehmida Ibrahim Shah

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I’ve seen a few other environmentally inclined children’s books in Islamic School libraries over the years, but this one is one of the better ones in terms of its comprehensive thoroughness, proactive nature and presentation. 

Zaynab and Zakariya help each other learn about recycling paper, tin, glass, and then reach out to their parents at the library to learn exactly how recycling works, what happens to trash, and how they can do their part to help the Earth.  I like that the kids, don’t just drop a few items in a bin, flip off a light, and turn off the water, they actually help their mom start to compost, they seek out items made from recycled materials at a store to purchase, and learn about catching rainwater with their father.  The text is a bit heavy and is probably more suited for at least 1st grade and up if read in a group setting, younger kids would enjoy it in bits and pieces, and would absolutely benefit if some hands on activities could be incorporated.  

The book is 28 pages, sturdily bound and has a glossary of terms in the back.  The book is small, about 9×9 and the pictures feature no faces.  The story line is framed in an Islamic context and Quranic verses are highlighted and mentioned in the story.

 

 

 

I’m New Here by Anne Sibley O’Brien

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I’m New Here by Anne Sibley O’Brien

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Three new kids, not just at school, but to America as well. Maria is from Guatemala, Jin from Korea, and Fatimah from Somalia.  All three telling about what they are faced with as they settle in to their new life and routine, and all tell a bit about how things were back home.  FullSizeRender (48)

This book is not entertaining or fun, it is educational.  Written for ages 5-8 this book is very straightforward as the three characters stories are interwoven to show the growth and settling in that they experience.  The simple sentences, allow the reader to learn real, tangible ways that this children are finding the transition hard.  It also alleviates any sense of pity as it shows the full lives they had before coming to America. 

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I love that the other kids in the class are involved in real life ways to help welcome the new kids to class. Sometimes we are harsh on kids that don’t show empathy or compassion, forgetting that often they don’t know how.  This book works for adults and children in all situations.  We all need to put ourselves in other peoples shoes and see what struggles they are facing, we all need to help one another, and we all need to facilitate environments where these actions can take place.

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The book in many ways would fit well with One Green Apple, as it gives the perspective from the character who is new and articulates some of the obstacles they are facing, while also showing the interactions that help one to feel welcome and comfortable.

The pictures are crucial to the story as they show the feelings of the children and give context to the simple storyline.  I love that their is so much additional diversity in the illustrations: children of all body shapes, there is a student in a wheel chair, Fatimah wears a hijab, and there are male and female teachers in the book.

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The Author’s Note at the end of the 32 page story tells of her experience as a white American child living in South Korea, and some of her feelings and thoughts of being in a new country.  There is no mention of Islam, just implies Fatimah is a Muslim based on her dress, her mother’s clothing, and her country of origin.