Category Archives: Kg-2nd

Controlling Your Anger by Saaliha & Ali

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Controlling Your Anger by Saaliha & Ali

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I love little picture books for toddlers and early elementary kids that introduce children to Akhlaaq, good manners and characters.  The book’s tone, however, seemed a bit off to me, so I put it away a month ago and pulled it out again today to read it, knowing I would have forgotten most of my initial thoughts, but somehow, they resurfaced with a vengeance, unfortunately.  And while the pictures and binding and theme are all absolutely wonderful in this 23 page book, I didn’t like the main character at all, and being it is based on a real person, a child, I feel awful saying that.

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Saaliha starts the book keeping her anger just under the surface as her friend Hannah has borrowed and lost her pencil.  Hannah says she’ll look for it after lunch, and Saaliha controls her anger and basically says that it needs to be found now because it is the right thing to do.  All of that is fine, but for some reason she seems bossy and controlling and I really don’t know why.  Maybe because once they look for the pencil and then find it, Saaliha gives her peer (and thus the reader) a teaching moment by saying that she knew she didn’t lose it on purpose.  Hannah’s response is more believable when she feels embarrassed and admits she should be more careful, but I found Saaliha’s reaction smug because she was so close to getting mad, and then to be self-righteous about it, seemed a little passive aggressive to me.  

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As the book continues, Saaliha recounts that accidents can happen at any time and to not get mad, which is great, it gives the example of when her younger brother Ali, accidentally knocked her ice cream out of her hand with his basketball or when he broke her pencil.   She seems to have a thing with pencils, there should have been a different example.

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It then moves on to an incident with a friend, Jalal, who took a donut without asking, but it was an accident for not asking as he normally asks.  The repetition of the word accident here, I get is to carry the concept, but that doesn’t seem like an accident, it seems like he forgot, and an apology should have been in order, not Saaliha having to justify it solely.  Being it is a book about Akhlaaq I feel like the illustration of Jalal winking and eating the donut, seemed off.  

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I like that Saaliha reminds her friends not to get angry as anger comes from Shaitan, but then when the book says she always says A’uthu Billahi Mina Shaitan Nir Rajeem to keep her anger in check, one wonders why in the opening scenario she didn’t say it.

I can’t pinpoint why I didn’t love this book, or maybe I just didn’t like the main character and I would probably give the series another try, but I’d like to hear your thoughts if you have read the book, and more importantly what your children thought of it.

 

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Mikaeel and Malaika: The Quest for Love

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Mikaeel and Malaika: The Quest for Love

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The beautiful hardback book is pricey, but fun.  I didn’t have any expectations when I read it, but now that I’ve read it three times and had my children read it, and my mom a reading specialist/teacher of 45 years read it, I feel pretty confident in saying, its a well-done book.  I think it can get a bit cumbersome when reading aloud, because some lines rhyme and some don’t, but on the third read through I read it to six kids ages two to nine and all throughly enjoyed it.

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The sibling superhero duo are on a quest to find out how to have a pure heart.  They try praying aloud, praying quietly, then they go and talk to the Big Boss, their dad, who speaks in rhyming clues.  The play on words might make the book utterly confusing to children younger than five, or kids of all ages if full attention isn’t being given when read aloud.  For independent readers, they will delight in the words that sound the same yet have completely independent meanings.

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Eventually their quest also takes them to Agent M.O.M who loves them more than anyone else they can imagine, but the big reveal is that Allah (swt) loves us even more.  I don’t know that it is crystal clear that getting a pure heart involves loving the one who loves us most. But, I think by the end, the readers are just entertained that they figured out Allah loves them more than anyone else in the world and is the creator of us all.  The last page has an ayat from Surah Rehman, ” So which of the favors of your Lord would you deny?” Which again adds one more thing to the story about being grateful for all that Allah has given us, keeping it from being a completely streamlined story, but adding to the overall love and appreciation for Allah.

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The illustrations are absolutely beautiful and engaging, the amount of text and the font is perfect for ages 6-8 and the messages is fun and educational.  I hope that there are more in the series, alhumdulillah.

 

Hats of Faith by Medeia Cohan illustrated by Sarah Walsh

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How fun to find similarities between groups that on the surface might seem so very different.  This 7×7, 14 page board book, keeps it simple and perfect for toddlers starting to notice people all the way through to early elementary children making connections around them.

Each page shows a portrait style illustration with a warm smiling face and the repetitive text of identifying what the name of the “hat” is followed by who wears it.

The opening page states that ” Many religious people share the custom of covering their heads to show their love for God.” And concludes by saying that “Learning about each other makes it easy to be more understanding.  Being understanding helps us spread love and peace.”

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Muslims are mentioned and depicted on the hijab page, the topi page, and on the head wrap page.  The book shows Muslims, Sikhs, Rastafarian, Jewish, and African Christians, it shows both men and women and offers phonetical pronunciations when necessary.

 

My Own Special Way by Mithaa Alkhayyat retold by Vivian French translation by Fatimah Sharafeddini illustrated by Maya Fidawi

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A mainstream Early Reader book with a cute little muhajaba on the cover and a premise that she’ll be a big girl when she wears hijab seemed like a book I should adore.  And while it isn’t bad, and I’m glad it was in the library,  really I’m not sure how I feel about it.

In someways, I’m just confused.  Why would you pick one of the characters to be named Hind, in a book urging readers away from picture books and into chapter books, it isn’t going to be pronounced with a short i sound, it is going to be pronounced like a “be-hind,” umm not so good for the age demographic you are trying to show another culture to, there will just be giggles and jokes.  Also, many of the illustrations are cute, but what is wrong with the dad and with Jamila’s sleepy eyes, they kind of border on creepy. And not the creepy, in a cool way, more like creepy in an awkward way.  And finally, with an author, a retold by, and a translator, and presumably a ton of editors and proofers at Orion Children’s Books, I found veil to be a very formal word to use throughout.  It does say it is a scarf at one point, but the word of choice throughout is veil, and I think to be culturally accurate, hijab would have been a better choice.  Even for English readers, scarf would have been a better fit.

The book is 62 pages, there is no glossary and it is not AR, but is a transition early reader book for kindergartener and first graders.

SYNOPSIS:

Little Hamda wants to spend time with her four big sisters, but they all say she is little and have other plans.  When her mom reminds her that they were small at one time too, she realizes that when they were small they didn’t wear hijab, or in this book, a veil, and now they are big and where one when they go out.  So, in her mind, once she starts wearing one, she too will be big, and thus the challenge of finding a way to wear it comfortably begins.  She is helped and supported by all her family and finally she finds her own special way to wear her veil.

I like that it is a mainstream book trying to include some diversity.  The family is relatable and the themes universal even if portrayed in a minority muslim framework.

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WHAT I LIKE ABOUT IT:

I love the premise of the book and that it is very clearly Hamda’s idea to wear a veil, no one is forcing her.  The text and illustrations align to show the girls cover when they go out, not in the home.  The dad needs help at one point finding his shoes to go to the mosque.  However, it doesn’t tell what a mosque is, or explain that the family is Muslim and wearing hijab is an Islamic act, which might be a comprehension block for young readers.

I really go back and forth on the illustrations.  On the first reading I thought they were creepy, when I went back to write the review they were kind of cute.  When I asked my kids, two said they were fine, and one said they were ugly and was positive I am the only one to have ever checked out the book.  Yeah.

FLAGS:

Fine, and Islamically nothing erroneous.

TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

Obviously not a book club level book, but I would be very interested to have some first and maybe even second graders read it and give me feedback, like I said I’m on the fence with this one.  Check to see if your library has it, read it, have your kids read it, and let me know.

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Captain Lilly and the New Girl by Brenda Bellingham illustrated by Clarke MacDonald

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This book is part of First Novels, a collection of books in Canada that focuses on easy to read early chapter books that encourage kids to transition from leveled readers, while getting to know a single character in a realistic contemporary world.  There are a lot of Lilly books, but this one caught my attention because of the hijab wearing girl on the front, presumably the “new girl.”  At an AR 2.8 this 64 page book is great on so many levels, and really does meet the First Novel goal of presenting a simple theme and showing the main character grow.

SYNOPSIS:

Lilly is changing soccer teams, and only finds solace when many of her school friends will also be joining.  While each of the girls has different opinions and levels of enthusiasm about the team, they all are committed to one another as the “Wolves” stick together in a pack.  This loyalty is tested when a new girl is brought in to fill in for an injured wolf.  The foreigner, from America, wears a scarf, and just like with soccer, there are a lot of differing thoughts on the matter.  The reader see what Lilly feels as it is told from her perspective, which makes the issue not so much about the hijab itself, but about how a 9 or 10-year-old thinks and processes new concepts.  Ultimately, the Wolves as individuals and a team, have to decide what to do when an opposing team says that Sara has to take off her hijab if she wants to play.  

WHY I LIKE IT:

I love that the book is real, with strong independent girls.  The side characters aren’t cookie cutters of each other, they all have personalities and quirks, and I love that they don’t all agree, yet they all can make it work.  The book’s catalyst is the hijab, but it isn’t preachy and it is presented and understood through a non-muslim elementary-age character.   I don’t think Islam or Muslim is even mentioned, nor any culture, she is American, and the book takes place in Canada.  It addresses safety regarding the hijab, comfort in wearing sweats and not shorts, and being hot in a long sleeve shirt, issues that any reader can understand and ponder about.  The book isn’t gripping, but for the age group and the intent, it is spot on.  The font, spacing, size of the book, and simple illustrations, urge kids to read a “chapter book” and think about something they may not have ever thought about before.

FLAGS:

Clean, it does say words like “suck,” but it isn’t disrespectful.

TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

I wouldn’t use this as a Book Club book, because the kids can read it fairly quick, but I would probably read it aloud to kids and have them discuss, or have them somehow read it in groups and discuss.  There are a few websites that can help facilitate the discussion, but kids would definitely have opinions on how the situation was handed, how they might handle it, and what they think of the team’s sponsor.  

https://www.teachingbooks.net/tb.cgi?a=1&tid=40533

https://www.teachingbooks.net/media/pdf/Lorimer/FirstNovels_Series_ActivityGuide.pdf

http://www.formac.ca/firstnovels

 

Jameelah Gets Dressed by

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Jameelah Gets Dressed by

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These books in the Mini Mu’min Dua Series are a great way to introduce familiar concepts in an Islamic framework to preschoolers and teach them the accompanying duas for them.  I previously reviewed Sajaad is Sick, which pleasantly surprised me, and this book proved that the series has consistency and value.

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The pictures are colorful, but basic, there are no faces or people included.  The text rhymes, yet has a nice cadence that doesn’t seem overly forced throughout the 38 pages.  The book is large, 8×10, with a glossary cover, and decent weight and binding.

This book includes a few footnotes: defining hijab, giving the ayats for the commandment to draw your veil over your bodies, the hadith about starting with your right, etc.  There are four duas included, the one for getting dressed, the one for wearing something new, the dua for when someone else wears something new, and the dua for getting undressed.

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Raihanna’s First Time Fasting by Qamaer Hassan illustrated by Yasushi Matsuoka

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Raihanna’s First Time Fasting by Qamaer Hassan illustrated by Yasushi Matsuoka

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By this time in Ramadan I’ve read a lot of very similar books that all seem to have slightly different takes on presenting the basics with various degrees of turning them into a fictionalized story.  Each have their own flavor and approach and this story in many ways is for mature little kids and works to bring a slightly deeper understanding to Ramadan and helping the less fortunate.  At 36 pages long, most of the pages are heavy on text, but not overly preachy or dense.  Dialogue and emotion fill the paragraphs, and the book works to establish Raihanna as an actual character, not just a foil to move from one Ramadan fact to another. This is also apparent, as a new Riahanna book has just come out, Raihanna’a Jennah, in making her the lead in a series.

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Raihanna is excited to be fasting this year, after establishing that the crescent must be sighted and that suhoor is the meal to start the fast, Raihanna puts on her hijab to pray.  She asks for forgiveness for being deceitful to get another cookie and asks Allah to make her and her friend able to go ice skating.  At bedtime it also mentions that she says her three kuls before going to sleep.  

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All her excitement starts to falter at school, however, when the teacher hands out chocolate chip cookies for snack and Raihanna has to explain she is fasting.  By the time she gets home from school she is not sure she even knows why she is fasting as her stomach rumbles and her mood is pretty sour.  Mom jumps in to action and takes her to a soup kitchen where the two of them, along with others, serve food to the homeless. 

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At iftaar time Raihanna understands how blessed she is to be surrounded by family and food, and makes a more heartfelt dua.  The book ends with letting the reader know that Raihanna spends the next 29 days loving Ramadan and being appreciative.

I love that it really picks one specific aspect of Ramadan and focuses on it in a tangible way, the poor and hungry.  Yes, she prays and recites Quran and all, but establishes that she probably does that every day out side of Ramadan as well.  I like that the author also shows that it is ok that Ramadan is hard.  There is a bit more insight and understanding in this book than just the typical list of facts.  I think ages kindergarten through 2nd grade, kids that are starting to fast will get the most of it, and relate the most to Raihanna.  It could work for non Muslims, with a bit of context of belief or just read a different Ramadan book first, but the target audience is Muslim kids.

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The beautiful cartoonish pictures are bright and engaging.  I have no idea why it bothered me that the characters wore the same clothes everyday, or at least the two days that the story covers, but it kind of did. I like that the dad sets the table and helps in the food prep and parenting.  The list of family members and all the dishes seems unnecessary, but with the glossary at the back it does offer a bit of culture to be conveyed.  There is also a little reader response at the end.