Before she was Grandma Najma, she was just Najma. A girl in Turkey with a secret dream of being a musaharati, the person who walks the streets waking up the neighbors for suhoor in Ramadan. But, a girl had never done this and thus the dream stayed hidden until she was 12 and the neighborhood musaharati was feeling ill. Confiding in her baba, his love and support makes her dream come true against cultural norms and naysayers. The line from her Baba, “Girls can be anything they like,” is so clear that her one girl revolution grabs the hearts of the reader and turns readers into cheerleaders. The added beauty is her father’s support is not limited to his words, he accompanies her out every night almost challenging anyone to say she can’t do it. Overtime she becomes the pride of the area, and her brothers accompany her if she doesn’t want to go alone, and then eventually her husband and her children.
The book warms the soul and uplifts the spirit. The text seems geared to 7 year olds and up, as there is a lot of it, and at 26 pages does require some ability to focus. But with minor tweaks and condenscing the story appeals to children 4 and up and the pictures help hold their attention as they create a mood of wonder and whimsy.
Structurally the book is hardback and dust jacket free, yay! the cover is printed on and thus easier to maintain. The book is longer horizontally with most illustrations on the left side making it great for story time where the kids can see the pictures and the reader can hold and easily see the text without blocking the children’s line of sight. There is a glossary, an author’s note telling where the story comes from, and a little biography of the author and illustrator and publisher in the back.
A beautiful, beautiful book to share with children this Ramadan and all year long, alhumdulillah.
It is nearly Ramadan, inshaAllah, the most blessed time of year. I don’t normally do product endorsements and thus I didn’t review this book that comes with a whole Ramadan kit last year when my cousin gifted it my children. However, as I look for Ramadan Story Time books, I reread this and while it references the activity cards, it really offers a lot as a stand alone book too. So, yes I am going to review it and plug the kit as something your kids up to age 9 or so will really enjoy, at least mine did and even went searching last week for all the components….without being asked! That’s a pretty strong endorsement right there.
Rafiq is a date palm tree that is so excited for Ramadan and is going to get you excited too. He starts off by mentioning the fun you will have with the daily activity cards, and the role you will play in serving iftar dates on the special plate. The reader is then introduced to the cast of characters, Najjah the sheep, and later Asal the bee.
The middle of this 36 page book are my favorite, the illustrations are so sweet and welcoming you want to hang them up in your children’s rooms. This is where the “story” begins, it talks about Ramadan and how the Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (saw), and fasting, and praying and patience and having fun with friends and playing too. It then moves on to Eid and all the different yummy foods that are eaten all over the world. It ends on a note of community and how we all pray the same with our families and use the word salam.
The book is visually beautiful from one hard back cover to the next. It is written in rhyme and most of it flows without feeling ridiculously over forced, but there are definite sentences that are awkward, and the rhythm seems to vary a bit that you have to stay alert when reading it out loud or you will get tongue tied. I think if you just skip the lines that reference the cards at the beginning and end, the book can work without the kit and accessories. Kids might be confused, but I think the bulk of the book is engaging and the pictures are stunning, that kids will be able to grasp on to the overall message of the book and forget about the “product placement” so to speak. There is a glossary at the back, and it works for ages 3-10.
(I wasn’t paid or asked to do this review, I wish I was, but it really is fun for multiple aged children, and gives a bit of daily Ramadan connection for those of us that want to make every day in Ramadan a craft and spiritual extravaganza, but know realistically we just won’t be able to do it all https://www.rafiqandfriends.com/)
This slim, paperback book, is actually really sweet and colorful. It doesn’t look like much at just 14 pages, but the minimal text conveys a good message of helping elders in the home, and can easily be extended to helping those in the community. I think this is a great book for 3 to 5 year old. Little ones will get ideas on what they can do, and new readers will feel accomplished when they turn the last page.
Little brothers, Muhammed and Musa, are waiting for their grandparents to arrive and are confused when their daddy reminds them to be helpful, since they are little and their grandparents are adults. The parents explain how getting old is hard to the boys and give them ideas of how they can help. Once they arrive, the boys spring in to action by helping them unpack, getting Grandma her walking stick, and even helping grandpa find his missing teeth. They especially love when they help put out the prayer rugs for salat.
The pictures are simple yet well done. The women wear hijab, not just the mom and grandma, but the doctor too. Gender roles are depicted well too, the dad takes his parents grocery shopping, is shown helping in the kitchen, and serves the tea.
I really think if you have elder family, it is a great book to introduce what changes and what responsibilities the little ones can help with. With my own children it was a good reminder and conversation starter that they need to keep toys off the floor so no one trips, they need to listen the first time to whatever they are asked by the elders to do, and that they need to sometimes even help them walk, or slow their gate. If you don’t have grandparents in the home, it can extend to people at the mosque, with kids helping get chairs, or even at the grocery store in being mindful of holding doors open and helping return carts.
This set of books claim to be for children ages 8 to 12, but I think they work better for 7 to 10 year olds. They look like leveled readers, and resemble them in their simple linear story lines. They are broken up in to chapters, that really are not necessary, but because of the volume of text on each page, allows for a young reader to take a break. All four books in the series are connected chronologically and contain the same characters. They more or less present a problem, bring over their friends, have one of the friends offer some advice tied to a hadith or ayat from the Quran, and the advice is tested, and then shared once more. They are about 20 pages and have activities at the end that range from solving clues to writing paragraphs. The sentences and vocabulary are about a second grade level, with translations of Arabic and Turkish words, along with references to the Quran and Hadith appearing in the footnotes on the page they are mentioned on.
The best part of the books is that they are written by an 8th Grader, mashaAllah. I think they teach a lesson in a simple way, and while not terribly suspenseful or comical, they do succeed in showing Islamic lessons in relatable situations for kids. Some of the details seem excesses or meandering, but again, the fact that it is written by a kid, will inspire readers to listen differently to lessons about patience, accepting Allah’s will, recognizing one’s own limitations, and putting Allah (swt) above all else.
The pictures are colorful and simple. They appear every few pages in the book and provide a nice break from the text. They are sweet and not detailed, but sufficient for the story and level.
It is hard to believe I haven’t reviewed any of the seven Hamza books in the series. They are perfect for 2-6 year olds (older kids will enjoy them too), and all are both informative and silly. This book is 20 pages and is seven and half inch square in shape.
In Hamza Learns About Charity. Hamza learns what the word charity means as his mom is packing up his old toys to donate to the less fortunate. He also learns you can give money and how donating and taking care of the poor is required in Islam. Hamza’s mom tells how Prophet Muhammad (saw) lived a simple life and was very generous with whatever he had. Hamza also learns the word for charity in Arabic. When his mom leaves to take the stuff, Hamza decides to show that he understands and is ready to give everything away and live a simple life. Alhumdulillah, mom returns in time to shoo the neighbors away and convince them that the house, and car, and household items are not for sale. Thus, Hamza also learns that we aren’t required to give everything away, and when making big decisions we should get our parents’ permission first.
The illustrations are cute and colorful. They are not overly detailed, but Hamza’s facial expressions are engaging and expressive. The book works well for story time and bedtime and seems to be geared for Muslim children.
Somehow between child number one and child number four I had forgotten the utter impracticality of toddler board books with flaps to lift. It is great and all to find a book that is solidly constructed to withstand tantrums, hunger, teething, and jumping on, but then to add thin delicate flaps to engage the child renders the book readable for about three days. Ok, the time it takes for any given toddler to systematically tear off every flap is unique for each child, but my 18 month old handles his siblings chapter books with more care than he can muster for the overpowering temptation of a slightly raised flap of paper begging to be tugged on. Needless to say, all 16 pages of the book are no longer in pristine condition, alhumdulillah.
Also, Alhumdulillah that is a decent book of introducing islamic phrases to small children and hence the repetition of the book means that even with the missing flaps and torn off words, the book can still be figured out and read. A boy and his mom journey up a snow covered mountain as the little boy tries to learn what to say to go to Jannah (heaven). As he says islamic phrases like AstagfirAllah, SubhanAllah, and JazakAllah Khayr, his mother tells him when those phrases are used and what they mean, until the boy figures out he must say and believe the Shahada (there is only one God, and the last Prophet is Prophet Muhammad (as)). The sayings are written in Arabic script, and English script under the flap, and the back of the book has a glossary of the Islamic words. The language is simple and encouraging for small children and a good way to reinforce the words we say to remember Allah throughout our day. The characters have no faces and with a snow filled landscape the pictures aren’t overly engaging, but what is there, is done well, and allows the text to take center stage in the story. Those flaps though….
Oh how full my heart is after reading this book, and wiping a tear from my eye. When the daily news angers and frustrates, a story as sweet as two friends helping and worrying about each other gives hope to the future of the world. I know that is probably over reaching the impact of a children’s book, but sometimes it really is just one person helping another person, just finding similarities instead of differences, and above all having a big heart.
Yaffa and Fatima are neighbors and both grow dates. The two women, one Jewish and one Muslim, share a lot of similarities they both fast, pray, celebrate, and help others. They often sell their dates next to each other in the market and then share their food and customs with each other. During one growing season, rain is scarce, and each woman begins to worry about if the other has enough- not just to sell, but to eat as well. Secretly they both help each other and prove the power of friendship and kindness is universal and powerful.
The illustrations are smartly done. This isn’t the book for bright and colorful or overly cartoonish depictions. The simplicity of the words introduce the reader to Islamic traditions and Jewish traditions, but the purpose is to show their similarities and the illustrations mimic that sentiment beautifully. The contrast of red and blue show the differences with the larger muted tones being the same. The warmth in the characters faces mirror the warmth of their actions and the detail is balanced with intriguing the reader without distracting from the text. The illustrator does a good job of also showing the women covering their hair in public, albeit differently, but not within their homes. And of also showing the different ways the women worship without the words having to do so.
The author has a note at the beginning acknowledging the roots of the story as a tale about two brothers in both Jewish and Arab traditions. And at 24 pages it works for children of all faiths and all ages, two years old and up. The book was recommended by a woman, who I hope to meet next week, when she and her Jewish community join us at the mosque for our monthly story time. With a theme of friendship, this book will be the focus of what bridges and connections we can all make in our personal lives to make the wold a little better. I can’t wait to share it with our children of both faiths!