Category Archives: preschool

Under My Hijab by Hena Khan illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel

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Under My Hijab by Hena Khan illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel

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I know, (sigh) another hijab book, but I promise it is good and you won’t be sad you bought…”another hijab book,” and  alhumdulillah, it’s a Hena Khan book, so public libraries will have it or at least they should be willing to order it if requested.  

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Written in rhyming four line stanzas the story is told from a young girl’s perspective about the women in her life.  The first two page spread shows the strong female as she interacts in the world and covers her self, with the following two page spread, showing her in her home, uncovered.

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From Grandma, to Mama, to Auntie, to troop leader, to siblings and friends, the reader sees hijabs wrapped in styles as different as the person wearing them.  They also see Muslim women as doctors, artists, Tae Kwon Do students, bakers, leaders, and everything in between.

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The illustrations are beautiful and perfect.  They radiant warmth and familiarity, while adding details to make the pages hold your attention a few minutes longer and smile with the diversity presented. The martial art scene is spot on!

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I wish they showed a niqabi, and maybe someone that doesn’t cover all the time, but at certain times of prayer or entering a mosque, like the author, who talks about herself and hijab in general in the afterward entitled: About the Hijab.  

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I love that the book is for children and I desperately hope adults will read it too.  It breaks down so many stereotypes, and answers so many questions in a seemingly effortless presentation.  How many times have all hijabis been asked if we sleep in our scarves or shower in them.  I love that there are shades of brown skin tones, and blond haired hijabi’s too.  

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And most importantly I love that it shows Muslim women to be strong and varied and to have full, independent beautiful colorful lives.  That hijab is a choice and it is strength and beauty and personal.

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The book does not talk about the reasons for wearing hijab, or get into the religion.  The book is a great size for story time and bedtime at 10 x 8 horizontal, hardbound, and 32 pages.  Ages four and up will enjoy this book repeatedly,  and older kids, especially girls considering covering or just starting to cover will enjoy it as well.

Alhumdulillah! Well done!

Forgive the glare in the pictures, they aren’t in the book 🙂

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Allah Gave Me Two Eyes to See. . . by Fatia M. D’Oyen illustrated by Stevan Stratford

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Allah Gave Me Two Eyes to See. . . by Fatia M. D’Oyen illustrated by Stevan Stratford

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This series (Allah Gave me Two Hands and Feet, Allah Gave Me a Nose to Smell, Allah Gave Me a Tongue to Taste, Allah Gave Me Two Ears to Hear) has been around for over 15 years and is a staple in most Islamic School libraries, and Islamic preschool classes.  They aren’t really fiction in that there is a story, but they are rhyming verses thanking Allah for our five senses in a hard 8 x 8 bound, 32 page, 3-5 year old age appropriate book.

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Allah Gave Me Two Eyes to See, starts with eyes, but covers all five senses equally.  The book uses rhyming lines to give examples of what we can explore through our senses to understand Allah’s gifts.

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After the senses, the book tells us about Allah giving us a mind to think, and a heart to love, and how we should thank him for all we have been given.  The pictures aren’t great, but they aren’t off-putting.  It gives kids the chance to connect words to pictures in a very literal sense as it shows exactly what is being mentioned in the text.

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While I questioned to review this book or not, I thought I should because it is such a staple in preschool through kindergarten classes when discussing the body parts, gratitude and the five senses.  So many other books discuss the blessings all around us, but might require a little more discussion for this age group to understand how we know Allah through our senses and through our experiences.  

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I used this book when I used to teach Sunday school, I saw my mom a preschool teacher for years and years use this book when introducing the senses, and when I was asked recently to read books about body parts, I reached for the series to see if they were still relevant and sure enough they are, Alhumdulillah.

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We’re off to make ‘Umrah by Sana Munshey illustrated by Eman Salem

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We’re off to make ‘Umrah by Sana Munshey illustrated by Eman Salem

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Its surprising how few books about Umrah there are for children.  As a religious act that many children are included in, there really should be more, but alhumdulillah this fun one exists, and conveys the steps of Umrah in rhyming fashion for ages 4 and up.

Told from a little boy’s perspective about his family’s journey, a little history is given, before the major parts of Umrah are explored.  The book prefaces the story with a note to parents and teachers making sure they know the book is a semi-fictional narrative meant to reinforce learning, it isn’t a comprehensive guide. 

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Full page pictures with four line stanza groups detail the steps about the journey and flight to Mecca, including defining and using the arabic words for the talbiyah, putting on ihram, crossing meeqat and praying rak’atayn.  The step-by-step approach is warm and exciting, as the pictures show smiling faces and the words balance information and enthusiasm of being in Mecca for the first time.

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Details about praying, rich and poor, side by side are included, making tawaf, seeing the black stone, seeing Maqam Ibrahim, drinking Zamzam water, a bit of history about Sa’i, and the little boy feeling tired going back and forth between Safa and Marwa are all given in a well paced narrative that is neither rushed, nor overly forced (just a little to keep the rhyme scheme :)).  The steps of Umrah conclude with the family members getting hair cuts and then a quick trip to Madinah.

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There is a glossary at the end of the 32 page book, that is nice for older kids, or as a way to reinforce words used to describe the journey.  I think the strength of the book is really that it shows what to expect during Umrah.  Children about to go will benefit from the mapping of the events and getting a heads up on what awaits them.  Children that have gone will have a handy way to remember what they did.  Children learning about Hajj perhaps, will be able to see how Umrah is shorter and be able to see what the similarities and differences are in a simple manner.  Even children who have no connection yet to Umrah will benefit from the vocabulary and excitement shared in the story.  While the story is aimed at younger kids, even middle elementary age kids will enjoy reading it once or twice.

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The book claims to come with a poster and paper dolls to reinact the steps of Umrah, but I purchased my book second hand and they weren’t present.  Hence, I didn’t comment on their quality, but it sounds like a wonderful supplement to the book.

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Zara and Hakeem Learn ‘Alhumdulillah’ by Shabeena Rehman illustrated by Kevin Payne

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Zara and Hakeem Learn ‘Alhumdulillah’ by Shabeena Rehman illustrated by Kevin Payne

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Board books from the UK! The glory of a well bound chunky book for toddlers to tote around, chew on and hopefully learn something from, with all the joy of international shipping.  I delayed buying these books for so long, because of it, and finally I gave in and just in the nick of time as I have started a weekly preschool story time, and this series is perfect for three and four year olds with limited attention spans and in need of repetition.

Zara and Hakeem, a brother and sister duo wake up to find their mother not feeling well, and instructions that they will have to help Daddy, Grandad and Grandma with the daily chores.  Then Mummy sneezes and says, Alhumdulillah.

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It seems the books  all have a pattern, something happens that sets the stage, then Hakeem and Zara pause and think hard about what to say, there is then an English translation/explanation about the meaning and then a universal, Muslims from all around the world say or do this, before the story resumes.

I don’t mind the break in the story, but the phrasing is a bit cumbersome and slightly off in this book.  Why are the kids thinking hard about what to say, when Mummy had just said it? If they were thinking hard about what she had said or where confused why she said it, I feel like it would make more sense. 

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I really like that the book shows that all Muslims say something the same, it is a good time to start to show this age bracket that they are connected to something bigger, without overwhelming them.  

The story continues with Hakeem helping daddy vacuum and Hakeem sneezing when some dust flies up.  Then Daddy and Zara mow the lawn when the grass makes Zara sneeze, everyone, Grandad, Grandma, all take a turn sneezing in different scenarios and everyone practicing to say Alhumdulillah.  

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By dinner, Mummy is feeling better, but Daddy has a sneeze attack and takes to laying down as he is not feeling well, and tomorrow the kids will have to help Mummy with the chores.  A humorous full circle, that even toddlers will laugh at.

The kids I read the book to, loved the loud Atchoos and the cute illustrations, a few of the older four year olds, wanted to know why Yar Hamukumallah was not also said.  They also wanted to know why when the dad sneezed four times they only said Alhumdulillah three times.  I read a variety of books about being sick and we talked about using tissues and sneezing into our elbows, washing our hands, and not coming to school when we are sick.  The book was great to explore how mom was sick and dad must have caught her cold.  But that sneezing from pepper and cat hair, didn’t mean you were sick.  The kids also saw that everyone in the house has to help out, sick or not, old or young, male or female, which is always a great lesson to reinforce, Alhumdulillah.

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The book is 18 pages of text.  The illustrations show the mom and grandma in hijab, they are bright and colorful and engaging.  Children will enjoy getting carried away with the sneezes and the Alhumdulillahs when read aloud and will enjoy looking back at the pictures and details independently afterward.  This is a great story to put on repeat and then watch your own toddler retell the story on their own.

Overall, well worth the shipping! I hope US bookstores will stock the series as our little ones need books that are funny, clever, and well done.

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Hassan and Aneesa Go to Masjid by Yasmeen Rahim illustrated by Omar Burgess

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Hassan and Aneesa Go to Masjid by Yasmeen Rahim illustrated by Omar Burgess

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I don’t often do two books in the same series, let alone three, but for as much as I enjoyed Hassan and Aneesa Love Ramadan and Hassan and Aneesa Celebrate Eid, I was a little disappointed in this story.  For starters, the title seems like it should read, Go to “the” Masjid, no? 

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The story starts off with the notion that this is Aneesa’a first time to the masjid, which seems bit off.  Presumably mom and Hassan have been before, but mom’s excitement, and Hassan’s questions through the book, and knowledge about masjid etiquette make you wonder if it is their first time too.  A little odd, if you’ve read their other books, but ok, I’ll accept it and move on.

The family starts by marveling at the exterior architecture.  They enter and separate, Hassan going with his dad and Aneesa going with her mom, as it points out that men and women pray in separate areas.  It is a good tidbit of information, but again, it just seems a bit off in the way it is phrased that Aneesa wouldn’t know this.  

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The tone of the book is almost negative, again, a striking contrast to the other stories.  Aneesa splashes and wastes water when making wudu, doesn’t she make wudu at home? And the mom gets her clothes ruined in the process making her upset.  The illustration shows her to look really mad!

I would think a little context about not wasting water or even sharing the hadith about not wasting even if making wudu in a river, would have been a great lesson to convey, but instead the pictures show a lot of water by others also being wasted, and only mom looking really frustrated.

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The two of them, put their shoes up and marvel at the dome and the soft carpet.  Aneesa then sees that the ladies prayer area over looks the mens and she begins screaming for Hassan.  Her mom corrects her and points out that “you should speak quietly in a masjid.  You might disturb someone if you shout.”

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Hassan turns and waves, and then rushes off to see a school friend.  But, first he is reproached for nearly walking in front of someone praying.  Again a good tidbit, but the phrasing of how the information is shared is rather negative, and these repetitive reprimands don’t make the book joyful.

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Hassan then learns about he mihrab and the mimbar before the athan is called and they all pray.  After salat they put some sadaqa in a box and the family heads home.

The illustrations are as sweet as ever, and the price very reasonable, but this book, compared to others in the series, is really wordy and there is a lot of text on EVERY one of the 20 pages.

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The framing of the book is awkward, thus making some of the behavior issues come off as negative, it is a minor thing that keeps the book from being great.  If the premise would have been maybe the kids talking about their favorite things about the masjid and reminding themselves to talk quiet and not waste water, the tone overall would have been lighter while still being really informative.

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If this is your first Hassan and Aneesa book, you might not be bothered, but if you find it a little off putting, try the other two.  The books says for ages 2 and up, but I think it would be better for 4 and up.  The younger kids you could tell them the story while showing them the pictures: what to expect at the mosque and how to behave, but there are too many words, and they will probably have a hard time staying focused.  Older four and five year olds, will enjoy seeing things they recognize and maybe learning some of the vocabulary for the architecture and being reminded on proper behavior at the masjid.

 

 

Raihanna’s Jennah by Qamaer Hassan illustrated by Yasushi Matsuoka

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Raihanna’s Jennah by Qamaer Hassan illustrated by Yasushi Matsuoka

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Raihanna is back and learning about Jennah with her two best friends, Safiya and her cousin Maryam.  In this beautiful 8×10 book, the character who last fasted her first Ramadan fast is now having a sleep over and learning just how wondrous and worth the wait heaven will be.

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The story starts with the three girls parallel playing as a veterinarian, firefighter and world class chef.  When hunger strikes and the cookie jar only has one cookie, Raihanna has to decide to eat it or divide it into thirds.  

With mom looking on as Raihanna decides to share, a teachable moment about jennah presents itself.  The mom, in her consistent purple uniform, tells Raihanna she will be rewarded in jennah for her good deed.  Which leads Raihanna to ask why she can’t be rewarded now.  The explanation is a bit text heavy, but using ice cream to explain a reward in this world, and having whatever you want in the next, sets up the format and story line for the rest of the book.

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The girls start off asking for pretty simple things like kittens and bikes.  But mom encourages them to think of something beyond their imagination.  The girls come up with castles and world’s made of candy, and flying like birds, and golden kitchens. 

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The mom responds virtually the same after each girl expresses what she would want.  She says, “…beyond your wildest dreams,”  then, “…beyond your imagination,” then “beyond belief,” then “beyond description,” then back to, “…beyond your imagination.”   It gets a bit repetitive, but not necessarily in a good way because it doesn’t function as a refrain that the little ones will pick up on.  It just gets annoying I think for the reader if the book is requested too often.  I wish she would have maybe picked one, giving the book a comforting pattern, and something that the young ones could remember and benefit more from.  The book is for preschool to early elementary kids, but because of the amount of text on the page, it will be read to that age group, not read independently.

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As with the first book, I love the warm colorful cartoonish illustrations, they both attract and engage children as young as two or three.  The hard back binding and glossy pages also make it sturdy and a wonderful gift.  This is a book for Muslim children that I think little girls especially will enjoy. I sincerely hope there will be more books in the Raihanna series.

Allah Knows All About Me by Yasmin Mussa

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Allah Knows All About Me by Yasmin Mussa

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This adorable 24 page board book by Learning Roots has been adapted (with permission) from a book by Kate Toms called “God Knows All About Me.”  The 7.5 x 7 book is perfect for little toddler hands, and the repetition will help convey even to little ones that Allah is ever-present and all-knowing.

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The illustrations are soft and warm and as with all Learning Roots books, I believe, the characters do not have faces.  The text is large and clear and many of the stanzas are silly is they show bottoms and talk of being smelly.

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It covers Allah swt knowing us from our heads to our toes, when we are happy and sad, when it is raining or snowing, in all situations, all hours of the day, all environments, He knows and is always there.

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The reassurance that we are never alone or never apart from Allah’s love is a great message that is well done in this little book. A mention of Allah’s applicable 99 names might have been a nice addition at the end, but perhaps being the book is redone from an existing book, it wasn’t possible.  Hopefully parents will take the book to the next step and teach kids all of Allah’s many attributes in ways similar to how the presence of Allah is presented in this one.

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