Category Archives: preschool

Allah Made Everything: The Song Book by Zain Bhikha illustrated by Azra Momin

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Allah Made Everything: The Song Book by Zain Bhikha illustrated by Azra Momin

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I’ve reviewed a few song books over the years and often don’t love them, this one however, is awesome!  This 30 page hardbound 9×9 book is a great size for toddlers and up, the only thing hard about the book is reading the words and not singing them.

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The text is large and easy to read as it dances around the pages.  It follows the song exactly, just not the repeating lines.

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Each stanza tells a bit about an animal, and the animal answers who created them.  The chorus is that Allah is our creator and some attributes.

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The back of the book says for ages five and up, and yes some of the vocabulary is a bit advanced, but the general feel and point of the book is appropriate for little ones and the pictures will keep the littles engaged as well.

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The bright colorful illustrations are playful and fun.  They make the book able to stand alone even by chance you have never heard the song, or had it stuck in your head for days.

The book recently came out and it appears that they have plans to turn other songs of Zain Bhikha’s into books, which inshaAllah will be just as enjoyable and faith reinforcing as this one.  Special thanks to http://www.crescentmoonstore.com for their friendly service when I purchased the book. https://crescentmoonstore.com/products/allah-made-everything

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One Meal More: A Multicultural Ramadan Story by Emma Apple

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One Meal More: A Multicultural Ramadan Story by Emma Apple

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Like many of Emma Apple’s books that she writes and illustrates, the concept is simple, the illustrations minimal, the message clear, and the price a tad bit high.

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At 50 pages this $17 soft bound Ramadan counting book is a little disappointing.  Had it been half the price, I would say it was great.  So, now that that is off my chest, let’s dive in.

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The concept and text follow a pattern that it is Ramadan, the samosas are on the table for the guests and then there is a knock at the door and someone from a different country has arrived with a traditional dish, one meal more, to add to the table for them all to share. They get to 10 and the athan is called, they start with a date and they all eat.

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I love that each of the women that arrive are not just from different countries, but that they are dressed different.  Some are covered, some are not, those that are covered are all wearing their hijabs differently.  The women are all smiling and the book shows diversity.

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One could nitpick and say that many of the visitors do not bring a meal, they bring a drink or a snack, but I think that is besides the point.  The point is that everyone from everywhere shares Ramadan, differently, but the same too.  And this book brings the world down to size on one table and with welcome arms.

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Muslims and non Muslim children ages 3 and up will get something out of it.  Whether it just be counting or hearing different international foods or understanding how Ramadan unites Muslims all over the world, the repetitive words and pictures will illustrate the beauty of the month in a simple way.

 

 

 

Before Birth, Beyond Life: A Muslim Mother’s Ode by Zenubia Arsalan illustrated by Heshan Gunasekara

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Before Birth, Beyond Life: A Muslim Mother’s Ode by Zenubia Arsalan illustrated by Heshan Gunasekara

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This 24 page book written in rhyme explains with love and Islamic oversight the circle of life.  From before birth and what happens after death, the tone and images of the book really are very beautiful and dream like.  The author suggests the book for ages 6-9, but I think even toddlers will enjoy the poetry and illustrations.

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The book is told from a mother to her child explaining that she is the answer to her  prayers, but that there is the One, the Creator, who knows and loves her even more.

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It details that everything about her is perfect and exact according to the will of Allah swt, even before her birth Allah knows and has decreed everything.

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Once born, your mom loves and prays and watches you grow, but at an appointed time you, like all of us will leave this world for the next.

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And that in the afterlife, inshaAllah once again we will be reunited.

Children are rarely sad when loved ones pass away, often pointing out that they are with Allah Subhanawatala now, and this book stems from that peace and comfort in knowing there is a world beyond this one.  Not just for children, this book would make a perfect gift for expectant mothers or as a reminder for older kids in families suffering from loss.

I have the paperback 9 x 6 size book as I’m here in the US, but a larger hardback version exists elsewhere and I think the illustrations would benefit from the larger size.  Also, the pictures are a shoutout to Dubai and I think kids who have been there or live there will equally enjoy the skyline on a number of the pages.

There is a talking points ebook for the book that you can get for free at https://littlemutaqeen.com/talkingpointsbefore/ that will assist you in presenting the information and concepts explored to older and more curious kids.  It talks about how to broach potentially awkward concepts (pregnancy, birth, death) and a maintain body positive message, clarity of heaven and hell, and so much more. I highly recommend it.

 

I Love Ramadan by Taymaa Salhah

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I Love Ramadan by Taymaa Salhah

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There is nothing wrong with this dual language book, but there it isn’t anything to get excited about based on the story alone, either.  If you are looking for a basic book with both English and Arabic telling what a little boy does in Ramadan, not elaborating on any reasons why he does them, then this book will adequately suffice.

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The book is just linear facts, I wouldn’t even say that it is information driven, as there isn’t really even a story, it is just a few simple sentences on each of the 20 pages of a boy telling in first person what he is doing.   “I finish my meal before athan alfajr and fast until sunset” it says on one page.   “When I hear athan almaghreb, I recite dua and break my fast with my family” it reads two pages later.  It does not define athan or almaghreb nor does it specify the dua.

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The book is on the dry side, but I would image the simplicity in the Arabic, might be what would appeal to parents looking for their kids to read and understand both languages independently.  I don’t speak Arabic so I’m unable to comment on the grammar complexities or smoothness.

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The illustrations are sufficient, again nothing super exciting or noticeably off about them.  The book is short, hardbound (8.5 x 8.5) and honestly, rather unremarkable or memorable, unfortunately.

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R is for Ramadan by Greg Paprocki

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R is for Ramadan by Greg Paprocki

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This book is fabulously fun, but incredibly puzzling.  The book without a glossary is presumably meant for Muslim children, with words like U is for Umrah and T is for Tasbeeh, and N is for Night of Power.  Which is interesting, because it seems to be written by a non Muslim, who writes and illustrates a lot of various alphabet books, and published by a mainstream company.  I’m sure this adorable book will appeal  to many non Muslims but after reading it, I’m fairly certain they will be 80% clueless as to what most of the letters are about.   Maybe they would be able to make a guess based on the pictures, but with the pronunciation for Arabic words being given underneath, it sure makes for an odd juxtaposition in a toddler board book.

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Additionally, if you are Muslim reading the book and can describe the Arabic to your 3-5 year old, you will possibly have to explain some of the “big” English words too.  H is for Hospitality, G is for Generous, O is for Obligation.

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Thrown in are also some completely silly, random letter prompts.  W is for Watermelon and Y is for Yay.  So, I probably shouldn’t like this book, but it is an absolute delight to look at and read through if you can account for all the aforementioned things.

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The illustrations are engaging and detailed and oh so happy and fun.  The book feels good in your hands reading it with a little one snuggled up beside you at 8.5 x 6.5 and 32 thick pages long. 

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I guess I can’t offer a finalized opinion on the book, just know what it includes (or doesn’t include) before you buy.  I was able to check it out at my public library, and online it is just under $10, so hopefully people won’t be disappointed with the purchase, if nothing else for the pictures alone.  But maybe don’t get excited to send it off to non Muslim friends and family this Ramadan, as it might not offer much in terms of understanding what the blessed month is all about.

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Yaseen’s Big Dream by Umm Juwariyah illustrated by Azra Momin

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Yaseen’s Big Dream by Umm Juwariyah illustrated by Azra Momin

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Kids love to stretch their imagination and do the impossible, but for Yaseen Muhammad, his dreams at night are his favorite activity to see just how far his abilities can go.  In this 21 page paperback 8.5 x 8.5 square book, Yaseen Muhammad will imagine his best day ever as the President of the United States and share with kids 1st through 3rd grade exactly what he will make happen, inshaAllah, when he wakes up.

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In a very busy day as the first kid president, Yaseen Muhammad dreams of starting the day leading morning prayer in the Oval Office, and then getting his family to help him prepare a special lunch for everyone in every state.  He’ll visit schools all over America and play celebrity basketball with his cousin and vice President Jameelah. He’s Jedda will teach people to start their own gardens, and he’ll give a speech on TV, after all why not, “Nothing is Impossible.”

The pictures are lively and descriptive that the reader and listeners will enjoy looking at them.  The characters are visibly Muslim as the women wear hijab, and in the text it mentions the characters praying, and Yaseen Muhammad dreaming he is the imam.  There is a lot of text on the pages, but the story flows and the information serves a purpose in establishing who Yaseen Muhammad is and connecting him and his dream to the readers.  The text is uniformly on the right with the pictures on the left making the book very convenient if sharing during story time and you are like me and hold the book in your left hand when reading to a group.

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The only thing that struck me as off, was in the illustration of Jameelah and Yaseen playing basketball. Yaseen’s t-shirt has a Y on it and Jameelas an F. Not a J for Jameelah or a Y signaling they are on the same team.  It is minor, but all my kids noticed it too and wondered why.  

A couple of places I stumbled over some of the grammar and wording, but after reading it aloud a hundred times (exaggeration, slightly) to figure out why, I don’t think anything is wrong, it is just a bit awkward, but it is probably me.  For example when Yaseen is speaking to the whole world on TV he says “Every kid can make a difference in your community, in your state, in your country, and even in the world. Dream Big.”  Seems like it should be, Every kid can make a difference in “their” community, in “their” state, no?

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Overall, a good empowering story for all children and one that highlights African American Muslims in text and illustrations.  A great book to have in rotation to encourage kids to dream, make the world better, and believe in themselves.  Alhumdulillah.

 

The Gift of Ramadan by Rabiah York Lumbard illustrated by Laura K. Horton

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The Gift of Ramadan by Rabiah York Lumbard illustrated by Laura K. Horton

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A new 32 page hard back Ramadan book that shows a little girls excitement isn’t enough to get her to abstain from food and drink for the whole long day of fasting, but that there are other ways to enjoy the gift of the blessed month.  A great book that shows how Ramadan is a month of growing and learning and sacrificing and coming together too.  Perfect for ages 4 and up to be read in small groups or at bedtime.  The pictures are delightful and show diversity, and while the little girls love of sparkles might appeal more to little girls, I think the message will allow boys to enjoy and benefit from the book as well.

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Sophia is helping her family decorate for Ramadan and when they see the crescent moon, they know that fasting will start tomorrow.  Excited to be included Sophia can’t wait.  Sahoor, however, is really early and she is really tired.  She eats a little, but by fajr time she can’t even keep her eyes open and falls asleep in sajood.

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When she wakes up it is almost noon, and even though she is hungry she decides keeping busy will help the time pass.  Reading, cleaning, drawing, nothing is working.  Her little brother runs around waving a cookie, and Sophia can’t get away fast enough. 

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She caves and starts eating cookies, her grandma finds her and consoles her.  “There’s always tomorrow and the day after and the next.  You have a full month to keep trying.” The two then discuss other ways to enjoy the month.  Sophia knows her mom reads Quran, but Sophia can’t on her own.  Her father helps others and gives charity, but Sophia doesn’t have any money.  She is about to give up, but then sees her grandma’s hands covered in flour and realizes she can help her make iftar for those that are fasting.

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She helps with the salad and the pizzas for iftar, but when some of the pizzas burn, Sophia will have to show what she has learned and understood to make iftar a success and make everything sparkle.

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There are a lot of Ramadan books out there, but I like that this one doesn’t have the adults saying she can’t fast, but just the same grandma is there to encourage her to do what she can and take advantage of other parts of the month.  I also like that she doesn’t succeed.  Fasting especially on these long summer days can be hard and acknowledging that, and encouraging kids to persevere I think is a very valuable lesson.  Sophia also comes up with a way to help on her own.  Parents are tired and entertaining ways for the kids to be engaged in Ramadan is great, but can be exhausting.  This shows that kids with the right understanding of the month, inshaAllah can find ways on their own too.

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There is an Author’s Note at the end explaining Ramadan, and the book would work and appeal to Muslim and non Muslim kids alike.  Sophia reminds me a bit of Pinkalicious and Fancy Nancy and will probably appeal most to kids that also like those characters. The grandma covers her head, the mom does not, but does when praying and reading Quran.  It mentions and shows praying and breaking one’s fast with water and dates, yet stays focused on the story and does not get preachy or dry.