Category Archives: Toddler

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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Forgiveness by Isa Beaumont

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Forgiveness by Isa Beaumont

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This dual language book, is structured and feels like a leveled reader, but is more geared for fluent reading five to seven year olds.  It definitely has more complex diction and vocabulary than an emerging reader would be able to handle in English, I have no idea about the Arabic.  

SYNOPSIS:

The concept in 26 pages is how to forgive others and react calmly when we are upset.  The book is brightly illustrated on glossy sturdy softbound pages, and the characters are found in all of the company’s stories and plush figures at https://www.littlemaysoor.com/

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Little Zakariyyah has been behaving well, and as a result his mom gets him a new red toy car, he loves it and plays with it in the garden everyday. His sister Ruqayyah wants to play with it, he agrees and when he hands it to her, she accidentally drops it and it breaks.  In anger Zakariyyah begins screaming for her to “Go away from me!” Mom comes out to see what is going on and calm everyone down, she takes Zakariyyah inside and pours him some milk.  When she hands it to him, his hand slips and he drops the glass breaking it and making a mess. Mom forgives him and obviously highlights the similarities to what just happened with his sister and the toy car.  Mom then gently guides him to acknowledge his poor behavior and asks him what he things he should do.  Zakaraiyyah knows he needs to ask Allah swt for forgiveness and then apologize (apologise) to Ruqayyah.  Once he does this, his sister shares some sweets with him and reminds him of a hadith, “The strong one isn’t he who can overpower others.  Instead, the strong one is he who can control himself when he becomes angry.”

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WHY I LIKE IT:

Before the story begins there are six points you can implement before reading the story, and after the story, there are beginner and advanced concept questions and a place to write the answers provided.  The book has an agenda and it achieves its mark in showing a moral concept in an Islamic framework.

The book is written in British English which could make the spelling a bit confusing for new American readers, but manageable.  I honestly don’t know if the book was written in English then translated to Arabic or the other way around.  Some of the wording seems awkward so it could be attributed to it being translated from Arabic or it might just be the American/British difference.  For example Zakariyyah loves playing in “a small sand pit for children,” why not just say, sandbox? Again not terrible, but rationale for why I think children sounding out words might be a bit young for the target audience.  

I liked the story and how it lets the reader see the similarities to the events that unfold, just like I loved that the mom asked Zakariyyah what he should do, rather than dictate or scold him.  I was surprised when I read it, how smooth the ending was, because it really could have had Ruqayyah come across as a know-it-all and it didn’t.

The beginning of the book stumbled a bit with the set up trying to tell about Zakariyyah, why he got the toy and then staging the plot of the book.  If he had been playing with the car everyday, is it still a new car? Also the illustration before he drops the milk has him sitting at the table with a glass a milk in front of him.  Sure, maybe it was the second glass that he dropped, but it’s noticeable.

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FLAGS:

Clean

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TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

The book is obviously too short for a book club per se, but I think if you had a small group of readers, or are home schooling, you really could ask a child to read the book and then reflect back what they understood and what they learned and how they hope to put it in to practice.

Even with not reading the Arabic, the book is pretty solid in its approach and I plan to check out the other books in the series as I do a lot of story times with basic morals as themes.

 

Under the Ramadan Moon by Sylvia Whitman illustrated by Sue Williams

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Under the Ramadan Moon by Sylvia Whitman illustrated by Sue Williams

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I’ve been reading this book to groups of children for years, and how I’ve managed to not post a review is beyond me, but alas, this sweet book is perfect for preschool to kindergartners and works great at story time or bedtime with its sparse words, comforting illustrations, and predictable refrain that makes the book read like a lullaby.

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The book gives glimpses of emotions felt during Ramadan and activities participated in, but in very toddler friendly way.  With between 10-15 words on each two page spread, the lyrical words paint pictures of families worshipping together, laughing together, eating together, helping the needy and working on being kind.  

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It mentions Quran, but no other Arabic specific words are mentioned, and it is through the pictures that it shows how Muslims pray.  Some of the women are in hijab, some are not.  At the end of the book is a full page with information about the blessed month of Ramadan, but the vagueness of Ramadan and Islamic requirements keeps the book open to both Muslim and non Muslim readers, and allows the feeling of Ramadan to permeate the few details given in a rich and soothing manner.

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The 8 x 10 size and 24 full color glossy pages make this book a regular during the month and a great choice to repeatedly curl up with your little ones and enjoy, alhumdulillah.

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Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller illustrated by Jen Hill

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Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller illustrated by Jen Hill

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I usually post chapter books on Fridays, but on this one week anniversary of the horrific Mosque attacks in New Zealand, my fragile heart is being kept together by the pictures and notes shared on social media about the kindness people are bestowing on one another.  Company’s setting up prayer spaces for Muslim employees, communities standing guard outside masjids, friends leaving flowers for their Muslim acquaintances, strangers donning hijabs in solidarity, individuals carrying signs of welcome and unity, truly the list goes on and on.  Muslims and non-Muslims reaching out to one another, Kiwis and the rest of the world coming together.  And yet I know so many people are at a loss at what to do, and how to respond to their feelings in an appropriate manner.  I know I often am.  Thats why books like this one are so important for children to learn how to be kind.  We often tell them to be nice or kind, but what does that mean? What does that look like? How do we know if it worked? As adults we often don’t know, so while this book isn’t written or illustrated by a Muslim, there are Muslims in it, and that is why after seeing another blogger a few weeks ago mention it, I want to share it with all of you.  The illustrations show a little girl saying hi to a desi garbed man named Omar, and two hijab clad girls in her view of the world, amongst so many other diverse faces and characters, because that’s the point right? We are one, each of us responsible to one another to be kind.  

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The book starts off with Tanisha spilling grape juice all over her new dress and a classmate being at a loss as to how to console her.  She makes what she thinks is a reassuring comment to Tanisha, but it isn’t received that way, and the little girl ponders and reevaluates what it will take to be kind to Tanisha and what kindness is in general.

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As she works to unravel what kindness is, she explores also what it can look like.  I love that it is seen in terms of action, giving ideas to stay with the reader.  It discusses that sometimes it is easy like saying hello, or not littering, and how important just using a persons name can make someone feel.

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But, it also talks about how sometimes kindness can be hard, requiring patience and a little bravery. I can only imagine how brave people had to be to enter a mosque for the first time and step out of their comfort zones to offer their support.  

The book then takes an important pause when it acknowledges that maybe all this little girl can do to help Tanisha is to sit by her.  I think Muslims around the world are in awe of the Prime Minister of New Zealand for all she is doing, but also for just showing up and hugging people and listening.  A rare gift in todays wold of soundbites.  

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The little girl then imagines her small acts of kindness joining others and making the world a better place.  My favorite part is actually the end.  Tanisha never smiles and tells the little girl thank you, there is no big praise for being kind.  In fact, I bet the little girl doesn’t even know the power her actions had on the little girl.  We the reader know because we see Tanisha hanging the picture up in her room.  But, that let down is real life.  We can’t be kind because of the reward, we must learn to be kind because it is the right thing to do.  And often when people are kind to us, the effect isn’t instantaneous, its weight manifests in the dark when we are looking for hope and reassurance and for this book to contain all of that, in 32 pages with only few words (AR 2.2) is truly amazing.

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The illustrations are gorgeous and engaging.  The hardback 9×10 format makes this book a great addition to any library and should be read regularly.  It isn’t enough to not be mean, action and intention need to be taught so that we all might be more kind, inshaAllah.

 

Mustafa and Arwa go on a Ramadan Adventure by Mekram Mohammad

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Mustafa and Arwa go on a Ramadan Adventure by Mekram Mohammad

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Ramadan is two months away and this little book is a great way to introduce and stir up excitement for little Muslim toddlers and preschoolers. It could work for non Muslims, but the general overview given would need some details and explanations, and this book seems more geared to introduce excitement and a few key concepts for the blessed month.

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In 27 rhyming pages the brother sister duo explore some of the feelings of the month, activities that make the month special and what to expect at suhur, iftar, and taraweeh at night.  

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I like that it makes it clear that you don’t eat one bite, that you fast even if you are at work or school, that you use your time to do good and help people, and that you ask Allah for paradise.  

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The end is Eid and while the text presents some great general info, the illustrations are what really give the minimal clear text life.  Seeing the kids giving presents to people and looking for the moon and enjoying iftar together with smiling faces, show kids the warmth of Ramadan.  

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The book doesn’t have a story, it just talks about Ramadan, but the tone in this book and in Mustafa and Arwa go on a Prayer Adventure is very fun and light.  It doesn’t get into rules or articulate what little kids are expected or required to do, or even why Muslims do it, it just gives them some knowledge and some emotion to create the feeling of it being a grand adventure.

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The book is paperback 8.5 x 8.5 and the thickness, sheen and quality of the pages makes it durable and enjoyable to read at story time (in small groups) and bedtime alike.  This book most likely will be on repeat in the weeks leading up to Ramadan and then referenced throughout the month to remind children about what they are seeing and experiencing.  

The Jiu-Jitsu Ponytail by Mir Khalid Ali illustrated by Taahira Halim

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The Jiu-Jitsu Ponytail by Mir Khalid Ali illustrated by Taahira Halim

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A determined girl battles her ponytail, her own self-doubt and her opponents on the jiu-jitsu mat in 38 beautifully illustrated pictures and clear every day language.  Perfect for little girls and their dads ages five and up.

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Noor has been counting down the days until her first jiu-jitsu tournament, but the morning of the tournament a battle first takes place between her and her unruly hair.  Determined to tame it on her own, even when her father offers her help, she steps on to the mat for her first fight.

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Squirming with nerves, her ponytail breaks free from the desperate tape used to keep it contained and covers Noor’s eyes forcing her to tap out and concede the match.

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Walking off the mat, Noor’s Baba hugs her and compliments her on her bravery.  Noor is having none of it and just wants to go home.  Rather than argue with her, Baba goes to talk to her coach giving Noor some space to battle her self-doubt on her own.

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Deciding she has worked hard and trained hard, and been supported every step of her way she asks her baba to help her tie up her hair.  Together her and her jiu-jitsu ponytail take on the remaining opponents and persevere.  

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The book shows great heart in the supporting cast each of us have around us, in this case the father takes his cues from his daughter, never wavering in his support, but not forcing her to do anything either.  The little girl is determined, but also learns that it is ok to ask for help and above all to not give up on yourself.

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The personification of the ponytail adds a layer of humor to the story that works well for little kids that might just take the story on face value.  Even they will learn something about jiu-jitsu with the visual displays of the different moves and of martial arts tournaments in general.  Two of my children thought the ponytail hilarious, and two slightly creepy.  The subtlety of its personification allows its role of being a separate entity and just feeling like it has a mind of its own to be determined by the reader.

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There is nothing Islamic in the book, but the author and illustrator are Muslim, and the use of the little girls name, Noor Kareem, and her calling her father Baba will have a special appeal to Muslim children (plus her name written in Arabic on her bedroom wall), just as children who do jiu-jitsu will find themselves in the pages.  The book appeals to all children and reminds them they can overcome and inshaAllah be supported in the process.

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The illustrations in this 8 x 10 horizontal hardback book are beautiful and detailed.  They allow the reader to understand what is going on without the book being overly burdened with text.  The font is clear and well sized making the book ideal for both bedtime and story time, alhumdulillah.

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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 🙂