Tag Archives: Asmaa Hussein

The Great Hair Exchange by Asmaa Hussein illustrated by Milton Bazerque

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The Great Hair Exchange by Asmaa Hussein illustrated by Milton Bazerque

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I don’t know if twins plot and plan to trick people, but I think those of us that are not twins, and don’t have any in our immediate family, all assume that switching places with someone who looks exactly like us, would be a regular prank with hilarious outcomes and convenient benefits. Two twin Muslim girls with different hair and vastly different personalities learn to love themselves, appreciate how God made them, and get reminded that sneaking has consequences, all while evoking giggles from the reader throughout their adventurous day in each other’s shoes (hair?). This 32 page full-color, high-gloss, fantastically illustrated book is filled with silliness and lessons that will appeal to children five and up.

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Bushra and Roda, are nearly identical, except Roda has curly hair, and Bushra’s is straight.  They often want to try different hairstyles, but their parents tell them they should appreciate how God made them and they can experiment when they are older.  The girls decide that their parents, with their perfectly wavy hair, just don’t understand and sneak in to their parents’ bathroom before school to straighten and curl their hair accordingly.

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Surprised at the final results, “You look like me!”The girls realize they are going to get in trouble and decide to switch clothes and backpacks and head off to school.  At school the girls are ushered in to each other’s classes by their teachers despite their protests that they aren’t who they look like.

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The girls carry on as each other struggling in classes they normally excel in, get annoyed by their hair, and suffer through lunches that they don’t like.  Roda even fools herself as she bumps into a mirror thinking she is going in to hug her sister, and Bushra is startled by a spider that Roda loves.

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After school their dad drops them off at their after school activities and still doesn’t suspect a thing. Roda goes to Bushra’s soccer game and Bushra to Roda’s girl scout hike.  When it starts to rain, the girls’ hair returns to its natural state and when they get picked up, they have a lot of explaining to do.

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The girls are reminded that hair gadgets require supervision, that God made us all unique and being dishonest is not ok.  From here on out the girls still prank their friends and teachers, but do so with their parent’s knowledge.

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The book is fun and silly and for both Muslim and non Muslim’s alike.  It uses the word God, not Allah, and while the mom wears hijab, and the girls do on the last page, there is nothing Islamic or even Islamic specific in the book.  I feel like the grammar on the last page is off, but nothing too major.  The book ends with five discussion questions.

The Green Dinosaur Umbrella: A Hajj Story by Amina Banawan illustrated by Rania Hasan

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The Green Dinosaur Umbrella: A Hajj Story by Amina Banawan illustrated by Rania Hasan

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This 36 page Hajj story covers the steps of Hajj by following a green dinosaur umbrella as it gets passed around to those that need it more than the person who currently holds it.  A great story for ages 4 to 8, the large 8.5 by 11 colorful pages-full of diversity, kindness, and bits of information help inspire and amuse our little Muslims.

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Ibrahim is getting ready for hajj and picks out a green dinosaur umbrella to take to Makkah.  When he gets separated from his father while making tawaf, it his umbrella that his father sees to find his grateful son again.

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Outside Ibrahim sees an old man sitting in the hot son and gives him the umbrella realizing the old man needs it more that he does.  The old man takes the umbrella to Mina and makes dua’as for the generous boy at Arafat.

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When a tour leader comes around to hand out water and juice, the old man determines that he needs it more than he does and passes it on.  The leader carries it toward Jabal Ar-rahma and Muzdalifah.  He is awoken from his sleep by two men arguing and uses the dinosaur to defuse the tension.

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The next morning he sees a mother carrying a young child and gives her the umbrella as the rain starts to come down.  She and the baby are kept dry as they go to throw their pebbles as the jamarat, and kept them dry as they walked back to Mina.

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After they trim their hair and prepare for Eid, she sees a little girl looking sad and gifts her the green dinosaur umbrella. After performing the Sa’ee, her father offers to take her to feed the pigeons and she runs off forgetting the umbrella, as it rolls under a book shelf of Qurans.

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After making his farewell Tawaf, Ibrahim goes to get a Quran for his father and finds his special umbrella peeking out from under the shelves.

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A beautiful fun book that shows the steps of hajj for even the little ones to enjoy all while teaching lessons about generosity, selflessness, and worshipping Allah swt, alhumdulillah.

Who Will Help Me Make Iftar by Asmaa Hussein illustrated by Saliha Caliskan

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Who Will Help Me Make Iftar by Asmaa Hussein illustrated by Saliha Caliskan

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This sweet story shows how even when people refuse to help, we should treat them with kindness, as our actions should be to please Allah alone, and inshaAllah in real life, much like in the story, people will fix their ways and offer their help in return.  This new story reads very much like the old(er) favorite Nabeel’s New Pants, where everyone is too busy to help, but then come around to realizing that helping one another is a way to show people we care.  This 32 page 8.5 x 11 soft back story is well bound with large glossy pages and clear text.  The story works well for ages 4 and up, as they will understand the moral message and inshaAllah feel inspired to find ways to help as well.  

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It is a 40 year tradition that Mustafa Amce and his wife Ayse Teyze feed iftar to their friends and families on the first day of Ramadan.  This year, however, Ayse is not well and Mustafa is confident he can enlist the help of neighbors and family to help him keep the tradition alive. 

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Unfortunately, everyone has an excuse.  His daughter is tired, his grand daughter is too busy with her video games and his neighbor doesn’t want to get his new shirt dirty.  Their sad reasons don’t stop old Mustafa Amce, and he makes the salad, and cooks the rice and beef by himself.

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When iftar time arrives, he offers sweet dates to those at the masjid and invites everyone to come to his courtyard to break their fasts together.  All those that had early refused to assist him feel incredibly guilty and don’t want to take advantage of a lovely meal. Mustafa reminds them that, “God loves those who are generous especially to their families, neighbors, and guests.  and I always want Got to love me.” So they join in the delicious meal.

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After food Ayse Teyze shows that while she might be ill, she can still save the day when her husband realizes he has forgotten to prepare dessert.  The guests then offer to wash the dishes and sweep the floor and take the leftovers to the poor.  And best of all when the athan for isha prayer calls out they all without prompting stand to join Mustafa Amce in praying salat together.

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The names are Turkish with a pronunciation guide at the end, as well as a paragraph about Ramadan.  The book would work for non Muslims and Muslims alike as the story is set in Ramadan, but more about coming together to help out.  The illustrations are large and detailed and descriptive.  You see the warmth between Mustafa and his wife as well as the apologetic feelings from those that were unwilling to help. 

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Snatched Asmaa Hussein illustrated by Svaitoslav Diachyk

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Snatched Asmaa Hussein illustrated by Svaitoslav Diachyk

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The premise is simple, Omar ate something that didn’t belong to him, and the guilt is weighing on him heavily.  The beauty of the book is how, with his mom’s help and his own determination, he makes things right.  

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Set in Egypt, Omar eats the doorman’s baqlawa, and while he knows he shouldn’t have, he doesn’t know what to do about it.  The doorman, Amo Mohamed, blames the cat and Omar tries to move past the theft.  But the guilt builds up and he even dreams about baqlawa, eventually telling his mom so he can start to fix things.  

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After isha prayer, the two of them make some new baqlawa.  I love that the mom doesn’t get mad, but she is firm that while, “we made the baqlawa together,”  she tells him, “you have to talk to Amo Mohamed on your own.”  

Omar confesses his crime to the door man and apologizes, Amo Mohamed in turn apologizes to the cat, and all enjoy a piece of baqlawa together with smiles.

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The last page in the 38 page book is a glossary and is headed by a hadith by Prophet Muhammad, “Be conscious of God wherever you are.  Follow the bad deed with a good one to erase it, and engage others with beautiful character.”

The illustrations aren’t amazing, but they are sufficient and help walk the reader through the story.  I like that the mom covers when out and about, but not in the home.  The story is great for ages 4 and up, but the amount of text on the page and book length might make independent reading more geared to second and third graders. 

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The book would work for muslim and non-muslim children a like and does a good job of showing a universal situation in a culturally rich environment.

 

 

 

Mr. Gamal’s Gratitude Glasses by Asmaa Hussein illustrated by Nuria Tomas Mayolas

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Mr. Gamal’s Gratitude Glasses by Asmaa Hussein illustrated by Nuria Tomas Mayolas

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Asmaa Hussein over at Ruqaya’s Bookshelf has put out two new books, and this gem of a book is one of them.  Mr. Gamal’s class is angry, about lots of little things getting out at dodge ball, the wrong color grapes, having to wait their turn, and it is making for restless, grumpy students.  On a trip to the dollar store, the teacher is struck by inspiration when he sees some oversized pink lensed glasses.  With a pair for each student, the kids have a week  to try out there “gratitude glasses” and report back on their success.

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In 36 pages readers ages 5-8 will get to know some of the stresses felt by kids they can relate to, and ways to find “good things, even in tough situations.”  They will also learn that the real secret isn’t the glasses, but their own brains discovering “new ways to think about stuff!”

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While the kids learn a lesson, Mr. Gamal does too, and so do the readers, alhumdulillah.

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The book would be great fun to read in a group accompanied by glasses to hand out and test Mr. Gamal’s idea with.  I also think it is great to have on the bookshelf to remind kids that they need to find the positive and break out of their slump.

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The kids all have “islamic” names and a few wear hijab (some do not), but there is nothing religious in the book.  It would work well in any environment and does a good job of showing diverse characters.  The pictures are adequate, I don’t love them, but they compliment the story and set the tone fairly well.  The book is a great size for story time (8.5 x 11) and with a thick cover and shiny pages, should hold up to repetitive use.

 

Nusaiba and the 5th Grade Bullies by Asmaa Hussein illustrated by Zul Lee

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As someone who deals a lot with reading and comprehension, I really misread the description of this book and assumed erroneously that it was a chapter book targeting 5th graders.  Oops, alhumdulillah, my confusion and slight disappointment didn’t last long as I got swept up in Nusaiba’s spunky imagination and endearing personality.  The message of the book is powerful.  Not only does Nusaiba have to deal with bullies, but she has to wrangle with accepting herself, even if that means being different.

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Nusaiba is almost to school when she overhears some 5th grade boys making fun of her mom and what she is wearing.  Nusaiba’s mom is wearing a hijab, and the story is set up to imply that that is what they find “weird.”  This morning encounter bothers Nusaiba all day, and while she doesn’t talk to her teacher about it when asked, she does spill the beans to her best friend Emily.  The next day Nusaiba distances herself from her mom and asks to walk to the school gate alone.  The bullies don’t say anything, but Nusaiba feels guilty about leaving her mom like that. Later that day when Mom picks Nusaiba and Emily up from soccer they swing by a local hijab shop for some clothes shopping.  I don’t know why, but I found the premise for taking the girls clothes shopping a little forced.  It seemed too words of a setup, and I couldn’t help but wonder why Emily would be dragged along.  As mom tries on skirts for work, the girls in their boredom get swept up in using the scarves as costumes and transforming themselves from queens, to underwater divers, to fisherwomen, to mountain climbers, to fantastic cleaners ready to clean up all the scarves on the display.  Her mom lets her pick one to buy, and she decides to wear it to school the next day.  It is noteworthy that Emily doesn’t try on any of the scarves.  She is an amazingly supportive friend, and even in make-believe is right there with Nusaiba, but she doesn’t put one on, and I kind of want to know the author’s reasoning or purpose as to why.  So the next day at school, Nusaiba asks her mom to again walk with her, and when the 5th grade boys call her mom an “odd-ball.” Nusaiba finds her courage to confront them.  Nusaiba and the reader discover the boys are making fun of Nusaiba’s mom, but it isn’t for her hijab.  Nusaiba and her mom set the boys straight and giggle in the process, as Nusaiba realizes she can be anything she dreams.

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The book is 44 pages and probably about a second grade mid year reading level.  The pictures are big and bold and beautiful making it a great option for story time to ages 4 and up.  The pictures do an amazing job complementing the story and going back through to look at them after the “twist” at the end was even more delightful.  The illustrator draws you into Nusaiba’s world and you really do cheer her on when she stands up for herself. The book easily lends itself to discussion, and there is also a question guide at the end, incase you get stumped. It reads more like a school assignment, but it could obviously be re-worded to engage a child at bedtime or in a read-a-loud environment.  The font is a nice size, however, I found it distracting. On some pages it is white on others black, on some it has a shadow and on others it does not.  I’m certain most people would not notice, but for some reason it was jarring to me.  Alhumdulillah, alhumdulillah, if that is the only negative in a book, I think everyone who reads it will be glad to have a copy of their own to read again and again and again and again and….

 

Yasmine’s Belly Button by Asmaa Hussein illustrated by Charity Russell

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This book is fun, fun, fun.  The mere mention of the word belly button to little kids gets them giggling, and the words and pictures in the book kept them engaged and happy through out.

The story is a simple dialogue between 4 year-old Yasmine and her mother about belly buttons as she heads off for her first day of school full of butterflies.  We learn that everyone has a belly button, even cats! And the students have a fun time following along with Yasmine’s confusion of why it is called a button, to her understanding that it allowed her to receive food while in her mother’s tummy.  yasmine2The illustrations are bright and colorful and have a lot going on.  The expressions on the character’s faces compliment and complete the text seamlessly to tell a well thought out story.  They keep the audience’s attention even after the text is read, with the kids telling me to “wait” so that they could soak it all in before I turned each page.  The mom and teacher’s expressions on the last page amused the daycare through Kindergarten students and made them feel like they were in on the silliness.

A lot is conveyed even with just a few words on its 28 pages.  The reader sees what she thinks, they see the mom without hijab at home and with hijab when she goes out, they see a diverse classroom, a patient mom, and a way to deal with being nervous in a new situation.

I read this book to many students at school and to my own children at home, and can tell it will be an often requested book in both settings, mashaAllah, I highly recommend it.

 

 

Bismillah Soup by Asmaa Hussein illustrated by Amina Khan

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It is always a cause of giddiness to find a good book, but to have one recommended by a mutual friend of the author, makes it all the better. Bismillah Soup is a spin-off of the Stone Soup folktale, but without the “trickery” of the classic.  Hasan, wants to surprise his mom with a feast, but money is tight and when Hasan is sent to ask the local Imam for some rice, a plan: Bismillah Soup, forms that brings the entire community together.  The story takes place in Somalia and the cultural words that are peppered in to the story add detail and talking points to have with the kids.  As each community member shares something small, the enormous feast that is created is a wonderful example of what can be achieved when we each give our best to help others.  The book is 40 pages with a glossary at the back and is definitely one that can be read over and over to kids of all ages.  Even the littlest ones are able to grasp the beauty of coming together through the colorful and playful pictures.

soup-gallery-img1 (1)The real treat of the book however, is how it all comes together: the words, pictures, sentence structure, font, size, and diction all compliment each other on the same level.  I read a lot of books aloud as a children’s librarian, and while the rhyming ones are great for the littlest listeners, there is often a void of read-out-loud stories for the kindergarten and first grade levels.  And I am talking about all books, not just Islamic ones.  Most picture books in my experience are written on a third grade level, with longer blocks of texts, smaller fonts, a wider range of vocabulary and longer sentences.  These books are often beautiful and very tempting, however when I read them during story time I end up “summarizing” them, and telling the story rather than reading it.  Similarly, early readers often find them frustrating and too difficult to read independently. Bismillah Soup strikes a wonderful balance, mashaAllah.

I read the story to my own children who enjoyed it and have found my first grader reading it independently twice this week.  Each time beaming with excitement to tell me something new he has gained from the book.  When I read it aloud to them, my kids marveled at how having a good intention and being so generous could benefit everyone. The first time my son read it independently he was in deep thought about how grateful Hasan was even though they didn’t have much food and how he was a determined problem solver.  The second time I found him reading it, he was so very impressed at the kindness of Shaykh Omar.  He really started to understand the subtle beauty of the character not just in helping Hasan’s family with food, but also supporting and working with the young boy to make the feast happen, alhumdulillah.  Screen-Shot-2015-08-29-at-12.06.00-AM

I highly recommend the book and I can’t wait to read it to my students at school next week, inshaAllah.  For more about the book, the author, and her other work you can go to the author’s website  http://www.ruqayasbookshelf.com