This 16 page holiday book is one in a series of six. It keeps the text simple, the images bright and inviting, and turns the pages in to a search and find activity to increase time spent with the material. The information is accurate and basic, there is nothing wrong (phew) with this recent addition to the very crowded nonfiction holiday book field. In fact I appreciate that dates are explained and that the food looks tempting even if non Muslim children aren’t familiar with the dishes. It shows a child in sajood and explains that he is praying. The realistic pictures show smiling faces and Muslim kids will feel represented. Non Muslim readers will become familiar with Ramadan as a time of fasting, the Quran, and prayer.
The pictures to look for are given at the beginning and again at the end with the “answers.” The limited pages have very minimal text. The first one mentions a lantern being hung for Ramadan. It then states that Ramadan is a Muslim holy month where people fast, don’t eat or drink.
It shows a picture of the Quran and says it is used to pray, before showing someone praying on a prayer rug. When the sun has set it is time to eat. Dates are a sweet fruit to snack on after dark. It then shows a child and adult making dua and again reiterates that the holy month is for praying and helping others.
I was excited to see publishing company DK add this Ramadan book to their board book selection, but overall it didn’t wow me, or even really impress me. It has realistic pictures of diverse Muslims celebrating Ramadan, simple text, and bright images, but it read awkward as it switched between first and third person, realistic and stock looking images, and not terribly enticing with slightly faded mehndi and unexplained foods. There are better board books out there for babies and toddlers than this 12 page mainstream published one. If you can find it at the library, sure check it out, but I’d save my money on purchasing it.
The book starts out saying Muslims follow Islam and Ramadan is a special month in Islam. It features a a man holding a little girl and both are people of color. The opposite page is a cartoonish crescent moon saying it is the start of Ramadan.
The next page has a plate of realistic deviled eggs on a bright background stating that many Muslims fast, don’t eat from sunrise to sunset. It also states that the meal before dawn is called suhoor or sehri. I’m not sure why Urdu is included with the traditional Arabic and no other languages are mentioned.
The next page then shows a little girl praying and switches to present tense first person and says “Let’s pray…” followed by a little boy reading Quran and stating that reading Quran helps us learn about Islam. It then switches back to declarative 3rd person saying that people break their fasts before sunset prayers and shows a bowl of dates.
A family is then shown breaking their fast with a meal known as iftar and the reader is urged to pick their favorite sweet to eat from a plate of different shaped baklava. There is no description about the baklava and I don’t know how enticing they would be if you have never tasted it before.
The book concludes with the same cartoonish night sky and silhouetted masjids saying the crescent has been seen, Ramadan is over and tomorrow is Eid. The last page is a girls hand saying , “Let’s celebrate Eid by making henna patterns on our hands.”
I think the idea is good, but I feel like it doesn’t answer many questions about Ramadan and Muslims and probably makes the religion and celebrations seem foreign and odd, presumably the opposite effect. I admittedly haven’t read the other holiday books in the series and am not a baby expert, so perhaps I’m really critical and missing the developmental reasoning behind the presentation. But I don’t know that this book is fun or really informative for any age, it just seems random.
The book’s charm is its simplicity. The text is minimal and the illustrations a small portion of the page. But at 59 pages the book finds power in showing what Islam is to muslim and non muslim children alike.
To say that I liked the book is an understatement, I loved it! It is perfect for bedtime and story time for kids 1 to 4. Ages 5 and up can read it themselves in mere minutes. The pictures not only are the story, but add a wonderful sprinkling of humor. I mean really lets eat a mouse, better yet lets share it! EEEW! Oh wait animals and cats do eat mice!
But why I really like the book, is because while it reminds Muslim children of all the subtle things that make up what Islam is. It also builds bridges for children who know Muslims, or whose parents want them to widen their knowledge, as it lends it self so effortlessly to seeing how we are all the same. Yes it mentions the names of Islamic Prayers and that Muslims read the Quran, and tells the five pillars in a non preachy way, but it also says, “Islam is Family,” and “Islam is Respecting our parents” and “Islam is Telling the truth.” Much more alike than different. A lesson even the littlest reader can understand and hopefully remember.