Tag Archives: clean

Silly Chicken by Rukhsana Khan illustrated by Yunmee Kyong

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silly chicken

Silly Chicken is a story about sibling rivalry, except there isn’t a sibling, there is a chicken.  Rani feels that her mom, Ami, loves a chicken, Bibi, more than she loves her.  Rani is jealous of the attention Bibi receives and finds the chicken in general, silly.  One day when Rani and Ami leave their home by tonga to visit her father’s grave, a dog gets in and when they return, Bibi is no more.  Ami is devastated and Rani is sure she closed the gate.  It isn’t until Bibi’s egg hatches by surprise, that the story comes full circle and Rani responds to Ami’s chiding that she loves the baby chick more than her mother, that the reader and Rani realize how silly that would be.

I really liked this 32-page, brightly and playfully illustrated book.  It is written on a AR 2.3 level and is fun out loud or at bed time.  The story takes place in Pakistan and a lot of reviews online remark that it is a good book about Pakistan or for showing Pakistani culture, critiques that I both agree and disagree with.  Every kid, everywhere, through out time, can probably relate to being jealous of something or someone occupying their mother’s attention.  The concept of a pet and loving it and being sad and feeling guilty, are all universal themes.  That being said, both the author and illustrator do a remarkable job of breaking stereotypes without drawing attention to them.  Ami and Rani are relatable and are clearly Pakistani, subtly removing an us and them stance.   Rani’s dad has passed away, but Ami and Rani seem to be doing well.  Ami seems very self-sufficient in daily activities and brave when they think a burglar may be present.  The two chat with neighbors and travel independently breaking down the erroneous stereotype that women cannot go out or be recognized without a male.  The mother wears hijab and traditional Pakistani clothes while Rani being young obviously does not cover.  Their clothes are bright and colorful and their expressions relatable and inviting.  The way that Bibi’s death is handled is age appropriate and a child could possibly think she simply was run off rather than killed, either interpretation would allow the reader empathy for Ami and be a great topic to explore with a child.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

Nadia’s Hands by Karen English illustrated by Jonathon Weiner

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nadia's hands.jpegNadia’s aunt is getting married and she gets to be the flower girl in the Pakistani-American wedding.  She also will get mehndi put on her hands for the big event.  Her cousins warn her that she might mess up and even in the midst of her excitement she begins to worry what the kids at school will say when they see her hands on Monday.  As her aunt prepares the mehndi and the application process begins, various uncles peek in on her and her aunt gifts her a beautiful ring.  The mehndi has to sit on the skin for a while to set and as Nadia practices sabr, patience, I couldn’t help but think something seemed off in the story.  I’ve been at, in, and around a lot of Pakistani and Pakistani-American weddings, and this story didn’t seem to reflect the tone of such occasions.  The book doesn’t reflect the hustle and bustle and near chaos, it doesn’t sound like the tinkle of jewelry and laughter as the women sit around chatting and getting mehndi put on together, the pots on the stove are referenced but not described so that the reader can smell the sauces thickening and hear the pans crashing and taste the deep rich flavors.  It is lonely.  Nadia is lonely and filled with anxiety about Monday.  Durring the wedding she is walking down the aisle and suddenly freezes when she looks down and doesn’t recognize her hands.  Her cousins seem to show unsupportive “I-told-you-so” expressions as she searches for some comforting encouragement to continue on.  When she finishes her flower girl duties, her grandma asks if she understands why looking at her hands makes her feel like she is “looking at my past and future at the same time.” Nadia doesn’t understand and the author doesn’t explain.  At the end she is ready to embrace that her hands are in fact hers and that she will show her friends on Monday.  But the reader has no idea how it goes, or what exactly the significance of her painted hands are.  The book fails to give any insight or excitement for a culture bursting with tradition at a time of marriage.

 nadia's hands inside

There is a glossary at the beginning for the few Urdu words sprinkled in the book.  There is no further explanation however, of  mehndi, or weddings, of the brides clothes etc.  The illustrations are adequate, but because the text doesn’t offer much warmth or vibrance, they seem a little drab, and raise more questions about what some of the traditional items depicted are.  The book is a standard 32 page picture book and is written on an AR 3.8 level, which I think is a little high.  Granted my children are familiar with mehndi, but my first grader read it to me with little assistance.  There isn’t any mention of Islam and could probably be argued that the story reflects any wedding from the subcontinent background performed in the west.  The bride has a duputta on her head in the picture, but that is neither here nor there, and no one in the audience appears religiously covered.  I would assume they are Muslim because of the minor characters’ names: Omar, Saleha, Amina, Abdul Raheem.  Also, the word Sabr, an Arabic word, suggests that they are Muslim.  Plus they eat kabobs which the glossary defines as mincemeat, so probably not Hindu.  Overall the book is not, “bad” or “wrong,” I just wish there were more to it.

 

Elephant in the Dark: Based on a poem by Rumi retold by Mina Javaherbin illustrated by Eugene Yelchin

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Elephant in the Dark

Rumi’s poem The Blind Men and the Elephant has been retold and transformed over time to emphasize many lessons: getting the whole story, defining truth, not being nosey, understanding points of view amongst others.  The basic story is that each person touches a part of the elephant in the dark and cannot fathom each other’s perspectives or what an elephant is, thus they take to bickering and proving that they and they alone are right.Elephant in the Dark inside

A big fan of the Karen Beckstein early reader version, that involves 6 blind men and is presented on a 2.6 level I was skeptical of this 32 page AR level 3.0 version.  The bright pictures and large picture format quickly won me over.  This book works so well for story time as the kids all know what an elephant looks like, they can all understand how the people are getting confused and all can see how their arguing isn’t helping.  All without much adult prompting.  The kids get so annoyed by the villagers not respecting Ahmad’s personal property and not listening to one another that when the illustrator has the children being the smart ones and enjoying the elephant at the end, the reader/listeners are giggling and feel like they are “in” on the truth.

elephant in the dark end

one translated version:

Some Hindus have an elephant to show.
No one here has ever seen an elephant.
They bring it at night to a dark room.
One by one, we go in the dark and come out
saying how we experience the animal.
One of us happens to touch the trunk.
A water-pipe kind of creature.
Another, the ear. A very strong, always moving
back and forth, fan-animal. Another, the leg.
I find it still, like a column on a temple.
Another touches the curved back.
A leathery throne. Another the cleverest,
feels the tusk. A rounded sword made of porcelain.
He is proud of his description.
Each of us touches one place
and understands the whole that way.
The palm and the fingers feeling in the dark
are how the senses explore the reality of the elephant.
If each of us held a candle there,
and if we went in together, we could see it.

Ruler of the Courtyard by Rukhsana Khan illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

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RulerOfTheCourtyard

Set in Pakistan, Saba has to cross the courtyard to get to the bathhouse.  Fearful of the chickens that seem to have it in for her, she braves the distance in a dashing sprint and slams the door to relish in the safety of a chicken free patch of space.  However, today as she searches for courage to face the chickens after her shower she spots a snake near the door.  She is afraid, and wants to scream for her grandma, her Nani, but worries that the snake will bite anyone that comes through the door.  Realizing she must face this fear and solve the problem on her own, not only empowers her, but puts the chickens in to perspective.

This 32 page picture book written on an AR 2.6 level is a good book when discussing overcoming fear.  It reads aloud well, as the short sentences from Saba’s perspective convey her trembling fear, her determined resolve, and her elation and freedom after she faces the snake.  The illustrations on first glance, and even after the first reading seemed off.  They didn’t seem to compliment the story smoothly, however, after revisiting this book, I think I have grown to appreciate the exaggerated features of the girls face, and the simplistic blurred images of her surroundings.  I think it shows her focus and skewed view when faced with such a fear.

The Author’s website & teaching guide

Snow in Jerusalem by Deborah da Costa illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright & Ying-Hwa Hu

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Snow in Jerusalem

The world is always in need of kindness for animals and for one another, so when I saw this book written in 2001 about two boys who live in different quarters of Jerusalem coming together when they learn they are caring for the same stray cat, I was definitely excited to dive in.

The book starts with a Jewish boy, Avi, caring for a fluffy white stray cat and his mom teasing him for caring for him.  He begins to wonder where the cat goes and resolves next time he comes around to follow him.  The reader then sees the cat journey through a market place and have the exact same interaction with Hamudi, a Muslim boy.  Both boys go days without seeing their beloved cat and when they begin to look for her, they find each other.  The boys fight over her as it begins to snow and the cat takes them to see where she has been, with her new kittens.

Again the boys fight and ultimately resolve to divide up the kittens to care for them and let the mama cat go back and forth to feed them.  Needless to say, I was a little let down by the book, I had hoped the boys would bond or see how similar they are. Instead they simply work out a solution for this one situation.  I can’t help but thinking the kitty family getting broken up and the poor mom having to go back in forth is rather selfish on the boys behalf.

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The book is 32 pages and written on an AR level 3.1.  Third grade and up can probably understand the similarities of the boys and how they come together to care for the cat and appreciate it with a simplistic understanding of Jerusalem’s complexities. Kindergarten and 1st graders could probably handle it as a story time selection, and understand working together to help a cat.  I’m sure fifth graders and up however, will be a little concerned for the mama cat and disappointed in the boys at a lost opportunity to provide hope in a troubled region.

There is an Author’s note and Glossary of Arabic and Hebrew words at the end, and a simple, yet valuable map of the Old City at the beginning.

 

The Lost Ring: An Eid Story by Fawzia Gilani-Williams illustrated by Kulthum Burgess

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The Lost Ring.jpg

This is a good little story about Eid ul-Adha for 2nd through 4th graders.  It is not AR and at 29 pages it balances information about Islam and Eid with a simple little story that keeps the target demographic interested.  It isn’t great, but for a book that would probably be a level reader equivalent of a three, it suffices in being a bit of a mystery, a bit of a comedy, and bit of a lesson on why and how we celebrate Eid.

Rahma’s Grandma and cousin, Muslimah, are visiting for Eid. The girls start off the story trying on their beautiful dresses and feeling like princesses.  The girls and Grandma then get to work on making samosas for Eid.  Rahma sees her grandmother’s ring next to the bowl of dough and tries it on. The story moves fluidly and the girls take turns helping  with the folding of the samosas.  Some more adults come in and add tidbits to the story about giving gifts on Eid and getting ready for Salat and depicting a typical practicing family.

The story shifts to dad asking the kids what they remember about Eid-ul-Adha and what they know about Eid-ul-Fitr, the Festival of Sacrifice. On the day of Arafat the children fast, visit the hospital and take gifts to people in the community and the neighbors.  After Salat-ul-Maghrib dad reviews some of the sunnah acts for Eid as well.  It doesn’t get too preachy, or overly detailed, it is more highlights and brief summary revisions.

Eid day is fun and exciting, but when night falls and the family prepares for people to come over, Grandma can’t find her ring.  The kids want to be detectives, but Rahma suddenly realizes that the ring must be IN one of the samosas. So the children decide to eat them all to check. When the ring doesn’t turn up, Rahma and her cousins recite Ayat-ul Kursi, ask Allah for help and decide to tell Grandma the truth.  Just then Mum yells and the ring is found in her samosa, the truth is revealed and they all enjoy a good laugh and resolve to “always remember this as the Samosa Eid.”

The Lost Ring inside

There is a lot of text on the page, and a fair amount of “foreign” words that I think the book is probably meant for Muslim children, or those familiar with the basics of Eid.  There is a Glossary in the back, but it still might be a bit too much for non Muslim children to grasp without someone to answer their questions. The illustrations have the elder females with hijab and the girls uncovered when not praying.  The small pictures are detailed and complimentary, but the younger readers will wish they were a bit more engaging.  Overall, a good book to have in a classroom, and a great one to check out from the library to encourage young readers, or just to enjoy before Eid-ul-Adha.

Better Than a Thousand Months: An American Muslim Family Celebration by Hassaun Ali Jones-Bey

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Better Than a Thousand Months.jpg

To be honest, I didn’t get the book.  I mean I understand that it was derived from stories the author told his children, and I’m guessing it was written to show similarities between Muslims and Christians, but I don’t understand how the 168 pages with lots of photographs and text from the Qur’an got published as a book.  That is not to say it isn’t without merit, it just leaves a lot to be desired.  The teacher in me really, really, really, wanted to pull out a purple pen and start editing.  I checked twice to see if I had an advanced copy or uncorrected proof, I even Googled the book to see what I was missing.  It doesn’t work for me as a completed book.  To me, however, it is a wonderful outline that is desperately wanting to be fleshed out.

SYNOPSIS:

A man in San Fransisco is sitting on the train when there is an earth quake, thus delaying his trip home.  As he dozes off he imagines interactions with his children that share his knowledge of Islam with them, and thus the reader.  The first interaction is with him and his young daughter discussing Christmas, and how Muslims view Jesus and the power of Allah the creator of all.  They jump in the “time machine” truck and drive through the hills of San Francisco reflecting on the concept of patience.  As Ramadan comes and the narrator dreams we get bits of how Muslims in America celebrate Ramadan, and some of the tenants of faith.  When he is awake we get some story about his family, how he came to Islam and his Grandma passing away.  But nothing is explained or even connected.  I have no idea how many children he has, what the story is with the step children and the confusion from having two daughters with the same name.  The story goes back and forth with his dreams being more “real” then his awake time, and both kind of moving in the same direction of explaining how Islam is practiced as a family in America (praying together, waking up for suhoor), the questions that arise from the children (how to pray at school, why Ramadan decorations don’t decorate the city), and how we are all more alike than different (same Prophets, similar stories).  The final dream sequence is sweet with the father and daughter showing, not just talking, about giving and charity, that I really want to send the author back to finish writing the book.  There are so many tangents that would give it depth that are stated in a few sentence paragraph that could so easily be developed in to whole chapters.  Unfortunately, as is, the reader is just left disjointed and confused.

WHY I LIKE IT:

I really like the premise, I like the literary flip of telling the story in the dream.  The ideas are just not presented smoothly.  I don’t think that a tween would get it, and the choppiness of the ideas bouncing around from short paragraph to short paragraph would dissuade even the most seasoned middle school reader.  The book has some good tidbits, but they are lost in the short glimpses of story and long passages of meaning of the translations from the Quran.  The Arabic Calligraphy is nice, but it isn’t stop in your tracks beautiful, and the font of the English translations are difficult to read.

FLAGS:

None, the book is clean.

TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

I tried to get my daughter to read it, but she was so lost and even asked if it was a collection of stories or a chapter book, that I couldn’t force her to finish.  If you can get through it, one could discuss how to “fix” some of the struggles the book has, thus emphasizing what the reader liked and imagining the back story for all the questions that arise but are ultimately not answered.

Colours of Islam by Dawud Wharnsby

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Colours of Islam

This beautiful book is a compilation of the lyrics from Dawud Wharnsby’s well known collection of songs found on the Colours of Islam CD released nearly 20 years ago.  The book states for ages 5+ and is a large and very colorful 35 pages.  The hardback binding, the inclusion of the CD, and the knowledge that royalties go to a trust fund supporting educational initiatives for children, make it a great gift item.  It looks lovely on the shelf and the children will eagerly thumb through it, once.  After that, I’m not entirely sure what to do with the book.  colours of islam2

The pictures are very busy for the most part, and very detailed.  The text on the page is pretty intimidating in its line length and volume.  The songs are lovely, I’ve knows them by heart since I was a child, but I don’t know that they lend themselves directly to poetry for children.  If a child knows the songs, or is following along with the CD then yes, older children will benefit from the book.  A five-year-old or possibly a 7-year-old will not.  I can see the poems/songs supplementing a language arts lesson in a classroom, and in a library the book looks wonderful displayed.  But, as hard as it is for me to not gushingly praise a Dawud Wharnsby product, I don’t know that the book would really ever be read cover to cover and/or more than once.

colours of islam1colours of islam

 

Max Celebrates Ramadan by Adria F. Worsham illustrated b y Mernie Gallagher-Cole

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Max Celebrates Ramadan

Max is a character in a series of leveled readers that explores familiar topics to build reading confidence (Max Goes to the Doctor, Max Goes to School, etc.), and introduces new ideas as the reader’s skills build (Max Celebrates Cinco de Mayo, Max Learns Sign Language, etc.).  I love that Ramadan was included and this 24 page AR 2.0 book is spot on, in what a new reader can handle without getting frustrated or bored in terms of content, and ability.

max

Max goes to his friend Omar’s house to celebrate Ramadan.  He learns a little about the month, what the Quran is and about Eid al Fitr too.  The foreign words are explained in the text and there is no explanation of belief or doctrine.  There are just simplified, age appropriate, descriptions of what a Muslim does and what you might see during Ramadan.  Very level appropriate for Muslim and non Muslim children.  Omar’s family is inviting and kind, and the illustrations show them to probably be of Indian decent as the mother and other females are wearing saris.  None of the women cover, but the males all wear kufis.max1

The book doesn’t stand out in any way, but most leveled readers, in my opinion, don’t.  If you have young readers check and see if your library has the book, the kids will enjoy it.  It works ok in small groups, but not for story time so well, as it is rather repetitive in a dry, not predictive way.  If you are a kindergarten through 3rd grade teacher, I think this book would be a great addition to your book shelf, as well as the others in the series as a way to learn about other people in an independent way.  My son going in to first grade read it by himself fluently and enjoyed the pictures.  Someone new to the concept of Ramadan, i think, would also be able to grasp the concepts without much outside help.

 

 

 

Ilyas & Duck and the Fantastic Festival of Eid-al-Fitr by Omar S. Khawaja illustrated by Leo Antolini

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Ilyas & Duck and the Fantastic Festival of Eid-al-Fitr

 

In the world of Islamic fiction, there are a lot of Eid books out there for children, but this one is definitely more fun than most, especially for the younger crowd.  The presentation of a big, bright, hardback book is aimed at 3 to 6 year olds, and reads well out loud, however, the book is very, very inviting, and older kids with happily pick it up and thumb through the 32 pages of rhyming lines as well.

The book starts with Ilyas watching the sky to see if Ramadan is over and if Eid is here.  Duck in all his silliness doesn’t know what Eid is and rushes out to get decorations to celebrate.  he returns with a Christmas tree and ornaments.  Ilyas non judgmentally explains that those are for our Chrisitian neighbors for their holiday.  Duck then runs out again and returns with a menorah and dreidel and once again Ilyas explains that those are for our Jewish friends celebrating Hanukkah.  Ilyas and Duck then fly away in their hot air balloon to the Masjid to learn about Eid.

Ilyas and Duck2Ilayas and duck

The book works for Muslim children to understand what others celebrate and works for non Muslims to see what we celebrate.  It is all done in a matter of fact way of celebration, not of doctrine.  It is built on the idea that, “There is an Eid for every nation ant his is our Eid.”ilyas and duck eid

Much like the first Ilyas and Duck book, this one is great to have around and read again and again!