Tag Archives: Early Reader

My Own Special Way by Mithaa Alkhayyat retold by Vivian French translation by Fatimah Sharafeddini illustrated by Maya Fidawi

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A mainstream Early Reader book with a cute little muhajaba on the cover and a premise that she’ll be a big girl when she wears hijab seemed like a book I should adore.  And while it isn’t bad, and I’m glad it was in the library,  really I’m not sure how I feel about it.

In someways, I’m just confused.  Why would you pick one of the characters to be named Hind, in a book urging readers away from picture books and into chapter books, it isn’t going to be pronounced with a short i sound, it is going to be pronounced like a “be-hind,” umm not so good for the age demographic you are trying to show another culture to, there will just be giggles and jokes.  Also, many of the illustrations are cute, but what is wrong with the dad and with Jamila’s sleepy eyes, they kind of border on creepy. And not the creepy, in a cool way, more like creepy in an awkward way.  And finally, with an author, a retold by, and a translator, and presumably a ton of editors and proofers at Orion Children’s Books, I found veil to be a very formal word to use throughout.  It does say it is a scarf at one point, but the word of choice throughout is veil, and I think to be culturally accurate, hijab would have been a better choice.  Even for English readers, scarf would have been a better fit.

The book is 62 pages, there is no glossary and it is not AR, but is a transition early reader book for kindergartener and first graders.

SYNOPSIS:

Little Hamda wants to spend time with her four big sisters, but they all say she is little and have other plans.  When her mom reminds her that they were small at one time too, she realizes that when they were small they didn’t wear hijab, or in this book, a veil, and now they are big and where one when they go out.  So, in her mind, once she starts wearing one, she too will be big, and thus the challenge of finding a way to wear it comfortably begins.  She is helped and supported by all her family and finally she finds her own special way to wear her veil.

I like that it is a mainstream book trying to include some diversity.  The family is relatable and the themes universal even if portrayed in a minority muslim framework.

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WHAT I LIKE ABOUT IT:

I love the premise of the book and that it is very clearly Hamda’s idea to wear a veil, no one is forcing her.  The text and illustrations align to show the girls cover when they go out, not in the home.  The dad needs help at one point finding his shoes to go to the mosque.  However, it doesn’t tell what a mosque is, or explain that the family is Muslim and wearing hijab is an Islamic act, which might be a comprehension block for young readers.

I really go back and forth on the illustrations.  On the first reading I thought they were creepy, when I went back to write the review they were kind of cute.  When I asked my kids, two said they were fine, and one said they were ugly and was positive I am the only one to have ever checked out the book.  Yeah.

FLAGS:

Fine, and Islamically nothing erroneous.

TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

Obviously not a book club level book, but I would be very interested to have some first and maybe even second graders read it and give me feedback, like I said I’m on the fence with this one.  Check to see if your library has it, read it, have your kids read it, and let me know.

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The Hajj Adventures of Jamila and Fasfoose by Ediba Kezzeiz illustrated by Abd al-Hayy Moore

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The Hajj Adventures of Jamila and Fasfoose by Ediba Kezzeiz illustrated by Abd al-Hayy Moore

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The book isn’t much to look at with its black and white, with yellow thrown in cover, and its 40 pages bound with a staple, but for independent readers between 2nd and 4th grade or so, the book is good.  In many ways it is an older kids version of Zaahir and Jamel, adding a fictional story to the learning about the steps of Hajj.  

SYNOPSIS:

The setting is Hajj and all of its different rituals, but the story is that Jamila and her pet mouse Fasfoose get lost in Mecca.  Along the way to finding Jamila’s parents and performing the requirements of Tawaf, Sai, Arafah, Mina, Muzdalifa, Jamrah, and Eid, a few duaas are thrown in, friendship with people of different nationalities and lessons in patience, speaking with your heart and finding your internal compass of wrong and right all come to light.

WHY I LIKE IT:

I like the target audience, and how it doesn’t ever feel preachy or like a How-to-perform-Hajj manual.  If a child is familiar with the rituals of Hajj the story gently reminds them of what they already know and the story takes center stage.  If they are unfamiliar, the book doesn’t talk down to them, and may prompt them to want to learn more.  Strong lessons of being kind and not hurting anyone or anything while in ihram are strong, as are the  beauty of multiple cultures speaking from their heart to find common threads.  There are illustrations to break up the text and not overwhelm the young reader, and the story is divided into seven chapters.  The font and size are all age inviting and even older middle school kids would probably pick it up if they saw it, read it in about 20 minutes and be glad that they did.

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FLAGS:

None, alhumdulillah

TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

The book is fun, probably not long enough for a book club selection, but a great read -a-loud. The length of the chapters make it a short read that ideally could be read the week before Hajj or Eid.  My 3rd grader read it and is enjoying listening to me read it to my 2nd grader.

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