Tag Archives: Facts

Islamaphobia deal with it in the name of peace by Safia Saleh illustrated by Hana Shafi

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Islamaphobia deal with it in the name of peace by Safia Saleh illustrated by Hana Shafi

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This nonfiction book has given me pause.  The information, the approach, the presentation, the importance, is all really well done, I just can’t really grasp how to use the book.  It is broken up in to four sections:  Islamophobia 101, The Believer, The Intolerant, and The Bystander. In each sections it has scenarios, comic strips, quizzes, infographics, advice columns and so much more spread out over 32 pages.  After it explains what Islamophobia is, it offers believers (Muslims) ways to see if what they are facing is classified as Islamophobia.  It has quizzes and questions and advice for people that are intolerant, and then if you are just around Muslims and intolerant folk what you can and should be aware of and do.  I think in a classroom all sections could be gone over, but I’m not sure in which grade and in what context.  In an Islamic youth group I think it could be really thought provoking to look at different sides and encourage the members to share their personal experiences, but I don’t know.  If you are a bully, would some quizzes and graphics be enough for you to recognize your own bias, could it make you change your attitude? I’d love to hear from others that have read this book, I checked mine out from the library.  It says it is for ages nine and up and other books in the series cover topics such as: consent, homophobia, transphobia, anxiey, racism, and freedom of expression.

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The first section: Islamophobia 101 starts off with a scenario of a girls first day of school after the summer and her first day wearing hijab.  No one really says anything, but there are whispers, her best friend asks if everything is ok at home.  It defines Islamophobia as “a kind of intolerance, or a refusal to accept and respect ideas and views that are different from your own.  It is the belief that Muslims, or people who follow the religion of Islam, are a group to be fearful of.”  It goes on to explain in examples what Islamophobia is while giving facts about Islam and things to think about. There are graphic comic type scenarios showing what Islamophobia can look like based on ignorance, stereotypes, then assumptions, and finally fear.  The section then offers a 10 question quiz, followed by questions and answers to a fictitious counselor in an advice column format. Finally there are myths and a Did You Know Section.

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The next section: The Believer, starts with a scenario of a Muslim holding their breath while watching the news.  Of being proud of your family and faith, but being tired of convincing people you are a Muslim and a good person.  An advice column about handling halal food, terrorism, hijab and sports is next followed by tips to not feel alone and an infographic on dos and don’ts to not be overwhelmed by your experiences.

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The third section is The Intolerant which asks if other people’s religions bother you, or if you question why religion has to be part of daily life and not kept personal.  There is a a 30 question true and false quiz, then a challenge to be part of the problem or part of the solution, with information on what you can do.  There is a sidebar about the role of social media as well as some highlights of current Muslim sports figures.

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The Bystander section asks if you’ve seen someone bullied or harassed for being Muslim, if it bothers you to hear people talk about immigrants and refugees as a threat, and what you can do to speak up. There are dos and don’ts a 10 question quiz, some more Islam facts and some direction to get more information.

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Overall the book is well done, and I had my kids look through it to see a way to facilitate anything they experience and how to articulate how they are treated and might treat others.  

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The Chronicles of Bani Israil: The King, Queen, and the Hoopoe Bird by Dr. Osman Umarji illustrated by Sama Wareh

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The Chronicles of Bani Israil: The King, Queen, and the Hoopoe Bird by Dr. Osman Umarji illustrated by Sama Wareh

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At 134 pages the fictionalized retelling of Prophet Sulaiman’s (AS) kingdom and interaction with Queen Bilqis comes to life from the point of view of a Hoopoe bird.  The book is marketed as a “Quranic fantasy adventure,” which I found a bit misleading.  The book is rooted in Quran and Hadith facts according to the author, and colored in to try and tie a story together, but even for 3rd and 4th graders I don’t know that there is much adventure or suspense.  As a prophet story it is pretty solid, but as an adventure book it seemed a bit scattered in its attempts to give history, draw in unrelated anecdotes and make it seem intense, when the dialogue suggested otherwise.

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SYNOPSIS:

The book starts with the narrator setting the stage to tell his story of being in Prophet Sulaiman’s army nearly 3,000 years ago in the land of Sham.  Told in first person and  limited to what he saw, the Hoopoe bird (Hud-hud) addresses the reader and begins his tale.  He first gives some information about Hoopoe birds and Prophet Dawud (Prophet Sulaiman’s father), before lovingly describing Jerusalem and how the Bani Israil came to the land of Sham.

The first real glimpse of what kind of ruler Prophet Sulaiman is, is given with the detail allotted to how he repaired Masjid Al-Aqsa.  The bird then tells of Prophet Sulaiman’s many powers and gifts from Allah (swt), the ability to control the wind, control liquid metal, speak with animals, and of course the Jinn.  Slowly, the reader begins to understand how impressive Prophet Sulaiman’s kingdom is, not just by being told, but being shown, so to speak, and reminded pointedly by the Hoopoe that despite so much power how humble towards Allah swt, Prophet Sulaiman remained.

There is a tangent about his love of horses, before the Hud-hud takes center stage again as a spy in the powerful army of men, jinn, and animals. The story of the ants is shared and about half way through the book it is on one of the bird’s scouting missions that he sees a Queen and her people worshipping the sun.

The back and forth between Prophet Sulaiman and Queen Bilqis as Prophet Sulaiman urges the Queen to allow her people to worship Allah or risk invasion is a familiar tale and one the author asserts he tried to use only Islamic sources to include.

The book ends after the Queen has visited, embraced Islam, more anecdotes about Prophet Sulaiman’s wisdom are shared and how even in his death he attempted to show the doubting people the power and oneness of Allah swt.  The revelation of the termite breaking his walking stick and the retirement of the bird who had lived a most wondrous life, conclude the story before an Author’s Note at the end of the book.

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WHY I LIKE IT:

I love Prophet stories and especially ones that are easy to read, memorable, and factual.  I think the book does a decent job in a fictionalized retelling of getting a lot of the important information in, albeit sometimes a bit forced, but keeping it on level for upper elementary and being clear and concise.  I didn’t stumble on grammatical mistakes or find parts confusing, it was well told and presented.  More than once in the book, I felt like it would have made a better oral story than written one.  The bird had to articulate how he knew stuff if he wasn’t there, and he kept asking the reader questions or telling them to pay attention.

The book is meant for Muslim kids and I wish there would have been footnotes or sources.

The illustrations were nice, they are full color but I am admittedly bias as I grew up writing letters to the illustrator who was my penpal for a few years.

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FLAGS:

None

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TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

Doesn’t fit my book club criteria, but definitely think kids would benefit from reading the story and discussing how the author shared the information, what they think the Hud-hud’s life was like and then maybe trying to retell a story of their own from a different perspective.

 

 

 

Islamic History for Kids: Story of Badr by Qasim Riaz

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Islamic History for Kids: Story of Badr by Qasim Riaz

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This fictional story of a non-fiction-historical event over 37 large, 12×12, pages really brings the battle of Badr to life for readers ages seven and up.  The book is engaging and keeps chidden focused, excited, and clear as to what is unfolding, why the battle was important for Muslims, and why it still has lessons today.  Unfortunately, there are no source notes, bibliography, or references in the book, so I’m not sure how accurate the details are, and I haven’t yet had a chance to have someone more knowledgeable than I check it for accuracy.  The ayats from the Quran quoted are identified in text and yes, I understand it isn’t a reference book, but even having some imam or scholar give their approval would reassure people considering purchasing the book.  Additionally, fairly prominently there is a disclaimer at the beginning of the book that says, “The characters in this book are entirely fictional.  Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is entirely coincidental,” which is a common disclaimer, but in a book of this nature, it did strike me as odd.  So, you may want to read it first yourself before presenting it to your child as fact.

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There is also a typo that my children discovered rather quickly and pointed out to me, I was a little disheartened when I asked about it, to discover the author knew about it before mailing it out, but for some reason didn’t find it necessary to put a note or let the customer be aware of it. I put a post-it note in mine to show all of you, and will be taking a black marker to it shortly.  Mistakes and typos happen, but I felt that they should have let the consumer know, once they knew that it was there, for accuracy sake.

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The book starts off with a brother and sister fighting, Zain and Zahrah.  When the father goes to stop them, Zain tells him that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) used to fight, and the father concedes the point, but points out it was not something he wanted to do.  He tells them that for the first 13 years he didn’t fight back even when the Quraysh made fun of him.

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The kids ask who the Quraysh are and why they didn’t believe the Prophet, to which the father lovingly answers their questions before telling him about the verses revealed allowing them to fight from Surah Al-Baqarah.

They learn about Abu Sufyan returning from Syria with a large caravan and how the Prophet wanted to surprise them. Only to learn that Abu Sufyan had arranged a much larger army from Mecca to come and attack the Prophet and his Companions.

There are details about how they determined the size of the army based on how many camels were being eaten, and how the Muslims camped near the wells to control the water.  The story reads smoothly and pulls out when the children have questions seamlessly.

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As the battle is set 1000 soldiers against 313 Muslims, the book explains how the battle starts with three duels and explains how Utbah, Shaiba and Walid battle Hamza (RA), Ali (RA), and Ubaydah (RA).  The Ansar win all three battles and the Quraysh charge.

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Prophet Muhammad (SAW) makes duas, and Allah (SWT) answers sending a thousand angels following one after another to help.

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When the dust settles the Muslims are victorious and the order is given for the prisoners to be treated kindly.  They are given food, rides, and the opportunity to pay a ransom for their freedom or they could teach 10 Muslims to read and write in exchange for their release.

With the story concluded the father then makes sure the children understand some of the many lessons from the battle.  Including having Allah on your side, trusting Allah, putting in your best effort, and being kind and generous even to those against you.

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There is no illustrator listed, but the pictures are done really well showing modern relatable, squabbling kids getting drawn in to a historical story by their father.  The emotion on the characters faces adds depth to the story and engages the readers in seeing and understanding a desert battle so long ago.

The text on some pages varies quite noticeably, with some pages barely having a line to spare and some only being a line or two long.  It does slightly affect the rhythm (and aesthetic) of the book, but it is manageable as long as you remember to give the kids enough time to see the picture on the short pages, as the overall size makes the book perfect for story time to large and small groups.  The book stays on level, which is nice, and there is a glossary of abbreviated terms (AS, RA, SAW, SWT) at the end.

The company: Ghazi Production is planning Uhud to be the next book, and informed me a bibliography will be included in that one.  InshaAllah!

 

The Cosmos That Allah Has Designed by Zenubia Arsalan illustrated by Ada Konewki

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The Cosmos That Allah Has Designed by Zenubia Arsalan illustrated by Ada Konewki

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This 22 page beautifully illustrated picture book clarifies that it is not a science book, but rather an invitation to think deeply.  For ages 4 and up the rhyming pages will appeal to children’s sense of wonder and Allah’s perfection and precision.  Older kids will appreciate the journey through the cosmos and how limitless Allah swt is in all things.

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The book starts with Earth and how the spinning of our planet on its axis allows for the alternation of night and day, it then moves to how going around the sun at Allah’s command gives us our seasons.  But because it rhymes and is not a science book, the text is more imagery and tangible in nature, rather than a list of facts.

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It touches on the moon reflecting borrowed light and the power and strength of the sun before moving on to the planets and gravity.

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It then extends out to the Milky Way and has a page on black holes before coming back to Earth for us to recognize how we only are a small part of something so much bigger.

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There are two pages at the end with talking points, an ayat from the Quran, and emphasis that science and Islam are not at odds as Allah is the creator and governor of all things.

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The book is 6×9 and with the beautiful illustrations I truly wish the book was larger.  Not only to dive in to the glossy pages easier, but also so that the book could be used at story time to small groups.  The tone is contemplative and marveling as it challenges the readers to find mistakes or flaws in the perfection of outer space. I love that science-y Islamic kid books are now available that appeal to children’s sense of wonder and understanding.  Really the only other suggestion I would have liked to see, would have been a page defining the word “cosmos” as it is used on every page, and while I think kids will figure it out as the continue through the book, I think it is a bit of a block for the younger readers.

Najma by Anousha Vakani illustrated by Ayesha Sohail

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Najma by Anousha Vakani illustrated by Ayesha Sohail

 

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In a world of new STEM books and female powered books, this 28 page fact driven story adds one more empowering element, Islam.  With beautiful pictures on thick glossy pages, the 10×10 book is both educational and endearing for boys and girls ages 6 and up.

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There isn’t a story with a climax or moral, but there are characters, Najma and her astronomer Mom, who move the book along, and keep it “grounded” so to speak.

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Little Najma loves the stars and space above her, she knows Allah created them, but she wants to know more about them, what they provide, and how Allah made them.

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Mama and Najma look through a telescope as Mama teaches the life cycle of a star in simple terms over 11 pages.

 

 

Najma then asks what stars are for, and Mama tells her the benefits of the sun that Allah swt made for us and the stars as well.  Mama explains Allah only has to say, Be and it is.

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Every scientific concept, and daily life example is tied back to Allah swt.  And with Najma’s adorable little face, and the beautiful complimentary illustrations, the book conveys facts about the universe, love between mother and child, and awe at Allah’s signs.IMG_7189

Thank you Crescent Moon Store for amazingly fast delivery of this brand new book.  InshaAllah there will be more books like this combining science, Allah, and strong females for us all to learn from and enjoy.

 

 

 

Allah Tells Me… by Ali Gator (Firhana & Ahmed Imam)

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Allah Tells Me… by Ali Gator (Firhana & Ahmed Imam)

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This 28 page, thick glossy full-color book for 3-8 year olds, introduces and describes the five pillars of Islam in an age appropriate manner.

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The book is fact based and informative, but the illustrations and voice of the text reads in a gentle inviting tone that will appeal to small children.  There is no story, but rather a boy that takes you each of the pillars and talks to the reader.

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The short paragraphs about shahada, salat and wudu, fasting, zakat, and hajj are detailed and will need some additional explaining if used to teach kids.  If you are using it to just introduce general concepts, the pictures and sentences will suffice.

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The book is in English but does use Arabic words to describe each tenant with in-text translations in parenthesis, as well as footnote translations on occasion.

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The book is set up as a tool for parents and teachers to use when educating young Muslim children and thus some hadith and ayats are present at the beginning and end, as well as some directions, games and activities.

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I Love Ramadan by Taymaa Salhah

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I Love Ramadan by Taymaa Salhah

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There is nothing wrong with this dual language book, but there it isn’t anything to get excited about based on the story alone, either.  If you are looking for a basic book with both English and Arabic telling what a little boy does in Ramadan, not elaborating on any reasons why he does them, then this book will adequately suffice.

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The book is just linear facts, I wouldn’t even say that it is information driven, as there isn’t really even a story, it is just a few simple sentences on each of the 20 pages of a boy telling in first person what he is doing.   “I finish my meal before athan alfajr and fast until sunset” it says on one page.   “When I hear athan almaghreb, I recite dua and break my fast with my family” it reads two pages later.  It does not define athan or almaghreb nor does it specify the dua.

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The book is on the dry side, but I would image the simplicity in the Arabic, might be what would appeal to parents looking for their kids to read and understand both languages independently.  I don’t speak Arabic so I’m unable to comment on the grammar complexities or smoothness.

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The illustrations are sufficient, again nothing super exciting or noticeably off about them.  The book is short, hardbound (8.5 x 8.5) and honestly, rather unremarkable or memorable, unfortunately.

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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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Bashirah and the Amazing Bean Pie by Ameenah Muhammad-Diggins illustrated by Amir Doumy

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Bashirah and the Amazing Bean Pie by Ameenah Muhammad-Diggins illustrated by Amir Doumy

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Oh, how glorious to learn something new while having things you know presented so well at the same time.  In 42 pages the reader will feel all the excitement of Eid (it doesn’t specify which one, nor does it really matter), sharing your culture with your classmates, participating in a family tradition, cooking with your grandfather, sharing with neighbors, and learning some life lessons about diversity from the Quran.  Ages 5 and up will enjoy the story and seeing Eid being celebrated, and older kids that know about Eid will love learning about bean pies and appreciate the African American Muslim culture, if they don’t already know about it, and those that do will hopefully feel proud to see it represented.  The best part is that there is a recipe at the end, that I can’t wait to try.

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It is the end of the school day and the teacher is reminding the students that Monday is Culture Day and they need to bring a dish to share, over the weekend it is also Eid.  Bashirah is excited that this is the first year she will get to make her own bean Pie with her Pop-pop who is going to teach her the family recipe.

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At home Bashirah can’t stay still as her mom puts on the finishing touches of her Eid outfit, she is so excited for all the fun about to happen.

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Early the next morning the family all heads out to the Masjid for Eid Salat in their beautiful clothes.

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After prayers its cooking and eating time as Bashirah and Pop-pop make the pies and enjoy a big meal as a family.  Three generations make salat together, food is taken to the neighbors, and then the big reveal.  All the desserts, including Bashirah’s are served, and alhumdulillah it is delicious!

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Back at school on Monday the teacher reminds them all that, “neither our languages or heritages make us better than anyone else.  Allah looks at our good deeds.” She quotes Surah Hujurat, ayat 13 “Oh, mankind indeed we have made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another.  Indeed the noblest of you in the sight of Allah (swt) is the best in conduct.” And they all dive in to the delicious desserts including Bashirah’s wonderful pie.

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My only criticisms of the book are the margins and the amount of text on the pages.  I have a hard time reading the book aloud to small groups as the margins are so small and run in to the binding.  Also, some pages have one sentence on them, some have nearly a half a page of text.  This disparity can be off putting at the start of the book to appeal to younger listeners and early readers.

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The illustrations are warm watercolor complimentary pictures.  There is nothing wrong with them, but I wish they were just a tad more defined and vibrant like the picture on the cover.  I love the warmth they radiate, but a little more detail would give the listeners something more to look at on the text heavy pages.

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All in all a great book that I am glad I own and can share with my own children and those in my community, now if I can convince someone to make me a bean pie I’ll really be set, alhumdulillah!

 

The House of Ibn Kathir: The Competition Begins by S.N. Jalali

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The House of Ibn Kathir: The Competition Begins by S.N. Jalali

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At 254 pages this boarding school story beautifully blends Islamic information, mystery, and compelling characters embarking on a new stage of their lives.  I was pleasantly surprised at how easy and engaging this book for upper elementary aged children reads and would strongly recommend it for grades 3-5.

SYNOPSIS:

Eleven year old Yusif is about to begin his first year at the prestigious Dar Al Ilm Academy a few hours away from his family, friends, and home.  Nervous to be on his own, he is excited to be giving his dream of memorizing the Quran the chance to become a reality.  When he arrives at the old mansion turned beautiful campus, he is paired up with Reda, a student to help him get situated and before you know it the two are fast friends.  When they get put in the same house, Ibn Kathir, with Warsoma and Daud, the four friends embark on a year of adventure and bonding as well as growth and learning.  Along the way they learn some Islamic history, they understand important hadith and Quranic Ayats and are challenged to live according to the sunnah even when tempers and frustrations abound.  When items start to go missing the boys and their house will have to keep their cool, not accuse anyone, but figure out what is going on all at the same time.  When the culprits are uncovered, they will be further tested to hold a grudge, offer forgiveness, or even extend an invitation to friendship. 

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WHY I LIKE IT:

This idyllic story and predictable mystery will appeal to impressionable readers that can’t see what is coming and can still be inspired by the beauty of such a protected environment.  The window might be small for such readers, but well worth the attempt as the book is well written and the characters well developed.  The boys are diverse and kind and helpful and all the things we want our children to be, especially when they are away from us.  Each character has their strengths and weaknesses and the friends accept them and celebrate one another rather than try and force them to change. The four houses and the characters vying for year captain and having fun along the way reminds me of a Harry Potter spinoff, but alas I think that is just my ignorance of the British school system.  I love that the four houses and their namesakes are detailed at the end as well as there being a glossary of terms.  There are illustrations every chapter or so that are appealing and offer a nice visual of the boys’ world.  The text, line spacing, chapter breaks and all are perfect for the demographic and while the fictional story is solid, I am happy to report I learned a number of things as well. 

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FLAGS:

None, alhumduillah

TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION: 

I can’t find much on the author or even on any future books, which is unfortunate because I think it would be great for an elementary book club selection, and I may read it to my 4th and 5th grade Lunch Bunch group after we finish The Great Race to Sycamore Street.  I think it should be in Islamic School Libraries and classrooms as its cover will hold its own and compel kids to pick it up off the shelf.

Book trailer: http://www.ibnkathir.co.uk/trailerfullhd.html

Book website:http://www.ibnkathir.co.uk/index.html