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.
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!”
While the kids learn a lesson, Mr. Gamal does too, and so do the readers, alhumdulillah.
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.
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.
The copy I have is called My Mummy’s Tummy, but the binding says My Mummy’s Fat Tummy, I would assume that they are the same book except for this one word, and I’m hoping they opted to remove it at the last minute. Actually, while on the title, it only works well for the first four pages and yes, it sets up the story of a new sibling, by page five, the baby is born and mom’s tummy is the least of big sister, Maryam’s worries.
The 24 page rhyming book, is a good introduction to what kids ages 3-6 can expect with a new sibling. From Mummy’s large tummy, to having to stay with an Aunt when Mummy’s tummy starts hurting, Maryam is excited to have a new baby sister, except it ends up being a baby brother. And while she is promised someone to play with, initially all he does is cry and sleep. With gentle prodding by her parents and islamic reminders of patience and kindness, by the end of the book the baby is nearly one and his favorite person is his big sister Maryam, alhumdulillah.
I love the diversity of the parents, and the acknowledging that changes are hard without being condescending or dismissive. The book stays positive and hopeful and reminds us to keep Allah close to us when dealing with challenges and dreaming of the future.
We all experience disappointment and frustration and feeling like a gray cloud is weighing us down, and for Zaid, it really is! In 36 bright colorful pages, children ages 5 and up can see that bad days happen to everyone, and that sometimes it seems like nothing is going right.
Zaid has been waiting for months for a weekend camping trip with his uncle and cousin, but when Ahmed comes down with the chicken pox, the trip is cancelled. That night Zaid barely sleeps he is so upset, and in the morning notices a small grey cloud hovering above him. As he waits for the bus, the autumn leaves remind him that it will soon be too cold to play soccer outside, then he has to sit at the back of the bus, and needless to say its just the beginning of many disappointments in his day, that make the cloud above him grow. But then, a little something out of the ordinary, in the form of a small bird needing help, presents Zaid with a change of pace and a chance to turn his day around. Slowly but surely the cloud starts to shrink and Zaid copes with the rest of the day with a bit of perspective and a growing smile.
The book is a much needed one in showing children coping with emotions in a somewhat autonomous manner. The book doesn’t judge his feelings, but shows how he finds a way to see the silver lining and make do with a string of frustrations. The adults don’t lecture him or solve his problems for him, but are definitely supportive and caring should he need them. The story does a good job of flowing and not getting preachy. I can’t wait to read it to my 6-year-old who has a gray cloud pop up at the slightest disappointment, but currently my 10-year-old has been sent to her room with the book to see if she can relate Zaid’s predicament with her own. The handy discussion questions at the end also can help talk about feelings through Zaid, and hopefully making the child’s connection from a fictional character to their own experiences more poignant.
This book really cemented in my head the growing subcategories of Islamic fiction picture books. Naturally there are books that are geared for Muslim kids only and ones that work for Muslim and non Muslim kids alike. But this book, along with a few of the new releases like it, cover universal themes with Muslim characters (at least by name) and have diversity in their pictures. They show a few characters in hijab but do not mention or explain it, in this book the marshmallow package says halal, again with no explanation. However, there is no specific ayat or hadith that the book stems from or an Islamic pearl that is meant to get through. The characters do not greet each other with salam, or say alhumdulillah and mashaAllah, making it more appealing to a wider audience, but words I hope when the story is being read aloud to Muslim kids, can be sprinkled in. I think it is a great addition to the literary world when Muslims are seen in a larger community and is not jarring. I hope parents of non Muslim children also appreciate this diversity in literature and I pray that it leads to more acceptance in the “real” world, ameen.