Tag Archives: Fun

Zara and Hakeem Learn ‘Alhumdulillah’ by Shabeena Rehman illustrated by Kevin Payne

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Zara and Hakeem Learn ‘Alhumdulillah’ by Shabeena Rehman illustrated by Kevin Payne

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Board books from the UK! The glory of a well bound chunky book for toddlers to tote around, chew on and hopefully learn something from, with all the joy of international shipping.  I delayed buying these books for so long, because of it, and finally I gave in and just in the nick of time as I have started a weekly preschool story time, and this series is perfect for three and four year olds with limited attention spans and in need of repetition.

Zara and Hakeem, a brother and sister duo wake up to find their mother not feeling well, and instructions that they will have to help Daddy, Grandad and Grandma with the daily chores.  Then Mummy sneezes and says, Alhumdulillah.

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It seems the books  all have a pattern, something happens that sets the stage, then Hakeem and Zara pause and think hard about what to say, there is then an English translation/explanation about the meaning and then a universal, Muslims from all around the world say or do this, before the story resumes.

I don’t mind the break in the story, but the phrasing is a bit cumbersome and slightly off in this book.  Why are the kids thinking hard about what to say, when Mummy had just said it? If they were thinking hard about what she had said or where confused why she said it, I feel like it would make more sense. 

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I really like that the book shows that all Muslims say something the same, it is a good time to start to show this age bracket that they are connected to something bigger, without overwhelming them.  

The story continues with Hakeem helping daddy vacuum and Hakeem sneezing when some dust flies up.  Then Daddy and Zara mow the lawn when the grass makes Zara sneeze, everyone, Grandad, Grandma, all take a turn sneezing in different scenarios and everyone practicing to say Alhumdulillah.  

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By dinner, Mummy is feeling better, but Daddy has a sneeze attack and takes to laying down as he is not feeling well, and tomorrow the kids will have to help Mummy with the chores.  A humorous full circle, that even toddlers will laugh at.

The kids I read the book to, loved the loud Atchoos and the cute illustrations, a few of the older four year olds, wanted to know why Yar Hamukumallah was not also said.  They also wanted to know why when the dad sneezed four times they only said Alhumdulillah three times.  I read a variety of books about being sick and we talked about using tissues and sneezing into our elbows, washing our hands, and not coming to school when we are sick.  The book was great to explore how mom was sick and dad must have caught her cold.  But that sneezing from pepper and cat hair, didn’t mean you were sick.  The kids also saw that everyone in the house has to help out, sick or not, old or young, male or female, which is always a great lesson to reinforce, Alhumdulillah.

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The book is 18 pages of text.  The illustrations show the mom and grandma in hijab, they are bright and colorful and engaging.  Children will enjoy getting carried away with the sneezes and the Alhumdulillahs when read aloud and will enjoy looking back at the pictures and details independently afterward.  This is a great story to put on repeat and then watch your own toddler retell the story on their own.

Overall, well worth the shipping! I hope US bookstores will stock the series as our little ones need books that are funny, clever, and well done.

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A Whale of A Wish by Razana Noor illustrated by Rahima Begum

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A Whale of A Wish by Razana Noor illustrated by Rahima Begum

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I’ve seen this book on Amazon countless times, and not really been interested in a Prophet story written in rhyme.  It seemed like it would be overly forced and  there’s enough slightly creepy songs out there trying to be clever in their retellings, that I never added it to my cart.  But, when Noura over at Crescent Moon Store convinced me to take a look and hooked me up, I trusted her, and am glad I was so terribly wrong.

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The story of Yunus (AS) is told from the whale’s perspective.  And shows how he always wanted to do something unique and swims around helping those in need.  He even befriends his foe, a giant squid.

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When he feels compelled to swim to the surface in the middle of the storm, Allah commands him to swallow Prophet Yunus and later commands him to return him to land.

The whale listens to Prophet Yunus praying all day and night and feels blessed to be part of Allah’s big plan.  His dua is also included at the end in english and arabic and arabic transliteration.

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The 18 page book is 8×10 inches in size and the illustrations are sweet, soft, happy and well done.  Children two and up will enjoy the story, and while it is meant for Muslim children, I believe Christian and Jewish children will recognize the story and with some oversight would enjoy it too.

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The rhyme is surprisingly not as forced as I feared.  On only one occasion the rhyme is a  stretch: squid, bit, but the meter is regular and flows easily making the story great for  story time and bedtime alike. 

 

 

Digging Deep by Jake Maddox text by Wendy L. Brandes illustrated by Katie Wood

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Digging Deep by Jake Maddox text by Wendy L. Brandes illustrated by Katie Wood

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It is great to see a beautiful hijabi on the front of a sports book, written by a non Muslim, published by a major publisher, and having the story have nothing to do with the cloth on her head, but rather the skills on the court.  Teaching lessons about teamwork and self-worth, there is a whole series of these books about different sports with different main characters, and this one focuses on volleyball and a girl named Asiyah Najjar.  I’d maybe recommend this 63 page book to kids starting to feel confident with early chapter books, but more on that later.

SYNOPSIS:

Asiyah plays rec volleyball and enjoys it, but when her friend Lucy convinces her to try out for the traveling team, she has to not just be good enough to make the team, but focused enough to not let her teammates down.  With daily practices, comedian Asiyah feels like everyone is taking the new team way too serious and she questions if she wants to continue.  She loves playing the piano and with school work, her time is being consumed by volleyball.  When she overhears her friends doubting her commitment to the team, she, with the support of her brother, decides to dig deep and give it one last, serious, try.

WHY I LIKE IT:

I love that Asiyah mentions in the first chapter that she is nervous about the traveling team, because of her hijab and that people in town know “what it is, and why I wear it,” she says.  She never mentions that she is Muslim or why she wears it, just states that the people around her know. Religion and faith are never brought up again.

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There are some slightly off things in this book for me.  According to the publisher, the book is meant to appeal to 8-11 year olds,  but to me, the style of the book is aimed for 6-8 year olds.  Those who need pictures and a large font and big spaces between lines and short chapters.  The illustrations, however, in the book make the main character and her friends seem like high school students, with their heavily makeup looking faces, or at least middle school with the main character wearing hijab.  After reading the book, twice, I still don’t know how old the main characters are.  They seem pretty independent, but then when Asiyah’s parents have to run some errands, her brother Rad walks her and Lucy to volleyball practice, like an escort.  

That’s another thing, of all the ethnic or religious names that could have been chosen, Rad seems like an odd choice in that it will come across as funny to readers and kind of mitigate the amazingness of having a socially accepted female Muslim athlete on the cover, again, just my opinion.

Another slightly confusing thing for me is that the book is a “Jake Maddox book,” but he isn’t really the author.  After looking in to it, I think it is more like a series or type of sports book that other’s write for and include his standards, “each of his stories is stamped with teamwork, fair play, and a strong sense of self-worth and discipline (http://www.capstonepub.com/consumer/products/digging-deep/).” The book is ok for 2nd graders, the lessons learned will resonate in the moment and teach a point, but the characters will be quickly forgotten.  The book has questions at the end and a glossary of volleyball terms which would be great for kids interested in volleyball.  

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FLAGS:

Clean, the characters listen to music and Asiyah plays the piano.

TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

I wouldn’t do this for a book club book, but with the standards of sportsmanship and the integrity I’d probably have it in my classroom.  The book is a super short read, so reading it would help boost struggling reader’s confidence, and with so many books in the series, if the child likes sports, they will have lots of options with positive messages to engage with.

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The Worst-Case Scenario Ultimate Adventure Novel: Amazon & The Worst-Case Scenario Ultimate Adventure Novel: Mars by Hena Khan and David Borgenicht

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The Worst-Case Scenario Ultimate Adventure Novel: Amazon & The Worst-Case Scenario Ultimate Adventure Novel: Mars by Hena Khan and David Borgenicht

There is nothing Islamic or religious, with either of these books, but I wanted to review them, as the author Hena Khan, who has brought such lovely picture books to our book shelves (Night of the Moon, Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns, Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets), inspiring elementary books to the mainstream (Amina’s Voice, On Point, Power Forward), and who showed Curious George what Ramadan is all about, is Muslim.  She has done a tremendous job of blending culture and religion with everyday life making her stories relatable and found on bookshelves across America.  She also has written books that are just good books void of any religion and culture, that hopefully they remind our youth that you can write books about anything, appeal to everyone, and be successful as well.

Both books are like the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books that I remember from the 1980s except these are much better written, and I think I might have learned facts about Mars, space travel, and the Amazon from them, without even realizing it.  Aimed at 3rd to 5th graders, these two books were checked out from the library and read countless times by my kids and myself alike.  They are entertaining and not easy to predict.  It is worth noting that while I did make it the entire length of the Amazon, after four tries I gave up trying to survive the journey to Mars and back.

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SYNOPSIS:

In both books the cast of teammates is given at the beginning and shows a good diversity of men and women from all over the world with a variety of skills and backgrounds to be on the expedition.  The books then give the set up of where you are going, and how you got chosen.  You then are advised to flip to the back of the book to look through the files and notes that will give you knowledge about what you will encounter.  These pages are in full color and are in diary, note style.  The adventure then begins and you make choices that lead you down different paths to success, or demise, it is up to you to decide how to survive.  

WHY I LIKE THEM:

I love that you learn while making decisions and attempting to make the story continue.  The books are fun and most of the choices aren’t obvious, naturally a few are, but they are well done.  There are comic book style pictures sprinkled throughout and regular black and white illustrations on many of the pages.  I particularly liked that the kids read them more than once and learned a bit about space travel, mars, what would be needed to set up a colony, the Amazon, various animals, and survival skills in the rain forest.

FLAGS:

You might get burned up, or bitten by a snake, but nothing too graphic, as you are the reader and obviously know it isn’t real.  

TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

These books wouldn’t work as book club selections, but I think 3rd and 4th grade classrooms and school libraries would benefit from having these fun books on hand.  Struggling readers will enjoy the fast pace and the number of pages (about 200 each), irregardless of if they are read or not, and advanced readers will enjoy trying again and again to reach the successful end.

 

 

Snatched Asmaa Hussein illustrated by Svaitoslav Diachyk

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Snatched Asmaa Hussein illustrated by Svaitoslav Diachyk

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The premise is simple, Omar ate something that didn’t belong to him, and the guilt is weighing on him heavily.  The beauty of the book is how, with his mom’s help and his own determination, he makes things right.  

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Set in Egypt, Omar eats the doorman’s baqlawa, and while he knows he shouldn’t have, he doesn’t know what to do about it.  The doorman, Amo Mohamed, blames the cat and Omar tries to move past the theft.  But the guilt builds up and he even dreams about baqlawa, eventually telling his mom so he can start to fix things.  

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After isha prayer, the two of them make some new baqlawa.  I love that the mom doesn’t get mad, but she is firm that while, “we made the baqlawa together,”  she tells him, “you have to talk to Amo Mohamed on your own.”  

Omar confesses his crime to the door man and apologizes, Amo Mohamed in turn apologizes to the cat, and all enjoy a piece of baqlawa together with smiles.

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The last page in the 38 page book is a glossary and is headed by a hadith by Prophet Muhammad, “Be conscious of God wherever you are.  Follow the bad deed with a good one to erase it, and engage others with beautiful character.”

The illustrations aren’t amazing, but they are sufficient and help walk the reader through the story.  I like that the mom covers when out and about, but not in the home.  The story is great for ages 4 and up, but the amount of text on the page and book length might make independent reading more geared to second and third graders. 

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The book would work for muslim and non-muslim children a like and does a good job of showing a universal situation in a culturally rich environment.

 

 

 

The Most Pleasant Festival of Sacrifice: Little Barul’s Eid Celebration by Munise Ulker Illustrated by Beyza Soylu

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The Most Pleasant Festival of Sacrifice: Little Barul’s Eid Celebration by Munise Ulker Illustrated by Beyza Soylu

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This book is beautiful, it feels great in your hands, the raised glitter embellishments in the illustrations, the price point, everything except the text.  The gist of the story is even fine, the execution is just off.  It reads very much like it has been translated from another language in to English, and yes my privilege might be showing, but the phrasing, the passive voice, the orphanage, all make the book with its massive text passages hard to convince kids younger than 7 to sit through.

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The story starts off with parents and two kids , Murad and Batul, driving to a friend’s house for dinner, commenting on the Christmas decorations that they see.  The parents ask what the kids know about Eid al-Adha that is coming up and the kids remember how much fun they had in Turkey.  Except it is really awkward to get this bit of information out.  They discuss Eid last year, and then remind each other that they were in Turkey, and how it was much more fun.  Noting that international travel is expensive and they won’t be able to go again, the Mom over dinner discusses how they can make Eid fun for the kids with her friend.

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It is decided that the Muslim and non Muslims will celebrate together and include a local orphanage.  “Each Muslim family would be responsible for buying new clothes for two children from the orphanage, and they would take their own children along to do the shopping.” This would teach the kids to thank Allah and learn about community and sharing.  A great lesson overall, again just a concept presented in a really wordy, round about, awkwardly forced manner.

The Mom contacts the library and gets permission to decorate an information table, the kids make Eid cards for their grandfather in Turkey, at Sunday school they make gifts for friends.  They learn about Zakat and sacrificing an animal like Allah commanded Abraham to do, they even send cards to their neighbors.  Oddly though remarking how fun it is to get candy outside of Halloween.  After the first two pages explaining Christmas and telling that Muslims don’t celebrate it, I found it odd that they would, 15 pages later, be referencing Halloween. 

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Some of the sentences also don’t made sense.  About half way through I didn’t understand what the author meant by the boys “celebrating each other’s Eid” after they put their new clothes on and went to Eid prayer.

Once at the party, they give specific details of how much they charged everyone, yet no details about the food they all brought.  The kids enjoy a pinata and everyone including the orphans get Eid gifts.  Despite everyone’s fun the party has to end, and the orphans return to the orphanage and Murad and Batul declare they “will always remember this Eid.”

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The illustrations are great, it is really yet another example of a book just needing a good editor.  From the very beginning, even the title isn’t really right, the book isn’t even mainly about Batul, to the random details shared, the book is just too long and too unpolished.  It is really unfortunate, because it has so much going for it on its 32 pages.  The main points however, I feel are lost about Eid and the reason it is so dear to Muslims everywhere.

Peg + Cat: The Eid al-Adha Adventure by Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson

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Peg + Cat: The Eid al-Adha Adventure by Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson

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Easily the most anticipated Eid al-Adha book to come out this year, the book does not disappoint.  Following the episode, the book, is 32 pages and while ok for ages 3 and up, like the show, it really is geared to children able to grasp the math concepts presented.

The book’s story is that it is Eid al-Adha, and Peg and Cat are learning about it with their friends Yasmina and Amir. The holiday facts don’t seem forced and words like hijab. oud, and Eid Mubarak, are integrated naturally.  The concept of giving charity, giving to those with LESS, becomes the set-up for learning about more than, and less than. 

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A few pages later the tradition of dividing meat into three parts: one to keep, one for friends, and one for the poor, sets up a lesson on fractions and using a pan balance.  The really big problem, involves moving crates.  They count down from seven to calm down, and then use all their lessons learned to solve the problem and help a neighbor.

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The illustrations are straight from the show in all their adorable glory, I’m not sure why Yasmina has some strange tree branch looking loose hairs poking out of the top of her scarf.  I love that the page numbers are math problems (2 +1=3 for the 3rd page).  And the hardback with slip cover workpages on the underneath side, are a nice treat.  I was especially greatful the picture on the slip cover is the same as on the book, so the cover can be discarded, as will ultimately occur with multiple readings.

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Books like this are great ways to introduce an Islamic tradition to non Muslims in a non preachy, non threatening way.  By seeing beloved characters with Muslim friends helps shape perceptions and increase understanding, inshaAllah everyone wins, alhumdulillah.