What a great premise for a children’s book, a little boy, Musa, does not want to clean his room, and imagines all the better things he will get to do in Jannah (heaven) instead. Luckily for his room, his sister comes to help him tidy it up, as well as his mom and dad.
The rhyme scheme and the kids’ imaginations at how wonderful Jannah will be, go hand in hand and make the book silly and fun. The cartoonish illustrations also help sneak in messages of listening to your parents, cleaning your room, being kind to your siblings, helping each other, and ultimately doing things even if they are hard or boring to please Allah swt.
The book is a 28 page, 8×8, paperback. The price is a little steep, $12, for its structure, in my opinion and is meant for Muslim readers. The only real issue I had is when the mom threatens to flounce Musa. “Stop jumping and bouncing, or you’ll get a flouncing,” seems excessive to me, and not consistent with how loving the family is throughout the rest of the book. It was probably included to maintain the rhyme scheme, but I took it to be a threat of violence, which I’m not ok with.
The pictures show the mom in hijab, the word Jannah instead of heaven is used, the characters’ names are Islamic and Allah is mentioned throughout. Musa’s thoughts on the last page are particularly sweet (see picture below). I plan to read this to a group of kids at story time and will just omit the flouncing line, as it does well in appealing to ages 4 and up. Three year olds may not understand it, but because of the rhyming, I think they will be equally entertained.
The book reads very much like the western children’s story/song, “I know an old lady who swallowed a fly,” but in this Sufi inspired repetitive story, An old Farmer’s wife can’t get an apple out of a hole.
The silliness starts right away when she wants to get a bird to fly down the hole to get it for her. When the bird says, “tweet,” which means no, she deems him naughty and then moves on to asking a cat to jump on the bird, to get the bird to get the apple. The funny thing is the chain of events is funny and illogical at points. She wants water in a puddle, to put out a fire to burn a rope, the rope to tie up a bee keeper, and so on. Luckily the wind finally blows the apple out of the hole and they all live happily ever after.
The book supposedly is to teach patience, I am hoping to use it when I do a lesson on thinking outside the box and how sometimes that is great, but the trick is knowing when it might also be easier to reach down and pick up the apple.
The book is AR 3.4 and 32 pages. Many versions are dual languages. The pictures are great with the abiya wearing woman and the chunky cartoonish side characters making the silly story fun to read a loud. There is nothing “islamic” other than the illustrations showing the woman in hijab, and the author being a well known sufi writer who uses lessons from the Sufi tradition to teach lessons to children.
Hamza returns in this book to learn about Eid-ul-Adha, and the story is hilarious, and on point for ages three and up. The sentences and paragraphs are short, the pictures are bright and colorful like always, and the basics of Eid are conveyed. The age of the reader or listener will greatly depend on what they get out of the story, as some may need help understanding concepts like sacrifice, slaughter, sacred, commemorate, counting sheep to sleep, and why the book is silly.
Hamza sees his older sister Aisha decorating the house for Eid-ul-Adha and wants to learn more about the holiday. He goes to find his mom who starts to explain that it is a day of feasting “to commemorate when Prophet Ibrahim (pbuh) was going to sacrifice his son according to Allah’s command.” Unfortunately for Hamza, mom then gets a phone call and Hamza runs for his life thinking that he too will be sacrificed. When Hamza’s brother Ali finds him hiding under the bed, Ali explains that only animals are sacrificed, and tells him about how Allah swt commanded Prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ismail.
Hamza then worries about the animals that are sacrificed and Ali explains that when done in an Islamic manner, they feel little pain and that the meat is to be shared. With his heart at ease, Hamza is ready to enjoy Eid-ul-Adha.
This isn’t my favorite Hamza book, which is unfortunate, because it presents some really good information in a way different than all the other children’s Hajj books I’ve read. Hamza want’s to know if there is a swimming pool at Hajj or if big machines were used to build the Kabaa. All pretty accurate questions for how a 4 year old processes what is going on, but it takes Hamza and the reader forever to get any information. He hears about Hajj from his parents, then goes to ask his sister Aisha who tells him its one of the pillars, then goes to ask grandpa, then is glad he has learned so much about hajj, then eager to learn more…it seems like all the book does up until this point is have Hamza asking to learn, wanting to learn, and glad he has learned, but nothing he is learning is being shared with the reader!
Eventually we do learn that the Kabba is a house of worship built thousands of years ago, that it is the direction that we pray, and that Prophet Ibrahim (pbuh) and his son built it. About Hajj we learn that you have to wear white two-piece outfits, that millions of people go, and that you can only go during a special time of year. Not a lot of information, but at the same time, for little ones, that can be a good thing. Sometimes learning all the names of places and rituals is cumbersome and off-putting.
The amount of text on the pages is minimal, and the pictures, as always, are endearing, Hamza even imagines himself bald! I do question when the book claims, that going to Medina to visit Masjid al Nabawi is part of Hajj.
Hamza gets excited for Hajj and I think that is conveyed to the readers. Little kids will giggle and remember that the Kabba was built by people’s hands, and that it is far away. Not bad for 3 and 4 year olds, but not enough to engage older kids, or those with some understanding of Hajj.
I honestly don’t think this 11×11, 32 page book could be any sweeter. With just a few words on each page the simple sentences convey such love and warmth from a boy to his dad, by way of his beard.
The boy articulates that his father’s beard is different from his uncle’s and his grandfather’s and that his kisses tickle because of it. He knows his sister loves his dad’s beard too because she holds it when she is scared. Grandma says it makes him look like a real man, and the way it looks in the morning, is just silly.
The author is Muslim, but there is no overt Islamic content or depiction except for the one page that any Muslim would take to reference Prophet Muhammad (saw), see picture below. Which is a great segue to talking about Rasulullah and his sunnah.
The large bold pictures and simple words make this story perfect for kids a year old and up. The book definitely deserves a place on every bearded baba’s book shelf. I challenge you to read this book and not smile, I am confident it will win you over, no matter how many times your little one asks you to read it.
My only complaint, is that given the size of the book, and how perfect it is for little kids and in story time, the soft pages flop over. It is impossible to hold the book, read it, and show the pictures in one go, you have to juggle a bit more than one would want. Additionally something to note, is that on the pages where the boy talks about his uncle and granddad, the diction is clearly more British than English. My older kids remarked, but it definitely wasn’t a problem.
Here is a link for the book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uf7tbvJ5aSw
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.
It is hard to believe I haven’t reviewed any of the seven Hamza books in the series. They are perfect for 2-6 year olds (older kids will enjoy them too), and all are both informative and silly. This book is 20 pages and is seven and half inch square in shape.
In Hamza Learns About Charity. Hamza learns what the word charity means as his mom is packing up his old toys to donate to the less fortunate. He also learns you can give money and how donating and taking care of the poor is required in Islam. Hamza’s mom tells how Prophet Muhammad (saw) lived a simple life and was very generous with whatever he had. Hamza also learns the word for charity in Arabic. When his mom leaves to take the stuff, Hamza decides to show that he understands and is ready to give everything away and live a simple life. Alhumdulillah, mom returns in time to shoo the neighbors away and convince them that the house, and car, and household items are not for sale. Thus, Hamza also learns that we aren’t required to give everything away, and when making big decisions we should get our parents’ permission first.
The illustrations are cute and colorful. They are not overly detailed, but Hamza’s facial expressions are engaging and expressive. The book works well for story time and bedtime and seems to be geared for Muslim children.