Tag Archives: Grandparents

Yusuf’s Ramadan Lantern by Jasmin Zine illustrated by Brad Cornelius

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Yusuf’s Ramadan Lantern by Jasmin Zine illustrated by Brad Cornelius

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The soft illustrations on 32 pages, surrounded by ample, large, well -paced text for second graders and up give life to a sweet story about a young boy, his grandfather, and the passing on of a Ramadan heirloom.  While not a chapter book, and a little too long for little ones to enjoy as a simple picture book, the book may not beg children to pick it up and read it, but if they do, they will enjoy a sweet story that parents won’t mind reading more than once.

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Synopsis:

Yusuf’s grandparents have just returned from their trip to Egypt and Yusuf is excited to see them, and receive the electronic fanooz he asked them to bring back. But when Grandpa takes Yusuf outside to give him the gift, it isn’t the modern light up lantern he asked for, it is an old rusty, cracked metal fanooz.  Grandpa explains that the old fanooz used to be his when he was a young boy and begins his story of himself going out with his father to wake their neighbors for suhoor in Ramadan.  The subtle details of how he would be woken up, how his dad would beat the drum and the song they would sing as they would walk around, keeps the story slow and engulfing.  He then tells about returning and eating dates soaked in milk, and bread and fava beans before the white thread of light appeared.

Slowly the little boy, seeing how happy his grandfather is in his reminiscing, realizes that the fanooz he has been entrusted with is far better than the electronic one he asked for.  As he walks his grandfather out the door, he is surprised with the gift he originally wanted, the fancy new fanooz.  Not excited, his grandfather asks Yusuf what is wrong, and Yusuf, realizes that he likes the history filled one better.

The old fanooz finds a permanent place in Yusuf’s room, and he and his father fix the broken glass and polish up the metal to be regularly lit on Ramadan mornings and remind them all of grandfather as a little boy walking and waking people up before dawn.

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WHY I LIKE IT:

I love the subtlety and detail.  There are now so many books about the tradition of waking the neighbors up for suhoor, but this one focuses on the bonding of the grandfather and his father as well as the bond between the grandfather and Yusuf.  The story speaks of the tradition with the drum, yet somehow it is the lantern that ties it all together.

There is sufficient referencing about Ramadan and fasting to appeal to Muslim kids and inform non Muslims a bit.  The book is not preachy, it is cultural and religious in a narrative story sort of way.

My only main complaint is that I don’t know who the target audience is with the long pages of text, and full page pictures.  It is a hard book to place.  The illustrations are sweet and compliment the story, but in the pictures, Yusuf just seems too young.  His ability to appreciate his grandfather’s old lantern verses the electronic fanooz he asked for implies a bit older child.  In the pictures he looks like he is three or four years old, a disconnect that often distracted me from the story.  I also wish they would have used an Arabic word or title for the grandfather.

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FLAGS:

clean

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TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

It is obviously too short and not the correct format for a book club, but I am hoping to share it at story time.  It will be a bit of a challenge for little children to sit through, but I’m thinking it is worth the effort, inshaAllah, bismillah…

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My Grandfather’s Masbaha by Susan Daniel Fayad illustrated by Avery Liell-Kok

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My Grandfather’s Masbaha by Susan Daniel Fayad illustrated by Avery Liell-Kok

masbaha.jpgThis 20 page story is endearing and sweet for children aged 4 and up, with a great lesson.   At first I thought it was an Islamic fiction book, but after thinking about it, I’m not so sure.  Lots of faiths use prayer beads, although maybe only Muslims have 33, and the setting, Lebanon, is a pretty diverse place.  Regardless, the character’s names, and the lessons taught are universal and children will benefit from being reminded about how blessed they truly are, in a gentle loving way.

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When little Adam’s friends go home and he has nothing to do, he enters his grandparents house stomping and complaining.  In response, Adam’s Jidoo, grandfather, starts to laugh.  This only makes Adam more angry.

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Jidoo Yousef then shows Adam his misbaha and explains that some people use it like an abacus to count, to mark prayers, some use it as decor, and that he uses it to remember God’s blessings.

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He and Adam, then go around and count all the blessings of toys, and people, and friends, and family, and food, and before Adam knows it, he is feeling blessed and thankful.

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The basic illustrations show the bond between Jidoo and Adam, but are nothing overly fabulous on the large 8.5 x 11 pages.  There is a lot of text on some of the pages, but it flows well and goes quickly.

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The book teaches a great lesson and if you get a chance to read it to your children, you definitely should.

Our Granddad by Maryam Ahmed illustrated by Kulthum Burgess

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Our Granddad by Maryam Ahmed illustrated by Kulthum Burgess

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This 29 page (four chapter) middle elementary book about understanding sickness, old age, and a bit of death, makes some good points about sabr and dua and Allah testing us with illness.  The story, however, is really dry and never becomes more than just a vehicle for conveying the author’s message of how Islam views elders and the challenges often brought upon as they age.

SYNOPSIS:

Hafsah, age 8, and her 11 year old brother Hasan are meeting after school so that they can join their parent’s in the long drive to Devon to check on their sick grandfather.  The drive is apparently really long, but being that we don’t know where the kids live or how long the drive is, we just know it is a long, painful, miserable drive.  The family is silent with worry about the grandfather on the trip, but no indicators as to what his diagnosis or symptoms are is given, just that he is ill and as the night and drive progress, the children worry he is dying.  Hasan, in the darkness of the car, sheds some tears about losing his fun granddad, but no details about the adventures they go on, or why he is fun are shared.  Their mom encourages them to continue to make dua and tells them that maybe the illness is a blessing, but the children don’t understand what she means by that.

When they arrive, the children are told it is too late bother their granddad and to wait til morning to see him.  The next day the doctor tells them he had an asthma attack and is on new medicines that are helping.  Seems like there should be more to the illness, as asthma once the attack is over can be controlled, and no other mention of heart problems or pneumonia or other diseases are indicated.  Hafsah and Hasan finally get to see him and are surprised he is awake and talking and they learn that sometimes Allah tests us by giving us hardships and that their duas and prayers were helping.  He shares the hadith, “No Muslim is afflicted with an ordeal, be it an illness or something else, without Allah thereby causing his sins to drop away just as a tree sheds its leaves.” Unfortunately, the hadith is not footnoted or attributed, but the characters and readers understand the lesson and find peace in knowing that every hardship is an opportunity not a punishment.

WHY I LIKE IT:

I love the concept of the book, just not the execution of the principles it instructionally conveys.  Kids need books that explain some of the big concepts that they can’t necessarily understand or even ask about, such is why do we get sick, what is going to happen to our grandparents etc.  The book really just needed more showing and less telling.  It details how the kids chase each other home from school, but doesn’t tell of the adventures that granddad and Hasan go on, it just tells us that they miss having these adventures.  There is no character development, and there is definitely space for the reader to feel for the grandpa and the concern of the kids, but it is glossed over in words not in anecdotal sharing.

The book is British, and some of the words and phrases might be confusing to American kids, such as the description of the grandfather being poorly used repetitively.

The book is presented well with clear font and spacing on glossy pages bound in a hard illustrated cover.  There are small detailed life-like pictures throughout the story that show the kids and family.  The females are in hijab and the family is clearly Muslim.

 

FLAGS:

None

TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

This is probably a decent book to have in an Islamic School library, it would function as a reference book more than a novel or book kids would naturally pick up.  If doing a theme on aging or sickness, or tests from Allah, this book would fit in nicely in adding to a discussion, but outside of that, I can’t see that kids will even remember the book or what it is about.

 

 

What Am I? Book 2 ‘The What Race are we Series’ by Asiila Imani and Papatia Feauxzar illustrated by Juliana Paz

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What Am I? Book 2 ‘The What Race are we Series’ by Asiila Imani and Papatia Feauxzar illustrated by Juliana Paz

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This incredibly important 37 page picture book highlighting a little boys heritage will speak to children who see themselves in his quest to answer what he is, as well as (hopefully) inspire them to search out their own family ancestry and unique make up.

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The book is not a traditional story book, in fact there isn’t much of a storyline, but the concepts presented show how beautiful and amazing multi-cultural and multi-ethnic families can be.  A lot of cultural information is conveyed and celebrated about Samoan and Pacific Island traditions as well as Islamic ones.

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There is an aqiqa at the time of his birth as well as a Samoan party with a Hawaiian band.  Some members of his family cover, while other’s don’t.  He remarks how he has extra grandparents which equal extra blessings, and how he has a half brother because they have different dads.

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In addition to geography, there is also a STEM component as six-year-old Toa Idris learns he is a quarter this and half that through understanding fractions as visualized by slices of a pizza.  At one point Idris remarks that, “I can’t keep all those people and places straight,” and after reading the book half a dozen times, I honestly couldn’t either.  But, I think that is ok.  The point of the book is that being diverse is amazing, and having people love you is important, and culture and tradition and faith all make you richer.

IMG_4829 The text on each page is presented in a fun font, as are the pictures.  Really there is just one picture that makes Idris look angry and it is used in the story and the title page, which is unfortunate, I think it is supposed to have him look pensive, but it seems a bit off to me, where all the other pictures ooze with warmth and richness.

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I honestly don’t know what age group would benefit the most from the book.  Younger kids that may have been asked what their culture is will be empowered by having it reinforced that they are made just how Allah swt planned them to be, older readers will be able to create their own pizza slices, so to speak, and understand their own pieces, but I feel like both groups might need some coaching from an adult.  There are family trees at the beginning that almost become reference pages while reading the story and trying to keep everyone straight, that make the book almost interactive.  Muslim and non Muslim reader alike would learn about new cultures, and benefit from the “Extras” at the end.  Honestly, overall there is just a lot of information tossed around in the book, which isn’t a bad thing, it just might make it a bit more hit or miss if it will work for your child.

Meet Yasmin! by Saadia Faruqi illustrated by Hatem Aly

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Meet Yasmin! by Saadia Faruqi illustrated by Hatem Aly

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Yes! Yes! Yes! A strong and relatable 2nd grade, Pakistani-American Muslim girl, with stories written on a AR 2.4 -2.5 level, learns lessons and grows in everyday scenarios.  Seriously, this book is overdue and so well done, I can’t wait for the author, illustrator, and publisher, to team up to do more.  The book I have, Meet Yasmin! contains all four stories: Yasmin the Explorer, Yasmin the Painter, Yasmin the Builder, and Yasmin the Fashionista. You can buy each of the books separately in a larger format, and possibly a longer story.  The version I have is 5.5 x 7 and 96 pages long which includes a Think About It, Talk About It section at the back as well as a glossary of Urdu words, some facts about Pakistan and a recipe for Mango and instructions to make a bookmark craft .  The individual stories are 6 x 9 and 32 pages, and whether you buy the collection or the individual stories, they are under $6. Fabulous all the way around.

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SYNOPSIS:

Yasmin the Explorer:  The book starts out with Yasmin’s dad telling her about explorers and maps.  Inspired, Yasmin decides to make her own map of the neighborhood, which gets really exciting when her mom asks her if she wants to join her on a shopping trip to the farmer’s market.  While they stop at different stalls and Yasmin adds to her map, the temptation of a playground draws Yasmin away from her mom, but luckily her map can guide her back.

Yasmin the Painter:  Yasmin’s school is having an art competition and Yasmin is nervous because she doesn’t consider herself a very good artist.  Her parents show her videos and gift her supplies.  Unhappy with how her attempts are turning out, she decides to find her own style and with the support of her parents she enters her painting and waits nervously to see who wins and what the mystery prize is.

Yasmin the Builder:  I think this story is my favorite because she really had to rely on herself when the class is building a city and Yasmin can’t figure out what to build.  She perseveres and works hard, and ends up connecting the dots and making the city come to life by finding a way to make her favorite part of the city, going for walks, a part of the class project.

Yasmin the Fashionista:  Mama and Baba have gone out for the evening, so Yasmin is hanging out with her grandparents.  When Nani and Yasmin play dress-up and Mama’s shirt gets ripped, Yasmin and Nani have to solve the problem!  Not only that, they get inspired to transform Yasmin’s pajamas, and when Mama and Baba come home they are treated to a fashion show!

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WHY I LIKE IT: 

There is a lot to love about these stories.  Yasmin is not great at everything, and things don’t necessarily come easy for her.  But she is bright and surrounded by people that love her, and she is allowed and encouraged to shine in her own way.  I like that her painting wasn’t great, and that she stayed in from recess to figure out what to build.  I love that her dad is involved in her projects and ideas as much as her mom, if not more.  I love all the little nuances that accurately show a Pakistani-American family and a Muslim one; not an exaggerated version, or a dumbed down one either.  Yasmin has to wait for her mom to put on her hijab, it doesn’t explain that she isn’t wearing a hijab in the home, but it is shown.  It shows the characters in ethnic clothes and in western clothes.  It shows Yasmin’s classmate building a church, and one building a castle.  Yasmin is spunky, she makes mistakes, she works hard, and she is a breath of fresh air, that I think kids of any and all backgrounds will relate to her and enjoy the stories.

The pictures are bright and colorful and detailed. They are age appropriate and make the chapters within the stories really come to life and keep new readers engaged.  The font and binding and layout is well done.

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FLAGS:

None.  

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TIPS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

I honestly think little kids could read this and discuss it and might actually enjoy having a discussion about Yasmin: what they like about her, what things they have in common, what she does that makes them laugh.  It might come across as a girl book, but really, it isn’t she is relatable for everyone. 

There is nothing Islamic mentioned, just depicted in her mother’s and grandmothers hijabs.

 

 

Grandpa and Grandma Come to Stay by Asma Zaman illustrated by Azra Momin

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Grandpa and Grandma Come to Stay by Asma Zaman illustrated by Azra Momin

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This slim, paperback book, is actually really sweet and colorful.  It doesn’t look like much at just 14 pages, but the minimal text conveys a good message of helping elders in the home, and can easily be extended to helping those in the community.  I think this is a great book for 3 to 5 year old.  Little ones will get ideas on what they can do, and new readers will feel accomplished when they turn the last page.

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Little brothers, Muhammed and Musa, are waiting for their grandparents to arrive and are confused when their daddy reminds them to be helpful, since they are little and their grandparents are adults.  The parents explain how getting old is hard to the boys and give them ideas of how they can help.   Once they arrive, the boys spring in to action by helping them unpack, getting Grandma her walking stick, and even helping grandpa find his missing teeth.  They especially love when they help put out the prayer rugs for salat.

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The pictures are simple yet well done.  The women wear hijab, not just the mom and grandma, but the doctor too.  Gender roles are depicted well too, the dad takes his parents grocery shopping, is shown helping in the kitchen, and serves the tea.

I really think if you have elder family, it is a great book to introduce what changes and what responsibilities the little ones can help with.  With my own children it was a good reminder and conversation starter that they need to keep toys off the floor so no one trips, they need to listen the first time to whatever they are asked by the elders to do, and that they need to sometimes even help them walk, or slow their gate.  If you don’t have grandparents in the home, it can extend to people at the mosque, with kids helping get chairs, or even at the grocery store in being mindful of holding doors open and helping return carts.

 

The Turtle of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye

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The Turtle of Oman

This slow, aimless, subtle, quiet prose-like book, is unexpectedly charming and endearing, and so not like most every young adult book out there.   I truly want to make all 4th through 8th graders read it, absorb it and ruminate in the love shared between a nine-year-old boy, his grandfather, and their home.  The easy 299 pages flow by on a 4.6 reading level and make you long for a kind grandfather to help you see the amazing in the ordinary, and provide you with gentle strength when facing life changing events .  The Turtle of Oman has no climax and no conclusion, yet it offers hope and warmth in a reassuring manner that makes you feel better for having read it.

SUMMARY:

Aref is moving from Oman to Ann Arbor Michigan for three years while his parents pursue their education.  To say he is dreading the move is an understatement.  Lucky for him, and the reader, Aref’s grandfather Sidi, helps him create some memories to take with him to America.  While they spend time together, travel around the country, and talk, the reader is drawn into a world where Aref and Sidi, finish each other’s sentences, and blur the lines of fact and make believe with their stories.  Their love and ease with one another is so seamless that not only are they best friends, and relatives, but they are so intertwined the thought of their separation is heartbreaking.

“Aref kept thinking that no matter what you say, there is something more inside that you can’t say.  You talk around it in a circle, like stirring water with a stick, when ripples swirl out from the center.  You say something that isn’t quite right and that’s worse.  Then you want to say, sorry!  But no one knows what you mean.

He wished he could tell Sidi, you are the king of my heart forever, I don’t care who else I meet, I don’t care about traveling and new friends and different flavored yogurts, I only care about how nice you are and how much I cannot stand the thought of being far from you, ever, ever, ever.

But he could never say this.”

Sidi has passed his love of rocks on to Aref and each adventure involves Sidi slipping a rock to Aref as a token for him to remember their adventures and each other.  From exploring the beach, camping in the deserts, sleeping on the roof, and going out on a fishing boat, the duo relishes in the details of everyday life that make life worth living.  Along the way Aref keeps lists of interesting facts and the reader learns about animals, Oman, Michigan and so much more.  But no matter how much prodding and reassurance Sidi and Aref’s mom try and impart on him ,the book pivots around the inevitable need for Aref to pack his suitcase.  As much as packing a suitcase can be a climax or a conclusion, that is what the author gives, and the reader must be content to understand that like Aref’s beloved turtles, he will have to find his way to the ocean only to return once more to Oman.

WHY I LIKE IT:

I love that it meanders and cannot be rushed.  I love the cultural warmth and the emotional depth.  While the setting is Islamic, there is no religion mentioned other than the call to prayer heard in the market place.  Quiet books usually border on boring for young adult readers, but I feel like this one doesn’t.  I am leaning toward doing it for the Junior Book Club to see if it has the emotional appeal that I think it will.  The main character is scared and unsure about the big move, feelings many children have felt.  But his way of handling it, while childish and whiny in his stubbornness to pack, also offers nuanced hope.  Aref is allowed to work through his thoughts and feelings, and while some characters rush him, his time with Sidi doesn’t feel rushed and forced.  His time with Sidi is reassuring and patient, a fictional soft place for the scary unknown.

“Talking with Sidi felt like a sky of floating words,” Aref explains. “You could say anything.”

FLAGS:

None, the book is completely clean.

TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

Interview with the author:  http://www.hbook.com/2014/12/talks-with-roger/naomi-shihab-nye-talks-with-roger/#_

https://www.readingtokids.org/Books/BookView.php?pag=5&bookID=00001192