Tag Archives: Learning

Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey by Margriet Ruus Artwork by Nizar Ali Badr

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Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey by Margriet Ruus Artwork by Nizar Ali Badr

stepping stones

I usually have a running lists of books to check and see if the library has in their catalogue, and another list for when I have a few extra dollars and/or a reason/excuse to purchase books for my own.  I’ve seen this book recommend by countless critics, educators, refugee resettlement volunteers etc., and was thrilled that I could get it from the local public library.  However, it isn’t enough to have this book and mull over the artwork and prose for three weeks, it deserves a permanent place on the shelf.  Or better yet, open hands to pass the book around to within your home, to reflect on the humanity that binds us all, and the plight of so many in the world.

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The story is fairly simple, Rama and her family have a good life in Syria and the war changes that, forcing her and her family to flee on foot to Europe with what they can carry.  The emotions on the other hand, are not that simple.  The book is illustrated in stone, but the reader would have to have a heart of stone to not be moved.  Written on an AR 3.2 with 28 pages, the book is written in both English and Arabic.  The book is not sensational, but it does discuss the shortage of food, and going hungry, how they are not free, not really, how bombs fall and kill people going to the market,  and it does show that people were lost in crossing the sea.  The family has to walk, there is no going to the airport or cars to take them across borders so easily, this is contrasted to the beginning of the book where Rama was free to play and go to school, things the reader can relate too.

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Ultimately the book is full of hope.  The fictionalized account of a horrific reality still on going, pales only to the story of how the book came to be.  The Foreword is wonderful and gives the book so much more warmth and heart.  How the author saw the artisans work, sought him out, and built the story around his pieces, gives even the youngest reader a sense of reality for an unfathomable situation.  After the story is more information about the author and the illustrator, as well as a list of resources to volunteer, donate and help.  Portions of the book sales go to help resettlement organizations across North America.

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The publishers page gives info and has a youtube book trailer as well: https://steppingstonesthebook.com/

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The book would be great at story time or in a classroom setting followed by an activity with making pictures with stones previously collected.  At bedtime the book is great to read aloud and let the words sweep your listener toward empathy and compassion.  Check your library first, and if it isn’t there, I don’t think you’ll regret your purchase.

Nightly News with Safa by Helal Musleh illustrated by Hatem Aly

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Nightly News with Safa by Helal Musleh illustrated by Hatem Aly

nightly news

Having Really liked Zaid and the Gigantic Cloud, I convinced myself to spend $15 on a 20 page book by the same author.  I knew it was paperback and 8×8, but I loved the message in Zaid, and the summaries of Nightly News with Safa online all talked about how a little girl creates her own newscast with a positive spin to tell her mom about her day. A lot of positives for me: a creative girl, problem solving, imagination, and journalism.   So I ordered it, and when it came, I thumbed through it, and counted only 10 pages of story, yes that is right, 10 pages.  The rest of the pages tell about the author, the illustrator or are colorful, but blank, before and after the story.

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Price and length aside, the book is really cute and clever.  The target audience is probably first grade to third grade, and the pictures are colorful, detailed and very well done. A girl, Safa, doesn’t like when her mom watches the news as it is sad, serious, and angry, so she builds a tv, puts herself inside and tells her mom about the happy highlights of her day at school in a news format.  Very creative, but that is it, there isn’t a message or really a point, or any story about Safa and her mom.

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With guidance and oversight, however, the book is a great starting point for how kids can be problem solvers, and is a great springboard for encouraging creativity and thinking outside the box to get your way.  The publishing company even has a free “Book Study Package” on their website http://www.myeverydayclassroom.com/2016/02/book-study-freebie-nightly-news-safa/  The package is 13 pages, it is longer than the book.  Which is funny to me, but not surprising, as there is a lot to discuss after reading the book.  My 10 year old enjoyed it and tried to convince my 6 year old who didn’t get any of it, all the lessons it alludes to.  It would work great in a classroom setting where you read the book, divide the class up and have them make their own newscast to talk about their day, or as a social studies or literature activity.

There is no mention of Islam in the book, the characters are not visibly muslim, there are no Islamic words, or references.  The character’s name is Safa, which may or may not signify faith.

My Special Angels: The Two Noble Scribes by Razana Noor illustrated by Omar Burgess

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My Special Angels: The Two Noble Scribes by Razana Noor illustrated by Omar Burgess

angels

The book starts with a brief introduction to Kiraman Katibin, the two recording angels, and reminds parents that before the age of maturity only the good deeds are recorded. That being established the book then works to develop the conscientiousness of having all of our actions recorded, so that we train ourselves from a young age to be mindful of what we do and say.

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Following a precious little boy with fantastic hair, and a bit of a mischievous smile, the reader learns how we each have an angel on our right and left side.  We learn how sharing makes the angel on the right happy, as does stopping ourselves from getting mad.  We learn that its the little things and the big things, the stuff we do in public and the stuff that we think no one sees that get written down.  The angel on the left notes down all the mistakes too, and these make the angel sad.  But alhumdulillah apologies and forgiveness can rub away good deeds, guiding us on the path to jannah, inshaAllah.

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The beautiful full color pictures are beyond adorable, and the rhyming couplets work perfect for preschoolers.  The font, the playfulness of the text on each of the 24 pages, the hardbound book and the 10 x 10 size make this book absolutely perfect for books shelves and for story time.  There is a glossary at the back that defines not just the Arabic words, but also some of the english vocabulary words that might need some explaining:  glee, deeds, angels.  My only complaint is that there isn’t a whole series of books by this author and illustrator coaching and guiding our little muslims in manners and basic belief.

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Faatimah & Ahmed: We’re Little Muslims by Razeena Gutta illustrated by Abira Das

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Faatimah & Ahmed: We’re Little Muslims by Razeena Gutta illustrated by Abira Das

faatimah and ahmed

I found this book at the library and immediately loved that it talked about who we are as Muslims on a preschool level.  It is one of the few books that I have found on this age level or any age level that discusses Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and it seems like there should be more, a lot more,books that do.  That being said, while the content is valuable, the story and presentation is a little jumbled to me.

The book starts out with Faatimah introducing herself and her brother Ahmed as little Muslims, which is adorable.

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The bright playful pictures, the font, the number of words on the page all seem perfect for a four year old like Faatimah, but then you turn the page.

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Woah! That’s a lot of text, and its all very stream of thought for a 4 year old.  Which after multiple reading I still can’t decide if I like or find annoying.  This story style returns later as she goes off for four pages about camels.  Here though it details what she likes, what she loves, that her brother is six, that he likes spaghetti, that spaghetti is messy. You get the point it is a lot of information for no real reason.  I see that the book is one of a series, so I’m hoping maybe if you read them all, these numerous little facts might connect you to Faatimah, but in a stand alone book it comes across as filler and an over bearing attempt to add character to a factual based story.

Flip the page again and the text slightly reduces as the stage is set to actually start the purpose of the book.  Ahmed comes home and is about to tell her about what he learned at school, mainly the story of Rasulullah.

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Sitting on the rug, Ahmed tells Faatimah who Aaminah and Abdullah and Abdul Muttalib are.  Faatimah can’t say Abdul Muttalib, which is cute and believable, but then she turns from being the day dreamy child, back to being the narrator and asks the reader, “can you say it?”

Ahmed tells where Arabia is and that he was born on a Monday in Rabiul-Awwal in the year 570. The kids simultaneously review Islamic months and days of the week in the illustrations.  They then finish with talking about the specialness of the name Muhammad itself, and how kind, truthful, and helpful he was.  Both kids decide they want to be like Muhammad (peace be upon him), alhumdulillah.

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Once the actual “story” starts, the amount of text on the page evens out and is appropriate.  I think the awkwardness of Faatimah rambling is a bit excessive, but the concept would work in moderation.  I want to read the other books in the series, and I want to test the book out to some three and four-year olds and come back and update this post, inshaAllah.

The book is 34 pages, hardbound 8.5 by 8.5.  There is a glossary in the back and works well for teaching Muslim and non-Muslim kids about Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and getting a glimpse of what Islam is, in a non preachy positive way.