Tag Archives: Learning

Mikaeel and Malaika: The Quest for Love

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Mikaeel and Malaika: The Quest for Love

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The beautiful hardback book is pricey, but fun.  I didn’t have any expectations when I read it, but now that I’ve read it three times and had my children read it, and my mom a reading specialist/teacher of 45 years read it, I feel pretty confident in saying, its a well-done book.  I think it can get a bit cumbersome when reading aloud, because some lines rhyme and some don’t, but on the third read through I read it to six kids ages two to nine and all throughly enjoyed it.

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The sibling superhero duo are on a quest to find out how to have a pure heart.  They try praying aloud, praying quietly, then they go and talk to the Big Boss, their dad, who speaks in rhyming clues.  The play on words might make the book utterly confusing to children younger than five, or kids of all ages if full attention isn’t being given when read aloud.  For independent readers, they will delight in the words that sound the same yet have completely independent meanings.

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Eventually their quest also takes them to Agent M.O.M who loves them more than anyone else they can imagine, but the big reveal is that Allah (swt) loves us even more.  I don’t know that it is crystal clear that getting a pure heart involves loving the one who loves us most. But, I think by the end, the readers are just entertained that they figured out Allah loves them more than anyone else in the world and is the creator of us all.  The last page has an ayat from Surah Rehman, ” So which of the favors of your Lord would you deny?” Which again adds one more thing to the story about being grateful for all that Allah has given us, keeping it from being a completely streamlined story, but adding to the overall love and appreciation for Allah.

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The illustrations are absolutely beautiful and engaging, the amount of text and the font is perfect for ages 6-8 and the messages is fun and educational.  I hope that there are more in the series, alhumdulillah.

 

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Captain Lilly and the New Girl by Brenda Bellingham illustrated by Clarke MacDonald

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This book is part of First Novels, a collection of books in Canada that focuses on easy to read early chapter books that encourage kids to transition from leveled readers, while getting to know a single character in a realistic contemporary world.  There are a lot of Lilly books, but this one caught my attention because of the hijab wearing girl on the front, presumably the “new girl.”  At an AR 2.8 this 64 page book is great on so many levels, and really does meet the First Novel goal of presenting a simple theme and showing the main character grow.

SYNOPSIS:

Lilly is changing soccer teams, and only finds solace when many of her school friends will also be joining.  While each of the girls has different opinions and levels of enthusiasm about the team, they all are committed to one another as the “Wolves” stick together in a pack.  This loyalty is tested when a new girl is brought in to fill in for an injured wolf.  The foreigner, from America, wears a scarf, and just like with soccer, there are a lot of differing thoughts on the matter.  The reader see what Lilly feels as it is told from her perspective, which makes the issue not so much about the hijab itself, but about how a 9 or 10-year-old thinks and processes new concepts.  Ultimately, the Wolves as individuals and a team, have to decide what to do when an opposing team says that Sara has to take off her hijab if she wants to play.  

WHY I LIKE IT:

I love that the book is real, with strong independent girls.  The side characters aren’t cookie cutters of each other, they all have personalities and quirks, and I love that they don’t all agree, yet they all can make it work.  The book’s catalyst is the hijab, but it isn’t preachy and it is presented and understood through a non-muslim elementary-age character.   I don’t think Islam or Muslim is even mentioned, nor any culture, she is American, and the book takes place in Canada.  It addresses safety regarding the hijab, comfort in wearing sweats and not shorts, and being hot in a long sleeve shirt, issues that any reader can understand and ponder about.  The book isn’t gripping, but for the age group and the intent, it is spot on.  The font, spacing, size of the book, and simple illustrations, urge kids to read a “chapter book” and think about something they may not have ever thought about before.

FLAGS:

Clean, it does say words like “suck,” but it isn’t disrespectful.

TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

I wouldn’t use this as a Book Club book, because the kids can read it fairly quick, but I would probably read it aloud to kids and have them discuss, or have them somehow read it in groups and discuss.  There are a few websites that can help facilitate the discussion, but kids would definitely have opinions on how the situation was handed, how they might handle it, and what they think of the team’s sponsor.  

https://www.teachingbooks.net/tb.cgi?a=1&tid=40533

https://www.teachingbooks.net/media/pdf/Lorimer/FirstNovels_Series_ActivityGuide.pdf

http://www.formac.ca/firstnovels

 

Raihanna’s First Time Fasting by Qamaer Hassan illustrated by Yasushi Matsuoka

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Raihanna’s First Time Fasting by Qamaer Hassan illustrated by Yasushi Matsuoka

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By this time in Ramadan I’ve read a lot of very similar books that all seem to have slightly different takes on presenting the basics with various degrees of turning them into a fictionalized story.  Each have their own flavor and approach and this story in many ways is for mature little kids and works to bring a slightly deeper understanding to Ramadan and helping the less fortunate.  At 36 pages long, most of the pages are heavy on text, but not overly preachy or dense.  Dialogue and emotion fill the paragraphs, and the book works to establish Raihanna as an actual character, not just a foil to move from one Ramadan fact to another. This is also apparent, as a new Riahanna book has just come out, Raihanna’a Jennah, in making her the lead in a series.

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Raihanna is excited to be fasting this year, after establishing that the crescent must be sighted and that suhoor is the meal to start the fast, Raihanna puts on her hijab to pray.  She asks for forgiveness for being deceitful to get another cookie and asks Allah to make her and her friend able to go ice skating.  At bedtime it also mentions that she says her three kuls before going to sleep.  

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All her excitement starts to falter at school, however, when the teacher hands out chocolate chip cookies for snack and Raihanna has to explain she is fasting.  By the time she gets home from school she is not sure she even knows why she is fasting as her stomach rumbles and her mood is pretty sour.  Mom jumps in to action and takes her to a soup kitchen where the two of them, along with others, serve food to the homeless. 

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At iftaar time Raihanna understands how blessed she is to be surrounded by family and food, and makes a more heartfelt dua.  The book ends with letting the reader know that Raihanna spends the next 29 days loving Ramadan and being appreciative.

I love that it really picks one specific aspect of Ramadan and focuses on it in a tangible way, the poor and hungry.  Yes, she prays and recites Quran and all, but establishes that she probably does that every day out side of Ramadan as well.  I like that the author also shows that it is ok that Ramadan is hard.  There is a bit more insight and understanding in this book than just the typical list of facts.  I think ages kindergarten through 2nd grade, kids that are starting to fast will get the most of it, and relate the most to Raihanna.  It could work for non Muslims, with a bit of context of belief or just read a different Ramadan book first, but the target audience is Muslim kids.

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The beautiful cartoonish pictures are bright and engaging.  I have no idea why it bothered me that the characters wore the same clothes everyday, or at least the two days that the story covers, but it kind of did. I like that the dad sets the table and helps in the food prep and parenting.  The list of family members and all the dishes seems unnecessary, but with the glossary at the back it does offer a bit of culture to be conveyed.  There is also a little reader response at the end.   

The House of Wisdom by Florence Parry Heide and Judith Heide Gilliland illustrated by Mary Grandpre’

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The House of Wisdom by Florence Parry Heide and Judith Heide Gilliland illustrated by Mary Grandpre’

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This 37 page, non fiction book written on a AR 5.1 is a beautiful telling of 9th century Baghdad and the quest, collection, and love of knowledge.  It follows the true story of Ishaq, a young boy who’s father translates books and documents in the House of Wisdom, the intellectual center of everything.

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Ishaq has a lot to learn from his father and the books in this majestic place, before he can lead one of the Caliph’s expeditions to search for books.  However, while he acquires his knowledge or Aristotle, Galen, Plato, and Hippocrates, and more, he doesn’t feel the fire, so to speak, of a powerful burning to seek knowledge.

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He finally gets his chance to lead an expedition and he travels the wold for three years, learning, collecting, and experiencing things.  Walking the streets of the great teachers of long ago and readying himself to be a scholar upon his return to Baghdad.

Upon his return, Ishaq’s father presents him with a book by Aristotle and when he opens it he finds the flame consume him.  Ultimately, history will credit Ishaq with translating the entire known works of Aristotle and he and his father Hunayn, and the Caliph al-Ma’mum, with carrying the torch of civilization to the rest of the world.

The book does not mention religion or Islam, but Muslim children at least should recognize names, and words like caliph, and geography enough to know that this is indeed their history.  Non-Muslim children probably will not make the connection, and in some ways, possibly selfish ones, I find that unfortunate.

The illustrations are beautiful and rich in both texture and detail.  They compliment the text wonderfully and really bring the grandness of the story to life.

Zak and His Little Lies by J. Samia Mair illustrated by Omar Burgess

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Zak and His Little Lies by J. Samia Mair illustrated by Omar Burgess

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In the first Zak book, Zak had good intentions that just never went his way and we, as the readers, really felt bad for him.  In this new book, it takes a few pages to feel sympathy for Zak as his little lies get him in trouble, but sure enough when he finally changes his ways, it is cause for relief, celebration, and a great lesson to teach kids something that they do without much thought.

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The book claims to be for 3 to 7 year olds, but I think it works best for 3rd graders who seem to be testing honesty out.  Yes, it is great to introduce it to younger kids, and you really should, but like the first Zak book, the pages are a bit text heavy and the concept really should be understood without too much hand holding.  For me, the power of the book is the way that Zak’s little lies snowball in to a habit, and the climax really is something that you want the child to feel from within, not as just an adult once again telling them to be honest and not lie and to listen.

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Zak starts the book with one more chore to do until he can go to the skate park with his Baba to play.  But, he gets caught in a lie about his bearded dragon, Dwayne, and the stage is set for him to get through the day honestly.  The next test doesn’t involve lying to his parents, but rather some kids from school that tease him, he doesn’t tell the truth and consequences ensue.  Next up he lies to his sister, again a great addition in showing that honesty is not just important when dealing with parents or adults, but that it needs to be the standard in all our dealings.  At the end, it is his sister getting in trouble for something that he has done that forces his to come clean about his whole day and to learn that truly, “Nothing in the earth and in the heavens is hidden from Allah” (Surah Al-Imran 3:5).

The hardback book is 29 pages with the last two pages being Discussion Questions and more information about the Quran Ayats and Hadiths mentioned.  The illustrations are not too busy, but the characters facial expressions are spot on, and often where the emotional cues for the text are found.

I Promise by Zanib Mian illustrated by Maria Migo

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I Promise by Zanib Mian illustrated by Maria Migo

Don’t let this 32 page book with minimal text fool you in to thinking that big ideas, strong emotions, and tremendous self empowerment are not effectively conveyed, because despite my initial feelings toward the book, they really are.  I would say the target audience is 4 to 8 year olds, but I know plenty of adults that could use the reminder that promises should be kept, especially ones made to one’s self. 

On my first reading of the book, I didn’t love the pictures, and while I loved the way the emotions were conveyed when the little girl had to deal with the broken promises, I thought that the jump to being promised the world by another, was a bit abrupt and mature.  However, the ideas stayed with me, and the whimsical pictures grew on me, and the more I thought about how so much of our culture revolves around messages of, “happily ever after” and being “saved” that it can never be too early to articulate that we can be in control of our dreams, our happiness, and our futures.

There isn’t anything Islamic in the book, so that caught me off guard as this was the first Zanib Mian book I’ve read that didn’t have at least a main character illustrated as Muslim.  It doesn’t articulate if the boy who promised her the world is a husband or a boyfriend, or even what happened to him, as this isn’t his story.  He is just one more example of someone who broke a promise.

Overall, a nice large book with a good strong message that shows how if you want the world, you have to go get it yourself, and only make promises you can keep.

 

Muktar and the Camels by Janet Graber illustrated by Scott Mack

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Muktar and the Camels by Janet Graber illustrated by Scott Mack

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On the border of Somalia and Kenya, there isn’t a library, or a book mobile, there is a traveling camel library! While the main character is more excited about the camels, at least his friend is excited about the books in this AR 3.2 story.

Muktar is an orphan who dreams of his life before his parents were killed as a nomad tending to their camels.  Their teacher, Mr. Hassan calls him lazy as he dreams of the camels he misses, but one day, a librarian from Garissa comes on camel to bring books to the orphanage, and while Ismail and the other kids are excited for the books, Muktar is drawn to the desert beasts.  Muktar notices that one of the three camels is injured and recalling the root to help sooth the ailment, he tears his shirt, treats the wound, and covers it.  When seeing his abilities, the librarian, Mr. Mohamed asks him to come with him to tend the camels as they travel with books through the desert.

muktar insideThe story definitely makes readers appreciate the life they have, and realize how simple and harsh others’ lives can be.  I like the mention of the foods, giving insight into the culture, but I didn’t like the harshness of the adults.  The calling the boys lazy, not taking Muktar food as he tends the camels, not being concerned about the injured camel until Muktar insists he notices, all made me a bit sad.  Yes I was glad that Muktar was able to resume a nomadic life with camels, but he wasn’t given a say in it.  And sure I’m glad that his friend Ismail will get books and be able to work toward being a teacher, but somehow it wasn’t a warm book, and I can’t quite identify why.

The pictures, however, are warm and detailed in the present, with Muktar’s memories being more hazy and muted.  There isn’t any mention of religion, but being the characters are Somali and their names being what they are you can assume they are Muslim. There is a short author’s note at the end that tells about the war causing the nomads to become orphans and the library service that works to share books.

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