Tag Archives: lessons

Burcu: No One Wants to Play with Me! by Nursen Sirin illustrated by Nese Inan

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Burcu: No One Wants to Play with Me! by Nursen Sirin illustrated by Nese Inan

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This 32 page, 9×12 story book, for ages five and up, focuses on character education and is meant to be a relatable story with clear lessons about how to behave and deal with situations in life.  The opening page bullets all the lessons readers should learn from the story and the end of the book offers directions to make a balloon craft.  

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I don’t mind books with lessons and morals so clearly delineated, and I like that the morals come from such an adorable character with a whole cast of supporters, and a number of books to her series.  

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My problem is more the story itself, for a lesson on how to make new friends, and dealing with the universal struggle of moving and feeling like ‘no one wants to play with me.”  The book spends nearly seven pages on Burcu making a surprise breakfast for her family before hearing the news that she is moving because the landlord says they should.

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They pack and move seemingly the same day, and then the point of the book gets going.  Burcu has to say goodbye to her friends and doesn’t feel like even going out at the new house to make new ones.

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Her brother, Alper, has no problem making new friends, and finally Burcu gives it a try.  Only a little girl attempts to get to know her and Burcu dismisses her because she is so young.  She tries to be included with the other children, but they don’t know her and aren’t willing to let her play.

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Burcu finally confides in her dad, that she can’t get anyone except the little girl to play with her.  Her dad encourages her to give the little girl a chance.  Burcu does and finds out they are the same age, she just looks really young, and then all the kids are friends and happy.

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The real hero to me is the little girl, Katherine, who didn’t give up on an ageist Burcu that didn’t want to play with her.  Seems odd that Burcu wanted a friend, and then was arrogant to complain about the one she got.  Plus, I would imagine kids who have moved and don’t have friends, would turn to a book like this for tips and hints, and ways to feel less alone.  The book offers none of that.  It doesn’t tell how finally Burcu makes friends, or gets included, other than it took time.  Which is great, but not exactly helpful if you are five and crying everyday because no one will play with you.

The writing is very dry.  I think it has been translated from Turkish, many of the sentences are passive voice, and the sentences choppy.  The book doesn’t have any glaring errors, it just seems like it would work as a story time, or as part of a lesson, and  maybe once as a bedtime story, but not a book that kids will clamor to hear over and over again.

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There is nothing Islamic in the story, but most of the major online Islamic bookshops carry the Burcu series, so I would imagine the authors, and publishers are Muslim.

Overall, the book sets off to teach a great lesson, but falls a bit short.  The illustrations are adorable and the large size and playful font are very well done, the diction, not so much.  The books are reasonably priced and if you see a title that works for a lesson, or theme you are discussing, I think you can make the books work.  If you are looking for a book to read over and over to your kids, you might, however, be disappointed.

 

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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.

 

 

Ali and the Moon by M.I. Kafray illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel

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Ali and the Moon by M.I. Kafray illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel

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I originally bought this book in Ramadan and had hoped to review it so that those looking for Ramadan books could benefit. But it isn’t Ramadan specific, just moon themed, and I really was so disappointed with the binding quality for the amount I paid for it, I didn’t think it was fair to review the story until I could get over the number of blank white pages in the book, and the overall copy-shop self-printed and bound vibe that the book emits as soon as you hold it.

The premise of the book is the hadith that if you see something bad you should change it with our hands, and if you can’t, then change it with your tongue, and if you can’t do that, then pray for them in your heart. 

The 16 page book starts off a bit awkward, with the boy just staring at the moon, but by page five, the story hits its stride and is sweet.  The moon dims and is sad about the state of the world.  Ali starts talking to the moon in rhyming lines, and convinces him that there is still good in the world.  The moon and Ali decide that at night they will pray for the world and the people in it.

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The end of the book has the hadith and the surahs one should say before going to sleep: Surah al-Ikhlaas, Surah al-Falaq, then Surah an-Nas and lastly, Ayatul Kursi.

The illustrations are cute, they are expressive and the moon and boy sweet.  I just wish the paper had more weight and that the story a bit longer.  A lot could be discussed with the premise of the Muslim boy talking to the moon with a great vantage point.  More specifics and more inspiration would have made this mediocre, albeit expensive book, great.

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The Man with Bad Manners by Idries Shah illustrated by Rose Mary Santiago

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The Man with Bad Manners by Idries Shah illustrated by Rose Mary Santiago

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This story has a good moral, but the path there is a little twisted.  A village is annoyed by a man with awful manners and when he leaves for vacation, a clever boy convinces everyone to teach him a lesson and get him to change his ways when he returns.  They replant his field, paint his house, and rearrange his furniture to convince him upon his return that this is not his village or home or fields.  

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When he does come back, he is confused and sad that he doesn’t know where he comes from, at which time the village tells him what they did, and agree to put everything back if he promises to change.  

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The 32 page brightly illustrated book tells an Afghani tale in a western setting.  The chunky cartoonish illustrations show great imagination and encourage the reader to look at the effects of bad manners in a different way.  The clever boy, also goes about things in an extreme manner, which hopefully gets the reader to question if it was successful and perhaps how they would have handled the situation.  Another book that urges, thinking outside the box, with some discussion and reflection.  There is some lying, breaking and entering and other questionable actions, but I think most kids will realize it to be a silly story to teach a lesson, and all is forgiven because in the end they did live happily ever after.

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The book is not AR but easily works for Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  There is nothing in the text or illustrations that suggests the book has any religious or cultural ties.

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Tales of Nasreddin Hodja: The Parrot and the Turkey prepared by Gamze Alici illustrated by Sinem Zengincelebi

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img_2803I ordered this book a while ago online.  There is a whole series of Nasreddin Hodja, so I picked a title at random.  I read it when it arrived and the story seemed to wander more than my attention span could follow.  So naturally,  I had my children read it, and they said it seemed funny, but they didn’t understand it.  I glanced through it again and figured maybe it was one of those beloved cultural characters that just lost some of their charm in translation.  In this case, Nasreddin Hodja is a folktale type character born in the 13th century from Konya, Turkey, who is the star of short stories that teach a point in a silly way.  The opening page tells a bit about him and what you can hope to learn in the story, but it didn’t help understand why the book was so fragmented.

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In my latest move, I found the book again, read it again, and was stumped again. But luckily this time I contacted a Turkish friend instead of putting it back on the shelf and realized this book does not do Nasreddin Hodja justice, he is a hoot.  The book, not so much.

So first, a review of the book.  The book is beautiful and fun to look at.  The colorful glossy pages and clear font invite readers between ages 6-9 to read it and younger kids to have the story read to them.  The illustrations are delightful and after hearing about Nasreddin Hodja I think they convey his silly, yet wise persona.

Unfortunately the story is long.  At 32 pages with a fair amount of text on each page the author seems to try and take three tales and connect them into one coherent story.  The result is an abundance of detail that doesn’t move the story to his poignant conclusion and instead results in unresolved tangents.  For example in the first part of the story, he goes to the market to buy a few things for an alfresco breakfast with his wife.  Along the way he stops at a fountain to drink some water, he then begins shopping and after listing off dozens of vegetables and fruits, and details how he buys each item and what season they come from, he gets to his commentary of how silly a man selling a parrot for a ton of money is.  He then returns home to get his turkey to make the point to the parrot vendor that if he is asking 50 pieces of silver for a parrot that can talk, he will sell his turkey who can think for 100 pieces of silver.

This story covers about 17 pages of the book, but the same tale as told on the website http://www.readliterature.com/hodjastories.htm is only a few short sentences.

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One day The Hodja was walking around in the market place. He saw a bright-coloured bird for sale for 12 gold coins. Hodja was amazed. He approached the crowd gathered around the bird and its seller.

How can a bird be so expensive?’ he asked the people watching the bird.

This is a special bird,’ they explained, `it can talk like a human being!’

This gave Hodja an idea. He went straight to his home, grabbed his turkey and brought him to the market place. He stood near the man selling the parrot.

Turkey, for sale, ten gold coins!’ he yelled.

Hodja Effendi, how can a turkey be worth ten gold coins?’ the shoppers protested.

There is a bird there for 12 gold.’ insisted the adamant Hodja.

But Hodja Effendi, that bird can talk like a human being.’ the people tried to reason. But Hodja was unbending.

And this turkey can think like a human being.’ he countered.

Obviously I can understand what the writer was trying to do. But, unfortunately it doesn’t work.  Mina Javaherbin did something similar when retelling Rumi’s poems in children’s book form, but she had better luck.  Perhaps if the author would have kept them shorter and not embellished them to teach so many lessons about vocabulary and seasons and colors it would have actually had a begining, middle and end.  Early readers will find the pages over bearing and fluid readers will see the holes in the narrative.  Perhaps if each story were only a few pages there would have been a plot and take-away-lesson. Unfortunately as written Hodja’s message gets lost and the reader takes very little if anything away from the book.

When you research some of Nasreddin Hodja’s stories they are fun, and it becomes easy to see why children (according to my friend) dress up as him in school and he is quoted and referenced so widely and lovingly.  His stories work well in an oral tradition, obviously, and if you follow my mother’s advice (a preschool teacher for a few dozen years) and “tell” a story to little kids instead of “read” it, this book can get some use.  In story time with 3 to 5 year olds showing the pictures and talking about what is going on, on each page before winding around to the point allows them to to interact with the pictures and story and the reader to impart some of this beloved characters insight on to the audience.

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