Tag Archives: lessons

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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