Tag Archives: moral

The Muslims: Book 1: The Test by Ahmad Philips

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The Muslims: Book 1: The Test by Ahmad Philips

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This is the first anime comic book in an eight book series aimed at early elementary readers.  Often books have lessons, this however, simply presents as an illustrated moral.  There is a situation that contains the lesson that one should always try their best for the sake of Allah swt and that is about it.  The knowledge isn’t tested a few additional times or in different situations, it is just 22 pages to illustrate the concept of doing things for the right reason, in this case studying after a failed test.  There isn’t anything wrong with the bright colorful book, the brother sister duo read authentic as they try and recall Islamic teachings, and get each other in trouble by accident, the diverse family is supportive and understanding, it just seems that it would apply to a specific lesson in a home or classroom and then sit on a shelf unasked for and not very memorable.

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The book starts with seven year old Hani trying his best on a multiple choice test that he didn’t study for.  He battles the personified Quiz Monster to no avail and on the way home from school confesses all to his little sister, Huda.  She reassures him that Allah swt doesn’t give us more than we can handle and agrees to not tell their parents.  Hani plans to tell them himself, inshaAllah.

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When they get home though, she slips, and spills the news to their mom.  Their dad comes home soon after and everyone knows.  The parents he imagines will turn into evil monsters themselves, but rather they laugh and remind him that he should have the intention of pleasing Allah swt in all things, so that he will assuredly never fail.  That if he makes that his goal, then he will inshaAllah find success.  Hani decides that he isn’t going to be careless in his studying and keeps focused.  He has a nightmare that he studies the wrong material, but alhumdulillah it is just a dream and he is ready, inshaAllah.

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The Islamic lesson and the situational allegory isn’t super clear, and I feel some discussion will need to take place to connect all the dots and convey the lesson in a way to be succinct and memorable.  Had he maybe made dua or intention before he studied, then the message would have been put in to practice, not just something the father talked to him about.  It is admirable that Hani was honest, that he didn’t try and hide is score, which I wish would have been praised.  Additionally, a little resolution between the siblings to show all was forgiven would have been nice.  The mom wears hijab even in the home, and there is a glossary at the end as well.

The Olive Tree by Elsa Marston illustrated by Claire Ewart

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The Olive Tree by Elsa Marston illustrated by Claire Ewart

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Set in Lebanon, this 32 page book for kindergarten to second graders uses the ever important olive tree as a point of contention between two neighbors. Muna’s family moved away during the conflict because they were not like the others in the village, and while they were gone, Sameer’s family cared for the olive tree on their neighbor’s property, and collected the olives that fell on their side of the wall. But now that the neighbors have returned, Sameer is not only disappointed that they don’t have a boy his age to play with, but also clashes with Muna when she says that he shouldn’t take their olives. By the end of the book, olive branches of peace will be referenced and hope hinted at in this brightly illustrated book with a lesson.

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I like that why Muna’s family left is not abundantly clear, saying that “For many years the house next to Sameer’s had stood empty. . . that the family who lived there had gone away during the troubles because they were different from most of the people int he village.”  Lebanon is a diverse place and the illustrations seem to show both Mom’s wearing head scarves, the text does not detail if they are unlike each other because of religion, or culture, or some other reason, and I kind of like that it is left vague so that children learn in the end perhaps, it doesn’t matter.  

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When the family moves back home, Sameer watches them and recalls the ways his mom prepares the best olives in Lebanon.  The neighbors are polite, but not friendly.  They don’t ever say much and they don’t return visits.  One day when the ripe olives have fallen on the ground, Sameer heads out with his basket to collect them.   Muna, who has never looked over at Sameer, watches him and tells him that they are her olives, and that the tree has been in her family for a hundred years.

The two bicker about who has rights to the olives on Sameer’s side of the wall and in anger, Sameer dumps his basket of olives on Muna’s side and walks off.  After that, no one on Sameer’s side collects the olives on the ground.  One night there is a storm and the olive tree and part of the stone wall are destroyed.  The adults gather to survey the damage, but walk off without saying anything.  The two children are left to decide what to do next about their beloved tree, and their relationship with one another.

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I like that the resolution is subtle, but thought provoking and that the adults don’t seem to interfere too much.  I can’t imagine that they don’t have opinions about their neighbors and the olives, but the book stays on the children and the assumptions, stubbornness, and unsaid words that have created such a divide, and must ultimately be resolved as a result.

 

Zayan Unlocks the Quran by Najia Syed illustrated by Rizky Dewi

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Zayan Unlocks the Quran by Najia Syed illustrated by Rizky Dewi

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There is a lot of good information and relatable lessons in this 45 page didactic book encouraging children to get to know the Quran, and to not just recite and memorize it, but the presentation just doesn’t do it any favors.   I can’t imagine that seven and eight year olds are going to identify with the five year old protagonist learning how to add and getting in fights over crayons at school, nor that five year olds are going to have the patience for the explanations and understand the story.  The word story in and of itself is a stretch, it is a bunch of ayats from the Quran that are explained to teach young Zayan lessons that reflect his daily life and how he can succeed and inshaAllah earn jannah in the akhira.  The intention is really good, I just wish there was a bit more plot and that the book’s appearance made more sense.  Having the book look and feel like a leveled reader on the outside, but be completely tiny text filled, save a few entire page generic full-color pictures and green bannered meaning of the Quran’s translation, the book and its seven chapters are intimidating.  Space it out, make it an early chapter book in look and feel, revise the premise that a child has no idea what the Quran is, and is completely shook by learning from the kind and patient Qari Sahib that the Quran has lessons and rules to make us better.  It is a stretch to get the book going, it has some wonderful points along the way, and leaves a warm feeling when completed, but I can’t figure out the intended readers age, nor can I imagine many kids will willingly picking it up.  Like the character in the book dreading Quran class, I’m afraid getting kids to read this would similarly be met with dread, which is a shame, because the lessons are strong, the story and presentation just need a bit of polishing.

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SYNOPSIS:

Zayan does not want to leave his toys for Quran class which he attends one-on-one on the computer with his teacher, Qari Sahib.  Reading the Arabic is hard and confusing, he doesn’t understand what he is reading and he would rather be playing.  He has just built a fort and is afraid if he leaves it for class, his sister will destroy it, (over the first few pages I was convinced his sister was younger than him, and a little confused to learn that both are older).  When he begrudgingly logs on, Qari Sahib can tell he is upset and tells him that being kind to his siblings is a good deed and that many good deeds are in the Quran.  Zayan is shocked.  Qari Sahib offers to read some ayats to him and he can just listen before they resume reading Surah Fatiha.  Zayan is blown away at how pretty the Quran sounds when recited and his eyes sparkle when he learns that the Quran contains directions to get to jannah.

Chapter two explores how the ayats in the Quran about kindness can relate to Zayan’s life.  Being kind to your parents, speaking in a low voice, and not making fun of each other.  Ayats are pulled and connections made so that Zayan can inshaAllah implement his new knowledge in his life.  Zayan returns to playing after class and tests out what he has learned.

This pattern continues with chapter three discussing respect, then anger and forgiveness, cleanliness, and honesty.  The parables come when he doesn’t listen to his mother about finishing his grapes, a fight at school involving crayons, playing in the mud and lying about feeding his pet cat. At one point he remarks that much of what his teacher explains to him from the Quran are things that his mother also tells him, almost like she has read the Quran.

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WHY I LIKE IT:

The first few lines are so relatable.  The dread of the child putting the entire family on edge, it is real.  I love that Qari Sahib is kind and gentle and patient.  When the mom mentions things to him about Zayan he finds ways to talk to him about it, without lecturing or reprimanding.  I think the Qari Sahim is the real hero in the book.  I particularly like when he went in to detail about our responsibility to care for animals.  I’m glad Zayan has him to guide him because clearly his parents have failed.  Yes, I’m being judgey.  The kid doesn’t know what the Quran sounds like, doesn’t know why he is being forced to read it in Arabic, doesn’t know what it even is about? I’m not so much judging the fictitious parents, more the inconsistent writing.  If Zayan doesn’t know that his mom has read the Quran how does he know what jannah is and who shaytaan is?

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Obviously not for a book club selection, but I’ve been trying to figure out if maybe my five year old and I could discuss some of the chapters together.  I wouldn’t want to read the whole book because my child loves the Quran and doesn’t dread reciting, I have five children, I know tomorrow it can change, I’m not naive, I’m just saying for him particularly right now, it isn’t a chore and I think if I presented it as a boring thing, he will start to mimic that frame of mind (my older kids know not to ever bash certain teachers, concepts, spiciness of food etc. in front of their younger siblings for this very reason).  But, while some of the lessons are really well thought out, they are just too much for a five year old.  The pictures don’t engage and the text overbearing.  I asked my 10 year old to read it and he found it really childish and didn’t finish.  If the book works for you, alhumudillah, I’m glad, it is a benefit, I wish it worked for me too.

The Salams: Cranky Kareem Says Alhumdulillah by Kazima Wajahat illustrated by Chaymaa Sobhy

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The Salams: Cranky Kareem Says Alhumdulillah by Kazima Wajahat illustrated by Chaymaa Sobhy

 

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Part of me is tempted to channel my own Cranky Kareem and say how awful this book is, just because I know that the author reads my reviews of her books with bated breath, but alas I cannot lie even in jest as the book is truly adorable.  This 40 page book in a new series highlights and starts to fill the gap in children’s Islamic fiction that is so needed.  There are a number of books and series for toddlers teaching them to say Bismillah, Assalamualaikum, and MashaAllah and all the praise-filled Islamic expressions, but they are very basic, this book, and hopefully the rest of the series, goes a bit deeper.  It shows how to truly mean what you say, how to glorify Allah not just in your words, but in the way you think about things, handle stresses, and carry on.  The concepts and amount of text probably will most appeal to mature kindergarteners to early second graders at bedtime or in small groups.  I do wish that Cranky Kareem apologized to Happy Hamdi after he relentlessly attacked him at the masjid, but in much the way Oscar the Grouch gets away with being so negative, the characters in the book and the readers alike will have to settle for Kareem finally learning the lesson, in this case, of being grateful to Allah (swt) for everything.

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The book starts out with Happy Hamdi waking up in Salamville and praising Allah in appreciation of the fresh air, birds, flowers, and allergy medicine that works.  Across town Cranky Kareem is having the opposite kind of morning.  The sun is blinding, the birds annoying, coffee bitter, and he’s out of milk for his cereal.

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When Kareem finally finds some peace and quiet on a bench at the park he is disturbed by Happy Hamdi and all his happiness.  As Hamdi and bounces off to talk to Greedy Gamal and Healthy Hassan, Cranky Kareem gets an idea.

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When Happy Hamdi heads to the masjid, Cranky Kareem sticks out his foot to trip him.  Hamdi falls and gets a bruise on his nose, but still says Alhumdulillah. He then knocks sticky baklava on him and again he responds with Alhumdulillah, he then dumps a bucket of ice water on Hamdi, and Happy Hamdi says Alhumdulillah once more.  When he leaves the masjid, Hamdi’s car is not working and he has to walk home.

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Kareem can’t take it anymore and confronts Hamdi.  Happy Hamdi explains that he was hungry and didn’t mind the syrup, then the water washed the syrup off and now that he is walking home, his fur is drying.  Flabbergasted by Happy Hamdi, Cranky Kareem stomps off.

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Convinced that Hamdi’s happiness is an act, Kareem pauses to ponder how his plan failed.  Healthy Hassan jogs by and bumps in to him, knocking him off the train track and causing Kareem to twist his ankle, just before a train goes swooshing by.

Realizing that the bump saved his life, Cranky Kareem expresses his appreciation to Allah swt by saying Alhumdulillah.

I love the illustrations and the horizontal layout of the book.  The book is cute and I can’t wait to share the rest of the series with my kids.  Thank you to Crescent Moon Store for having this, and so many wonderful books available.

 

 

 

Be Sure to Pray, Zain! By Humera Malik illustrated by Gonmuki

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Be Sure to Pray, Zain! By Humera Malik illustrated by Gonmuki

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A very relatable 31 page early elementary chapter book about not only establishing salat, but doing it for the right reasons.  The book is not preachy or reprimanding, and even with a moral purpose, Zain manages to connect with readers and be funny and likable along the way.  Told from the view of the young narrator, realization is achieved, confessions made, understanding gained, and inshaAllah regular prayer established.  A great book to share with your own children when salat integrity is in question, and a great reminder of the power of salat that kids will enjoy reading even when it is not, alhumdulillah.

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SYNOPSIS:

Zain starts off by introducing himself as a kid who lives with his parents and is having an  awful week.  He rewinds and begins with recapping Monday.  Right away he acknowledges that Monday actually started out ok as he was having an awesome dream, but that sometimes when he is mad he only sees and remembers the bad things.  Because of his awesome dream he didn’t want wake up and pray Fajr, but his parents reminded him that when you pray you can ask anything you want from God and that praying protects us from bad decisions.  He drags himself up to pray and asks God to help him on his spelling test.  Later that day he took his test, said Bismillah, and aced it.  So he concludes that maybe Monday wasn’t so bad, and Tuesday wasn’t either.

On Tuesday, Zain sticks up for his neighbor Joey who is being picked on by some older bullies.  Later that night Joey’s parents come over to thank him and take him out for ice cream in appreciation.  Wednesday, starts out great at school, and after school he gets to bake blueberry muffins with his mom.  When the muffins are done he was suppose to pray Asr and then take the muffins to his friend Ali’s house.  His mom reminds him to take the safe way and not cross the busy street.  But, Zain forgot to pray Asr and sees no cars coming and chooses to take the short cut across the road.  When he gets to Ali’s house his backpack is open and the muffins are missing.

The rest of the week continues with highs and lows.  Many of the lows coming when he doesn’t pray.  At one point a friend comes to tell him to come to the park to play soccer, and he knows his mom is going to ask him to wait a so they can pray together, so he pretends not to hear and rushes out the door.  Another day he chooses to not miss the end of a show he is watching to pray and heads off to tutoring without praying at all.

When the book rejoins Zain in the present he is feeling bad about kicking a friend playing soccer, cheating on a math test, and not getting to taste his muffins.  He unloads everything that has happened over the week, and his parents calmly and patiently ask him if he has been praying.  When Zain realizes he has been neglectful his mom likens prayer to bricks in a wall that help keep bad things out.  His parents tell him that when we miss our prayers, we end up with holes in our wall and bad ideas can sneak in.  Resolved to stay strong, Zain wakes up the next morning to pray Fajr and have a good day, inshaAllah.

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WHY I LIKE IT:

I love that it stays with a young kids perspective and doesn’t get weighed down with hadith and ayats and lectures.  The parents let him learn from his mistakes and he comes to his own realization, not through their reprimanding or catching him in his deceitfulness.  The book is a great way to remind kids that it is their responsibility to pray and that Allah swt knows everything, so that connection has to be made between the person and their creator, it isn’t something you do only when someone is watching or telling you to do it.  I do wish that when he did resolve to pray that there would have been a bit of an outpouring to Allah.  I love that he had tears in his eyes when he told his parents everything, but I think it would have been really powerful to see Zain ask Allah to forgive him and to help him keep his wall strong.

The book reads smoothly, and the illustrations are well done and inviting.  Early chapter book readers will enjoy the font and format and knowing where the story is going with the days of the week chapters.  On one occasion I wish the word “wudu” would have been used instead of ablution, and I’m not sure what Zain has against carrots, but nothing too major will keep kids from enjoying the story and understanding it.

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TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

This book is for children learning to pray and realizing how important salat is.  So while it won’t work for a book club, I really hope teachers in Islamic Schools and Sunday Schools will read the book aloud or assign it to their students.  It is a great teaching tool, a great reminder, and a fun story too.

 

Omar & Oliver: The Super Eidilicious Recipe By Maria Dadouch illustrated by Aly ElZiny

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Omar & Oliver: The Super Eidilicious Recipe By Maria Dadouch illustrated by Aly ElZiny

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This super cute Eid book works great for ages 5 and up.  Written in both Arabic and English, not just translated in to both languages, the book features a Muslim celebrating Eid and a Christian boy working together to try and get Omar’s sister’s cookie recipe so they can be the best cookie cooks ever!  The book would work for either Eid and with the adorable illustrations, and included recipe, the book will get lots of requests all year round.

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Omar is excited that his friend and neighbor, Oliver, is sleeping over the night before Eid.  They boys are playing when Omar’s sister Judy brags that her friend has given her the best cookie recipe in the entire world.

Naturally, Omar and Oliver want to be the best too and offer to help Judy.  She refuses, and the quest to get the recipe is on, so that Omar can make them for Eid and Oliver for Christmas.

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The boys try to steal it through the kitchen window.  But Judy catches them and slams the window shut.  They then try binoculars from the stairs, but the boys can’t write fast enough and Judy grabs an umbrella to shield the recipe.  Undeterred the boys pull out a drone, but the zoom on the camera isn’t quite good enough.

The boys then see Judy rushing out of the kitchen and run in to see if she left the recipe.  They don’t find it, but they peek at the cookies and see that they are golden brown and if left in any longer might burn.

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Tempted to let them burn, a sign on the fridge saying, “Eid: a time to share and show we care,” makes the boys realize saving them is the right thing to do.  Judy says she too saw the sign and rushed out to copy the recipe for the boys.  They then all work together to make lots of Eidilicious cookies and share them with everyone on Eid.

The book starts with some tips for parents on how to present the bilingual book and ends with a cookie recipe, as well as some information about what Muslims and Christians celebrate.  I love the illustrations and that they are two page spreads, but the page with the note is the whole resolution and the note is split on the folded binding and honestly I missed it when I read the book myself and when I read it at bedtime to my kids.  When I opened the book wide to take pictures it was crystal clear, and if you were reading it to a group you might not have an issue.

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I also didn’t love the word, Mashallamazing, I obviously get what it is trying to do, and I feel like it works with Eidilicious, but that Mashallamazing is a stretch.  Additionally, if it is claiming to be an interfaith book, a word like that might need some explaining.  I got a bit hung up on it, so I had my 13, 11, and 9 year olds read it and they did as well.  I also didn’t think the pulling out of the story to ask the reader if the boys were successful in getting the recipe was necessary after each attempt.

Disclaimer: I don’t speak Arabic and cannot comment on that, sorry!

 

Stuck in the Middle by Sumayyah Hussein illustrated by Diana Silkina

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Stuck in the Middle by Sumayyah Hussein illustrated by Diana Silkina

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At 122 pages this early chapter book with frequent illustrations is a great book to share with 2nd-5th graders.  It is has a great message and lesson with lots for children to relate to with regards to life with siblings, getting frustrated, making mistakes and recovering.  The lesson is strong, but doesn’t become preachy as the protagonists voice rings true to her age.  Mistakes are made by many characters and situations are fleshed out so the reader can understand why things are done.   By showing that there isn’t one side to a story, and that knee jerk reactions are common, readers will get that ultimately we are still responsible for how we act, and learning from our transgressions is part of growing up.

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SYNOPSIS:

Salma is the middle child in a busy family, and very little is in her control.  When her frustration over her brother stealing a chocolate bar, causes her to lose her cool, and then she is forced to run errands with her family, homework doesn’t get done in time and she finds her self in detention.  Normally a very good student, teachers and other students are shocked that Salma is in trouble.  Things don’t improve when her brother steals her carrot cake the next day, and in a plot to get even, Salma ruins her brothers brand new PS4 controller.  She also turns a blind eye at school when she sees someone picking on him.

Doing her best to avoid being discovered as the culprit, or being in a position to see her brother being bullied, her guilt starts to get to her.  When an ambulance has to come to the school for a kid that got pushed and needs stitches, she realizes she has to make things right, even if that means getting in trouble.

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WHY I LIKE IT:

I love that it is so relatable, honestly switch Salma with my middle son Haroon, and the 13 year old boy that doesn’t want to go out with the family, with my 13 year old daughter that doesn’t want to go out and we are looking in a mirror, haha.  The family is Muslim and they practice and let the religion shape their view of the world and how to function within it.  The girls wear hijab and use the hadith premise that they have to fix a bad deed with a good deed to provide the solution to the mistakes made earlier in the story.

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I already made my middle child read the book, and because of the length it wouldn’t lend itself to a book club, but I can see teachers having kids read it and then discussing, just like I am doing in my family.  It is sweet and well done and a great addition to your bookshelf.

 

Go On, Zap Shaytan: Seeking Shelter with Allah by Razana Noor illustrated by Omar Burgess

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Go On, Zap Shaytan: Seeking Shelter with Allah by Razana Noor illustrated by Omar Burgess

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In rhyming couplets spread out over 32 pages with adorable illustrations, this book is a great introduction to the whispers of shaytan that encourage us to be naughty, and how to counter them without frightnening young listeners.  Meant for preschool age children and up, this is the second book by the author discussing an important religious concept in an easy to understand manner (the first book was about Kiraman Katibinthat empowers children to make great choices and find strength in doing so, even when mistakes are made.4CB95EFD-0B5A-4725-B110-4361E48CD9A4

The “Note to Parents” at the beginning provides great framework for the takeaway message of the book.  That yes, shaytan whispers to us and we will make mistakes, but the power is ours to overcome such temptations and inshaAllah do good.

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The book starts out a bit shakey for me as the rhyming is a bit off on one page, and the blame for the little boy with the great hair’s naughtiness is blamed solely on shaytan.  As a former teacher, this is always a tricky concept when trying to teach children to take responsibility for their actions, but then knowing full well that shayateen are real too.

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Once the flip side, of how to protect yourself from shaytan, starts: by saying aoudhu-billahi minashaytanir rajeem, bismillah, salam, reading Quran, calling athan, etc.. the book flows really well.

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I love how much information is conveyed about the jinn and their purpose and how they cower and put their fingers in their ears to not hear the praise of Allah swt.

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There is a glossary for the Arabic words and Islamic references, some kids might need some additional understanding about jin and responsibiltiy, but a solid book that I have read over 20 times to my 4 year old in the last week, alhumdulillah.

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Thank you again to Crescent Moon Storefor their incredibly quick fullfillment of the order.

Bibi’s Blessing by Lela Usama Goldsmith illustrated by Samantha Morazzani

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Bibi’s Blessing by Lela Usama Goldsmith illustrated by Samantha Morazzani

 

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A wonderful lesson packaged in a sweet story about a girl learning to thank God for blessings, especially ones that don’t seem like blessings at all.  The 36 page book is meant for children age 4 and up and with its large 8.5 x 11 glossy full color pages it works well at bedtime and in small groups at story time.

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On the island of Lamu, Mwana lives with Bibi, her grandma who’s livelihood depends on making Mofa bread every day.  It is Mwana’s job to sell the sorghum ground bread in the streets for people to enjoy at tea time.

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One morning a braying donkey frightens Mwana and she trips, spilling all the mofas on the ground.  When she tells her grandma what happened and how they have not made any money for the day, her grandma responds, “Thank God for this blessing.”

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Not believing Bibi, but being too excited to visit a friend, she doesn’t argue.  But then the power goes out and she can’t visit her friend and she gets grumpy. Grandma tells her to “Thank God for this blessing” and explains that sometimes not getting what you want is also a blessing.

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With nothing else to do, Mwana goes off to soak the rice pot, but instead accidently soaks the dusty mofas, to which her grandma again says it is a blessing.  She starts to feel she can do nothing right, and can’t believe there is any blessings in a pot of mushy mufas.

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But, with the power out many shops close and the owner of the donkeys has nothing to feed his animals.  He knocks on his neighbors door and Bibi and Mwana have just the thing.  He pays them for the food and alhumdulillah all is well, so many blessings from God.

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I love that the setting is a place many of us have never heard of and that there is information about Lamu at the end of the book along with a glossary.  The author is Muslim, the characters dress Islamically in the illustrations, and have Muslim names, but there is nothing Islamic specific in the text.

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Some of the sentences are worded awkwardly, for example, “We live in a small island by the Indian Ocean called Lamu.”  You typically say you live “on” an island not “in” it, and islands are in the ocean, not by them.  And some sentences read almost as run ons because of multiple conjunctions and their lack of punctuation.  I don’t love the illustrations.  The faces on many of the pages are really distracting and inconsistent, but the overall story is well done that I’m willing to over look my own critical opinions, and encourage y’all to give the book a try.