What a great premise for a children’s book, a little boy, Musa, does not want to clean his room, and imagines all the better things he will get to do in Jannah (heaven) instead. Luckily for his room, his sister comes to help him tidy it up, as well as his mom and dad.
The rhyme scheme and the kids’ imaginations at how wonderful Jannah will be, go hand in hand and make the book silly and fun. The cartoonish illustrations also help sneak in messages of listening to your parents, cleaning your room, being kind to your siblings, helping each other, and ultimately doing things even if they are hard or boring to please Allah swt.
The book is a 28 page, 8×8, paperback. The price is a little steep, $12, for its structure, in my opinion and is meant for Muslim readers. The only real issue I had is when the mom threatens to flounce Musa. “Stop jumping and bouncing, or you’ll get a flouncing,” seems excessive to me, and not consistent with how loving the family is throughout the rest of the book. It was probably included to maintain the rhyme scheme, but I took it to be a threat of violence, which I’m not ok with.
The pictures show the mom in hijab, the word Jannah instead of heaven is used, the characters’ names are Islamic and Allah is mentioned throughout. Musa’s thoughts on the last page are particularly sweet (see picture below). I plan to read this to a group of kids at story time and will just omit the flouncing line, as it does well in appealing to ages 4 and up. Three year olds may not understand it, but because of the rhyming, I think they will be equally entertained.
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.
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.
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.
Jameela’s Great Idea by Surriah Igram is a good read-a-loud story for small groups. A simple story of a girl seeing her father give sadaqa, charity, on a nightly trip to the masjid, wants to also give charity. But, to do so, she must first find a way to acquire some money. Her ideas are lavish, over the top and silly, but her ever patient mom let’s her pick one idea to bring to fruition, which luckily, alhumdulillah, is the only reasonable one presented. I feel like discussion is needed with this story to provide commentary on why the ideas are not practical even though her intention is so noble. The story is very simple, linear, and age appropriate. It works well for preschool and kindergarten age groups with big colorful pictures, large font, and its oversized presentation. The message is beautiful as are the pictures. Little Jameela has a supportive involved family, they enjoy going to the mosque, they behave in the mosque, yet have fun outside in the yard, and images of covered and uncovered characters are present. Arabic and English signage decorate the landscape and the book isn’t too long at 30 pages. After reading it, I think children will enjoy going back to look at the pictures, however, I don’t see it being a high demand repeat read request. Once through is pretty sufficient in getting the message, chuckling, having a little talk about it, and then moving on. The book is a great introduction to the importance of charity in Islam, but would need to be supplemented to fully convey to even the little ones, the value of giving to others.
A beautiful hardback picture book I picked up at the Scholastic Warehouse sale, at 32 pages long and an AR level 3.2, Four Feet, Two Sandals, works well as both a story time selection to younger students and as independent reading for up to 5th grade. The story is about two refugee girls that come to know each other when relief workers throw donated clothes for the people and Lina and Feroza each end up with one sandal each of a beautiful pair. Rather than fighting or being ungrateful, the girls work out a plan so that they can both enjoy the sandals and in the process, become friends. The girls share their stories with one another, and thus the reader, about how their families have been affected by war and how they came to be at this refugee camp in Peshawar, Pakistan. The girls dream of school and their futures and show the readers a bit of their daily struggles getting water and doing chores. When Lina’s name shows up on a list to go to America, and Feroza’s does not, the friends must part and decide who gets the sandals.
While it probably bothers some that America is seen as the saving grace to sweep Lina to a better life and pander to an American audience. I think it makes sense seeing as the book was co-authored by the executive director of the Pittsburgh Refugee Center and was inspired by a refugee girl who asked “why there were no books about children like her.” Clearly refugees do get a chance at a new life when other countries open their borders and stories like this that give our children insight into the world they have left behind, with the hopes of fostering compassion, is something that I definitely want to share with my own children and students.
The author’s website and reading guide: http://www.karenlynnwilliams.com/files/sandals_guide.pdf
This is a great book that works on a variety of levels. Leena is fasting the whole day for the first time, but is also invited to a friends party. Her mom gives her the choice to fast or not as it is not yet mandatory at her age, and she decides to fast AND go to the party. The story takes you through the activities of the party and how some parts are easy and some harder for the fasting Leena. The end has a wonderful surprise for both Leena and the reader as the author gives us all reason to hope that respect among friends exists, and that in fact one can stay true to their beliefs and have support from their friends.
This book is great conversation starter for older kids who maybe have tried to fast and felt the temptations of day-to-day life in a non -Islamic environment. With an AR level of 4.2 and 34 pages the story is strong enough to hold a fourth graders attention and get them to analyze what they would do in a similar situation. Although the book is about Ramadan and some facets about how fasting is done, what it means, and why Muslims do it, are sprinkled in, the story isn’t overly religious in nature. The characters are simply Muslim, they pray, they thank Allah, they wear hijab, they make duaas and they also go to friend’s parties. I think non-Muslims would benefit from this book and see the beauty of diversity as Leena and her friends support one another. The pictures also do a wonderful job of depicting the story: the characters are warm and happy, some cover some do not, they eat chocolate pudding and Baklava and the reader sees how a Muslim family is just like any other family.
The added beauty of this book is that it also works for story time. The younger ones may or may not understand the potential stress of being the only Muslim at a party, let alone being the only one fasting, but they do understand that Leena wanted to eat and drink and she remembered that when her little sister wanted her dessert. They also understand how sometimes it is hard to do what is right, but inshaAllah the reward is sweet indeed.