Tag Archives: Muslim Character

Zaydo Potato: A Muslim Superhero by Randa Taftaf and Maz Galini illustrated by Lovyaa Garg

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Zaydo Potato: A Muslim Superhero by Randa Taftaf and Maz Galini illustrated by Lovyaa Garg

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This is the second review of a Zaydo Potato book on the blog, and much like the first book this one caters to toddler and early elementary aged children who will enjoy the large colorful pages, the silliness of finding a potato on each page, and who can benefit from the repetition of events to understand a concept.  In this 32 page book the concept being conveyed is taking care of each other, as established by the hadith at the beginning of the book.

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Zaydo and Raya dress up as superheroes, but find their power in saving the day involves using their capes, and masks, and belts, and gloves, to help those around them who can benefit more. They use a bandana to sling a hurt arm, a towel cape to cover a spill, and silly gloves to make a baby stop crying.   They call themselves Muslim Superheroes and after showing the reader that it is good to help one another, praise Allah, and do what is right, they ask if you want to join their force.

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I read the book to my own children and then to a group of about 25 kids under the age of 6 and it went over pretty well.  The amount of text on a page is sufficient to convey the repetitive scenarios.  Honestly, I don’t really understand why the book takes place in Ramadan.  Other than the first page saying that they are the fasters of Ramadan days, and the last page repeating it, there is nothing Ramadan specific about the story.  In fact the Grandma is drinking tea on the first page, so yes maybe she is excused, but it is a bit confusing to have the Ramadan element in there when it is not a facet of the story at all. 

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The word ‘super’ is used a lot, and if reading it aloud can get your tongue a bit tied.  I also don’t understand why Raya has a last name or second part to her name, Raya Amaraya, maybe to go with the rhyming of Zaydo Potato? Either way by adding super, before their names, and the rhyming second name, I felt like a lot of the book was just saying names. The only other critique of an other wise solid book about teaching kids how to truly be super in a practical way, is that the Grandma is in a lot of the pictures in the background sewing so that when she surprises them with real costumes, the kids can enjoy going back and see she was working on them the whole time.  Except I thought, my kids thought, and the story time kids all thought she was knitting, and the costumes don’t look knitted, so it is a bit jarring.  On closer inspection there is just one needle, not two, but it is really large, almost crochet hook size, so a sewing machine illustration would have been a much better choice.

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The activities and lessons at the end and the founding premise of the book really make the book an important one to share with your little ones.  The binding and glossy pictures of smiling children having fun will entertain and educate them at the same time.  My critiques are small, but I feel like a few test readings by the authors, and the minor quirks could have been eliminated all together.  

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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.   

Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets: A Muslim Book of Shapes by Hena Khan illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini

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Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets: A Muslim Book of Shapes by Hena Khan illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini

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Its probably a good thing I didn’t know that this book was coming out or I would have been waiting very restlessly for its release date.  I love Hena Khan’s Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns and buy it frequently through Scholastic to give as gifts, and this book will definitely follow in its footsteps.

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The pictures are beautiful and vibrant and full of diversity as familiar shapes introduce possibly unfamiliar things.  Aimed at both muslim and non muslim preschoolers, this book does a great job of telling and showing what a mihrab, a mimbar, and a mosque are, and introducing concepts of wudu and imam and jannah, that can be understood with the help of the glossary at the end.

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The book flows and really transports the reader to a peaceful and enchanting place where these shapes and concepts are powerful and wonderful.  A great message for everyone of every age.

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The book is 32 pages and really is worth every penny.  I would imagine that it will eventually make it to paperback, so if you need to wait, check your library and then stock up when you can.

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.

To Catch a Bug by Nabeel Akbar illustrated by Anam Ahmed

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To Catch a Bug by Nabeel Akbar illustrated by Anam Ahmed

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This adorable preschool age book written in verse features a little girl who is fascinated by the bugs and creatures outside.  Highlighting Allah’s creations and adding in some humor, the little girl’s mom doesn’t love bugs very much, makes the book a silly read-a-loud that doesn’t get boring.

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The 8×8 size, 16 pages, makes it perfect for bedtime as it is labeled as a “bedtime short. ” The text size and length is ideal for the age group and the pictures perfectly engage the listeners with their chunky simplicity and brightness.

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The mom wears hijab, and Islamic phrases such as Subhanallah, Alhamdulillah, Inshallah, Bismillah are used, but not defined in the text, their is a glossary at the beginning.  Thus, it would work for non-Muslims, but the intended audience, i think, are little Muslim kids.

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Mustafa and Arwa go on a Prayer Adventure by Mekram Mohammad

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Mustafa and Arwa go on a Prayer Adventure by Mekram Mohammad

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This short rhyming book introduces toddlers and little ones to the five daily prayers as it presents the brother sister duo on a typical day.  Ok, so maybe not a typical day, unless dressing up as knights and battling each other, winning medals, and climbing mountains is typical.  But, it presents the salats in time sequence that little ones can understand, more than as hours on a clock or as the various position of the sun.  Fajr is early, and it guards your day, then you go to school, but the book reminds you to remember Allah, then you take a break for duhr and if you do, inshaAllah Allah will help you pass, then you come home and have a snack and then pray Asr, etcetera.  By combining daily activities like spending time with family and reading Quran with the five prayers makes the routine seem doable and inshaAllah making it regular will truly allow us all to battle, win, and reach new heights, ameen.

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The book is a great tool to learn the names of the prayers, and their order, while strengthening a child’s Muslim identity.  There is no glossary or further detail about Salah or how it is performed, but I think assumes that that the reader would be able to provide additional information to the listener.  The book is more to get children excited to pray, and get closer to Allah (swt).

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The illustratrions are adorable and the font and text appealing  to little children.  The book is one in an adventure series by Muslim Pillars, and I look forward to reading Mustafa and Arwa’s other adventures.

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Zaydo Potato: Can Allah See Me Now? by Randa Taftaf and Maz Galini illustrated by Lovyaa Garg

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Zaydo Potato: Can Allah See Me Now? by Randa Taftaf and Maz Galini illustrated by Lovyaa Garg

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The book starts off simple enough with a little boy, Zayd playing hide-and-seek with his friend (or maybe cousin), Kareem, and his cat Pepper, when the challenge of hiding where they can’t be found, spawns a lesson in how Allah (swt) is always watching and watching over us.  As the kids hide in different places, the mom uses the names of Allah (swt) to emphasize the point.  The story presents the names of Al-Baseer, the All-seeing, Al Aleem, the All-knowing, Al-Khabeer, the All-aware, Al-Raqeeb, the Watchful, and Al-Shaheed, the Witness.

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The book is 32 pages, with the story taking up 24 of those pages. An ayat from the Quran, surah Hadid verse 4, starts the story and there is a glossary of the names of Allah at the end.  There is also some suggested activities for the book.  Hidden on each page is Pepper the cat and a potato.  There are other activities of finding shapes, counting blocks, finding different animals, etcetera,  that encourage children to go back to the book to engage in the pictures, and inshaAllah the message presented.

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There are two books thus far in the series and one E-book, the order doesn’t matter, as each is a standalone book.  The husband and wife authoring team also have a publishing company, Rummana Publishing Inc, and based on their website seem to have plans for more in the future.  This book came out about six months ago, and with its Glossy cover and large colorful pages, children will enjoy the story and activites.  The pictures are warm and engaging, and overall they are very well done.  The sentences are short, and the amont of words on the page is appropriate for the target audience.  There seems to be some arrant spacing on new text lines, but I doubt anyone would notice, and a few sentences are awkward either in their wording or lacking commas, but again, it is minor.

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A good story premise, easily conveyed to younger Muslims, makes the book an asset for Muslim children establishing a foundation and building a relationship with Allah swt.