Tag Archives: Picture book

The Gift of Ramadan by Rabiah York Lumbard illustrated by Laura K. Horton

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The Gift of Ramadan by Rabiah York Lumbard illustrated by Laura K. Horton

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A new 32 page hard back Ramadan book that shows a little girls excitement isn’t enough to get her to abstain from food and drink for the whole long day of fasting, but that there are other ways to enjoy the gift of the blessed month.  A great book that shows how Ramadan is a month of growing and learning and sacrificing and coming together too.  Perfect for ages 4 and up to be read in small groups or at bedtime.  The pictures are delightful and show diversity, and while the little girls love of sparkles might appeal more to little girls, I think the message will allow boys to enjoy and benefit from the book as well.

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Sophia is helping her family decorate for Ramadan and when they see the crescent moon, they know that fasting will start tomorrow.  Excited to be included Sophia can’t wait.  Sahoor, however, is really early and she is really tired.  She eats a little, but by fajr time she can’t even keep her eyes open and falls asleep in sajood.

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When she wakes up it is almost noon, and even though she is hungry she decides keeping busy will help the time pass.  Reading, cleaning, drawing, nothing is working.  Her little brother runs around waving a cookie, and Sophia can’t get away fast enough. 

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She caves and starts eating cookies, her grandma finds her and consoles her.  “There’s always tomorrow and the day after and the next.  You have a full month to keep trying.” The two then discuss other ways to enjoy the month.  Sophia knows her mom reads Quran, but Sophia can’t on her own.  Her father helps others and gives charity, but Sophia doesn’t have any money.  She is about to give up, but then sees her grandma’s hands covered in flour and realizes she can help her make iftar for those that are fasting.

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She helps with the salad and the pizzas for iftar, but when some of the pizzas burn, Sophia will have to show what she has learned and understood to make iftar a success and make everything sparkle.

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There are a lot of Ramadan books out there, but I like that this one doesn’t have the adults saying she can’t fast, but just the same grandma is there to encourage her to do what she can and take advantage of other parts of the month.  I also like that she doesn’t succeed.  Fasting especially on these long summer days can be hard and acknowledging that, and encouraging kids to persevere I think is a very valuable lesson.  Sophia also comes up with a way to help on her own.  Parents are tired and entertaining ways for the kids to be engaged in Ramadan is great, but can be exhausting.  This shows that kids with the right understanding of the month, inshaAllah can find ways on their own too.

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There is an Author’s Note at the end explaining Ramadan, and the book would work and appeal to Muslim and non Muslim kids alike.  Sophia reminds me a bit of Pinkalicious and Fancy Nancy and will probably appeal most to kids that also like those characters. The grandma covers her head, the mom does not, but does when praying and reading Quran.  It mentions and shows praying and breaking one’s fast with water and dates, yet stays focused on the story and does not get preachy or dry.

 

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The Jinni on the Roof: A Ramadan Story by Natasha Rafi illustrated by Abdul Malik Channa

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The Jinni on the Roof: A Ramadan Story by Natasha Rafi illustrated by Abdul Malik Channa

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This 37 page culturally Pakistani Ramadan story is super sweet and fun.  There is so much I feel like my critical self should not like about the story, but by about page 15 each time I read it, I find my self full on smiling and thoroughly enjoying little Raza’s antics and his endearing grandma’s method for dealing with him.

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Raza is too young to fast, but with a house full of relatives gathered for Ramadan, Raza awakens to the sound of his uncle snoring before the siren to signal the start of fasting and the azan calling the worshippers to pray echo through Lahore.  Before he can go back to sleep, however, he hears the cook heading up the stairs to wake up grandma and then the smell of the food hits him and he wants a paratha more than anything.

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Raza embarks on a mission that involves him sneaking up to the roof, pretending to be a jinni and scaring Amina the cook through the chimney to convince her to send up food and a blanket.  

Scared out of her wits, Amina gets the grandma, culturally wards off evil, and delivers the goods to the jinni on the roof.  But the joke is on Raza who is out-witted by his grandma and gets the punishment of washing dishes for the rest of Ramadan, and learning that fasting a whole day will take a lot of will power, if he couldn’t even wait a few hours to get his beloved parathas.

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The book informs the reader that the following year Raza is able to successfully fast, that he is rewarded with gifts and that all is well and forgiven.  There is a glossary, information about Ramadan and a recipe at the end of the story as well.

I love that the plan just happens, it isn’t premeditated or considered, so it takes the reader along for the ride as it is unfolding.  It isn’t a deep story, but there is room for discussion as to whether Raza was naughty, or just caught up in the moment.

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The book is illustrated well and with big 8.5 x 11 pages, the book is engaging for first and second grade readers and listeners, as there is a lot of text on the pages.  The book takes a bit to find its stride as the author tries to use Urdu words, show their Arabic counterparts and then describe them in English. 

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There is a lot of cultural stage setting with everyone in grandmas house, the traditions of the family, of Ramadan, etc.  I think Desi familiar kids will get the most out of the book, but theoretically Muslim kids and non Muslims too could learn and enjoy it too.  I wish jinn and jinni were explained just a bit in the text, not just in the glossary, along with why an 8 year old wouldn’t be fasting or be required to do so. 

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My own kids, aged 8, 9, and 12, struggled on the first two pages, but when I told them to keep reading they zoomed through the rest smiling and ended saying it was good while giggling and shaking their heads.  We are Pakistani American and I think they enjoyed seeing familiar words and phrases in the book and sympathizing with Raza as well, and his sneaky plan that almost nearly worked.

 

Under the Ramadan Moon by Sylvia Whitman illustrated by Sue Williams

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Under the Ramadan Moon by Sylvia Whitman illustrated by Sue Williams

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I’ve been reading this book to groups of children for years, and how I’ve managed to not post a review is beyond me, but alas, this sweet book is perfect for preschool to kindergartners and works great at story time or bedtime with its sparse words, comforting illustrations, and predictable refrain that makes the book read like a lullaby.

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The book gives glimpses of emotions felt during Ramadan and activities participated in, but in very toddler friendly way.  With between 10-15 words on each two page spread, the lyrical words paint pictures of families worshipping together, laughing together, eating together, helping the needy and working on being kind.  

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It mentions Quran, but no other Arabic specific words are mentioned, and it is through the pictures that it shows how Muslims pray.  Some of the women are in hijab, some are not.  At the end of the book is a full page with information about the blessed month of Ramadan, but the vagueness of Ramadan and Islamic requirements keeps the book open to both Muslim and non Muslim readers, and allows the feeling of Ramadan to permeate the few details given in a rich and soothing manner.

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The 8 x 10 size and 24 full color glossy pages make this book a regular during the month and a great choice to repeatedly curl up with your little ones and enjoy, alhumdulillah.

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Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller illustrated by Jen Hill

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Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller illustrated by Jen Hill

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I usually post chapter books on Fridays, but on this one week anniversary of the horrific Mosque attacks in New Zealand, my fragile heart is being kept together by the pictures and notes shared on social media about the kindness people are bestowing on one another.  Company’s setting up prayer spaces for Muslim employees, communities standing guard outside masjids, friends leaving flowers for their Muslim acquaintances, strangers donning hijabs in solidarity, individuals carrying signs of welcome and unity, truly the list goes on and on.  Muslims and non-Muslims reaching out to one another, Kiwis and the rest of the world coming together.  And yet I know so many people are at a loss at what to do, and how to respond to their feelings in an appropriate manner.  I know I often am.  Thats why books like this one are so important for children to learn how to be kind.  We often tell them to be nice or kind, but what does that mean? What does that look like? How do we know if it worked? As adults we often don’t know, so while this book isn’t written or illustrated by a Muslim, there are Muslims in it, and that is why after seeing another blogger a few weeks ago mention it, I want to share it with all of you.  The illustrations show a little girl saying hi to a desi garbed man named Omar, and two hijab clad girls in her view of the world, amongst so many other diverse faces and characters, because that’s the point right? We are one, each of us responsible to one another to be kind.  

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The book starts off with Tanisha spilling grape juice all over her new dress and a classmate being at a loss as to how to console her.  She makes what she thinks is a reassuring comment to Tanisha, but it isn’t received that way, and the little girl ponders and reevaluates what it will take to be kind to Tanisha and what kindness is in general.

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As she works to unravel what kindness is, she explores also what it can look like.  I love that it is seen in terms of action, giving ideas to stay with the reader.  It discusses that sometimes it is easy like saying hello, or not littering, and how important just using a persons name can make someone feel.

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But, it also talks about how sometimes kindness can be hard, requiring patience and a little bravery. I can only imagine how brave people had to be to enter a mosque for the first time and step out of their comfort zones to offer their support.  

The book then takes an important pause when it acknowledges that maybe all this little girl can do to help Tanisha is to sit by her.  I think Muslims around the world are in awe of the Prime Minister of New Zealand for all she is doing, but also for just showing up and hugging people and listening.  A rare gift in todays wold of soundbites.  

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The little girl then imagines her small acts of kindness joining others and making the world a better place.  My favorite part is actually the end.  Tanisha never smiles and tells the little girl thank you, there is no big praise for being kind.  In fact, I bet the little girl doesn’t even know the power her actions had on the little girl.  We the reader know because we see Tanisha hanging the picture up in her room.  But, that let down is real life.  We can’t be kind because of the reward, we must learn to be kind because it is the right thing to do.  And often when people are kind to us, the effect isn’t instantaneous, its weight manifests in the dark when we are looking for hope and reassurance and for this book to contain all of that, in 32 pages with only few words (AR 2.2) is truly amazing.

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The illustrations are gorgeous and engaging.  The hardback 9×10 format makes this book a great addition to any library and should be read regularly.  It isn’t enough to not be mean, action and intention need to be taught so that we all might be more kind, inshaAllah.

 

Purity & Prayer: A Rhyming Picture Book of Sacred Rulings by Ameena Bint Abdir Rahman illustrated by Reyhana Ismail

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This book is definitely non fiction, and I’m reviewing it because I figure some of you like me, have looked at it online and wondered how it can do everything it claims.  The book is 50 pages, fully illustrated (with faces), meant for children before the age of accountability, written in rhyme about fiqh (wudu and salah) according to the Hanafi madhab, and everything is scholar supervised and checked.  I’ve read it a few times now, and yeah, it does all it claims to, and is a great tool and resource, and book to have around for kids of all ages, plus I think they’ll really enjoy it.

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The book has a lot of information and disclaimers about how the author wrote the book and verified the information, there is a dua, preface, and Author’s Note at the beginning, and Rulings of Sacred Law by Shaykh Faraz Fareed Rabbani, an Appendix, References, Glossary of Arabic Terms, messages from the Fiqh Teachers, Author, and Illustrator at the end.

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The 8.5 x 11 hard bound horizontal glossy book is divided into sections.  The first section is Du’a and Salah, followed by Purity which covers things like fard parts of wudu, what breaks wudu, etc..  The next section is Prayer and covers the fard conditions and integrals within prayer, wajib things you say, how you recite, postures, what breaks your salah, and incorporated in to the sections are what would need to be redone to make your salah valid.

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Each subheading is a two page spread with a title and either rhyming couplets or quatrains to convey the information.  While naturally at some parts the rhyme is incredibly forced, but because I found myself learning things, I wasn’t as bothered by it as I thought I would.  The repetition sometimes got jarring, but again, because the complex facts are being brought down to a child’s level ,and yet isn’t belittling, I’m willing to overlook a lot. 

I like that it isn’t just facts, the Appendix is there for that, but also similes and metaphors that will help put the concept in perspective.  Du’as can be made at any time like making a call to Allah.  Prayer is like visiting a friend, you have to go at the time you were invited, dressed nicely, wear appropriate clothing.  

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The breakdown of when you have to repeat the whole salah, or do a special prostration is incredibly helpful.  As is knowing what laughter breaks wudu and what breaks wudu and salah.  It is so great that children will see how detailed our religion is, and how everything has an explanation.  Yes, you shouldn’t laugh while praying, but clearly it happens, so when it does this is what you do.  The approach makes the book grow with children as their knowledge and awareness increases.

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I hope to read a two page spread each night with my kids, and have them discuss.  My kids range in age from 3-12 and while my 3 year old won’t add a lot, he will be entertained by the rhyme, fascinated by the pictures, and be included in the early introduction to fiqh.  InshaAllah the older kids will learn or review something and know how to find such knowledge if they have questions in the future.

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Undoubtedly, such a book, was a huge undertaking, may Allah swt reward all those involved, I was pleasantly surprised and greatly impressed at how the book reads, presents the information, and still connects to younger children, mashaAllah.

 

We’re off to make ‘Umrah by Sana Munshey illustrated by Eman Salem

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We’re off to make ‘Umrah by Sana Munshey illustrated by Eman Salem

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Its surprising how few books about Umrah there are for children.  As a religious act that many children are included in, there really should be more, but alhumdulillah this fun one exists, and conveys the steps of Umrah in rhyming fashion for ages 4 and up.

Told from a little boy’s perspective about his family’s journey, a little history is given, before the major parts of Umrah are explored.  The book prefaces the story with a note to parents and teachers making sure they know the book is a semi-fictional narrative meant to reinforce learning, it isn’t a comprehensive guide. 

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Full page pictures with four line stanza groups detail the steps about the journey and flight to Mecca, including defining and using the arabic words for the talbiyah, putting on ihram, crossing meeqat and praying rak’atayn.  The step-by-step approach is warm and exciting, as the pictures show smiling faces and the words balance information and enthusiasm of being in Mecca for the first time.

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Details about praying, rich and poor, side by side are included, making tawaf, seeing the black stone, seeing Maqam Ibrahim, drinking Zamzam water, a bit of history about Sa’i, and the little boy feeling tired going back and forth between Safa and Marwa are all given in a well paced narrative that is neither rushed, nor overly forced (just a little to keep the rhyme scheme :)).  The steps of Umrah conclude with the family members getting hair cuts and then a quick trip to Madinah.

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There is a glossary at the end of the 32 page book, that is nice for older kids, or as a way to reinforce words used to describe the journey.  I think the strength of the book is really that it shows what to expect during Umrah.  Children about to go will benefit from the mapping of the events and getting a heads up on what awaits them.  Children that have gone will have a handy way to remember what they did.  Children learning about Hajj perhaps, will be able to see how Umrah is shorter and be able to see what the similarities and differences are in a simple manner.  Even children who have no connection yet to Umrah will benefit from the vocabulary and excitement shared in the story.  While the story is aimed at younger kids, even middle elementary age kids will enjoy reading it once or twice.

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The book claims to come with a poster and paper dolls to reinact the steps of Umrah, but I purchased my book second hand and they weren’t present.  Hence, I didn’t comment on their quality, but it sounds like a wonderful supplement to the book.

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P is for Palestine: A Palestine Alphabet Book by Golbarg Bashi illustrated by Golrokh Nafisi

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P is for Palestine: A Palestine Alphabet Book by Golbarg Bashi illustrated by Golrokh Nafisi

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I first heard about this book maybe a year ago when it was making waves for including such passages as “I is for Intifada, Intifada is Arabic for rising up for what is right, if you are a kid or a grownup!” The book was in limited supply however and hard to find.  Recently a 2nd edition came out and is widely available in major outlets. 

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The book follows the well established genre of giving each letter in the alphabet a page to depict in picture and words details about a given subject.  The form usually rhymes and appeals to little kids learning about something specific, and adults, who enjoy the topic at hand.  

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While this book is fabulous because it exists, and praiseworthy because it celebrates Palestine, Christmas and Eid and the birthplace of Jesus and Lebneh and Quds and olives and grape leaves and everything else that makes Palestine so close to one’s heart, the stanzas themselves are really forced and inconsistent in rhyme and meter.

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Granted, one doesn’t buy or even pick up a book like this for its literary merits, but the text is really a bit all over the place.  “Can we sing the ABC anywhere? With a woolly bear or in thin air? L is for Labneh is like yogurt.  I eat it for lunch, wearing my loafer! B is for Bethlehem, my birthplace with the best Baklawas, put it on a plate not in a vase! K is for Kuffiya, the best kind you can hang on a hook in Hebron souk! E is for Eid, it means Festival, like the Muslim Eid al-Fitr when we eat enticing eats, get excited over gifts, and enjoy seeing out extended families. J is for jesus, Jesus was born in my hometown (Bethlehem), not Jamestown!”

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I of course overlooked some of the awkwardness because the illustrations are lively and beautiful and the parts I thought needed explaining, I chalked up to me not being Palestine, nor having visited there.  

Many of the passages are touching and memorable and make the book so important.  M is for Miftah, Key of Return…Mama’s Mama, and my Jiddah’s Mama’s, for which I yearn! T is for Thob, a traditional dress wtih tatreez (embroidered pieces).  Takes time to make, with thousands of tiny threads, if you please!

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There is an Appendix in the back, giving a tad more information on the main idea mentioned for each letter.  There is also a Publisher’s note.  While there was some controversy that the book is anti Semitic or spreading propaganda, I think the book comes from a place of love and culture.  There is Christian and Muslim concepts and a character named David making grape leaves.  It does not mention Israel or Zionism blatantly, which I think shows that Palestine has its own culture and isn’t solely defined  by the crimes committed against them.  Interestingly, the author is from Iran.