Tag Archives: Picture book

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.

 

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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.

 

My Name is Fatima. Mine Too! by Fatima D. ElMekki illustrated by George Franco

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My Name is Fatima. Mine Too! by Fatima D. ElMekki illustrated by George Franco

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This book is interfaith, and learning your own roots, and asking questions about your heritage and faith all rolled in to a cute little package for children.  But despite it’s length, 28 pages, and cute little girls on the cover, the book is for more first grade/second grade and older children, rather than toddlers. 

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The message that we are more alike than different is a great message, even for the littlest of readers, but this book goes a little deeper, and the didactic approach will bore them a bit.  Older kids for sure 2nd and up will benefit from the exchanges between Fatima and Fatima and learning both valuable religious lessons about their namesakes as well as respect and friendship for those with different beliefs.

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Fatima is from the Democratic Republic of Congo and on her first day of school in a America she tries to remember her father’s advice, that meeting new people can be a challenge, but also an opportunity.  

At lunch a little girl asks to sit with her, excited to meet someone with her same name.  Fatima asks her why she wears a scarf, and listens to her explain it is because she is Muslim and the hijab is part of her religion.  

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At recess, Muslim Fatima tells non Muslim Fatima that she is named after Prophet Muhammad (saw)’s daughter and asks her who she is named after and if asks she is Muslim, too.  The other Fatima says that she is Catholic and that she doesn’t know why her parents named her Fatima, but that she will find out and let her know.

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That night Catholic Fatima learns that her mom had gone to Fatima, a city in Portugal, a famous city for all the miracles that have happened there and the apparition of Mary, the Mother of Jesus.  Fatima’s mom had gone there to pray for a baby and promised if she got pregnant that she would name the baby Fatima.

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The next day Catholic Fatima tells Muslim Fatima and also asks her if she has heard of Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Muslim Fatima says she has heard of her, but doesn’t know much and that she will ask her parents and let her know.

Muslim Fatima learns that Mary is one of the four virtuous women in Islam and that there is a chapter in the Quran named after her.  When she tells Catholic Fatima the next day at school, the girls marvel at how much they have in common.  They are BFFs despite their differences and beautiful ones at that.

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I love that the book is framed in opposites to show similarities.  I also love that it shows women in our respective faiths with similar values, similar names, and Mary’s role in both our traditions.  So often, when we are building bridges we discuss how Yusuf is Joseph and Musa is Moses, Yahya is John and we go through the old Prophets, this was a nice change in perspective.

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The illustrations are nothing to get excited by, but they do show smiling warm characters and family members.  They serve as a distraction from the text heavy pages that do nothing to grasp the reader with their plan font and majority white backgrounds.

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This book would work for Muslim children, Catholic children, really all children.  It talks about faith, but as the characters view it, not in a one is better or more right than another.  There is a second book in the series about Fatima inviting Fatima to an Iftar party  that I look forward to checking out soon.  I hope it is a little more rich in dialogue and character building instead of just a foil to disseminate the information between the two faiths, but even if it isn’t I still think the book has value and you should check it out.

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A Whale of A Wish by Razana Noor illustrated by Rahima Begum

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A Whale of A Wish by Razana Noor illustrated by Rahima Begum

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I’ve seen this book on Amazon countless times, and not really been interested in a Prophet story written in rhyme.  It seemed like it would be overly forced and  there’s enough slightly creepy songs out there trying to be clever in their retellings, that I never added it to my cart.  But, when Noura over at Crescent Moon Store convinced me to take a look and hooked me up, I trusted her, and am glad I was so terribly wrong.

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The story of Yunus (AS) is told from the whale’s perspective.  And shows how he always wanted to do something unique and swims around helping those in need.  He even befriends his foe, a giant squid.

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When he feels compelled to swim to the surface in the middle of the storm, Allah commands him to swallow Prophet Yunus and later commands him to return him to land.

The whale listens to Prophet Yunus praying all day and night and feels blessed to be part of Allah’s big plan.  His dua is also included at the end in english and arabic and arabic transliteration.

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The 18 page book is 8×10 inches in size and the illustrations are sweet, soft, happy and well done.  Children two and up will enjoy the story, and while it is meant for Muslim children, I believe Christian and Jewish children will recognize the story and with some oversight would enjoy it too.

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The rhyme is surprisingly not as forced as I feared.  On only one occasion the rhyme is a  stretch: squid, bit, but the meter is regular and flows easily making the story great for  story time and bedtime alike. 

 

 

Imagine by Shoohada Khanom illustrated by Faiza Benauvda and Vicky Amrullah

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A bright and colorful, well illustrated book for preschoolers to stretch their imaginations with and giggle at, while never straying too far from an Islamic concept or reference.  The book mentions something  Islamic on nearly every one of the 32 pages: dhikr, Quran, Ramadan, Prophet Yunus, salah, saying salam, Eid. 

I absolutely love the premise of the book, asking whales about Prophet Yunus, having an octopus help serve iftaar, it really is a lot of fun. The illustrations are great.  The 8.5 by 8.5 book size completely filled with colors and friendly faces, are well done and engaging.  The amount of text on the page is appropriate for the age group and the binding and weight is adequate, nothing to get excited about at a $13 price point.

The book is written in four line stanzas, but I really struggled to not get tongue-tied on nearly every page.  I think the loose rhyme is fine, it just seems really forced in some places, and non-existent in others.  And even when it isn’t forced, the rhythm is a tad off.  I read it to myself and struggled, so I scooped up my 3-year-old and tried twice to read it to him before making a final attempt to make it flow, and feeling somewhat successful.  I think part of it is me, I try to read it like I’m doing a story time, and not like a bedtime story.  But here: read this page and see if you agree.

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I think it is me, and now I’m projecting all my issues on you the reader, and this cute book, I apologize, but here’s one more.  I feel like I’m becoming a broken record when I complain about the price of books and lacking editors.  I promise I have atrocious grammar myself, and make a ton of mistakes typing these reviews, texting my friends and posting on Facebook.  I can’t even blame auto-correct half the time.  So, when I spot errors, and can’t get through a stanza in a children’s book, I get grumpy.  I paid money for this, the author spent a ton of time on it, and the illustrators too, and the publishers…maybe that is the problem.  I love the idea of small publishing companies and self publishing, but why am I once again sitting here with a beautiful children’s book in my hands shaking my head at a really silly mistake.

“I’d try climb on top of another,”

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Sigh.                                                                                                                                                               

Love by Matt de la Pena illustrated by Loren Long

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Love by Matt de la Pena illustrated by Loren Long

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This 40-page-book may have a simple title, but most of us know, there is nothing simple about love, and this book shows love in many forms from a child’s perspective as they grow.  Sometimes picture books are basic and inspired to teach, or simply entertain.  Sometimes when picture books try to do more, the audience is confused when the pictures and amount of text on page don’t seem to align.  And sometimes, large pictures, with thoughtful poetry make the pages come to life and sing.  The book is written on an AR 3.7, so people thinking this book is for preschool aged children seem to be upset by the concepts hinted at and illustrated, but for older kids, this book has amazing power, and beauty that can show just how complex this universal feeling is.  

Love is your parent’s voice, love is burnt toast, love is the stars after your house burns down, love is in your grandpa’s wrinkles, love is staring back at you in the bathroom mirror.  But sometimes love also burns out and love is shielding you from things that might hurt you, and love separates people too. 

 

As humans, we can all relate to the same emotions, whether we give and receive love the same, the book shows the value and meaning it has to us all.  Hurray for illustrator Loren Long, because page after page, shows diversity of color, mobility, socio economics, age, and religion.  On a page where the love of the child is keeping her from seeing the TV that the family is crowded around a cross is present, and then a few pages later,bam, there is a girl in hijab looking up at the trees and listening to the love shared in their rustling. 

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I had no idea this illustration was present, and gasped aloud.  I said nothing to my daughter, finished the book, and handed it to her to read.  She turned the page and gasped aloud as well saying, “there’s a muhajaba, haha, we are in it too.”  Granted she is my daughter, so environment and genes account for something, but EVERY PAGE I think resonates with someone, and that gasp in my living room from me, from her, could come from anyone who turns a page in this book and bam suddenly feels represented, feels included, feels validated.  That my friends, is LOVE. 

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We are more alike than different.