Tag Archives: pretend

Can Mustafa Control His Anger? By Hadeek Aziz and Katherine Bullock illustrated by Eman Salem

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Can Mustafa Control His Anger? By Hadeek Aziz and Katherine Bullock illustrated by Eman Salem

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When I finished the 27 page Islamic fiction early chapter book, I thought, “It reads like a child wrote it.”  And sure enough as I flipped to the bio page I learned that indeed it is written by a secondary school senior.  I don’t want to be overly critical as a result of learning this, but as a published book that I paid for, I really wish some would have “corrected the book” and smoothed it out.  It has a lot of potential, and a good message, it just slightly misses the mark in details, some awkward tense changes, and crossing the line of what Mustafa does and says when he lashes out.  He doesn’t apologize and physically assaults people without consequences other than kids not liking him, and considering its for independent readers seven and up, that is a bit concerning.

SYNOPSIS:

Mustafa is a nice boy, except for when he isn’t.  Unfortunately he loses his temper a lot and as a result has no friends.  Whether it is losing a game, having someone not believe him, or even someone taking a treat he wanted, Mustafa resorts to physical violence and hateful words.  No parents or adults seem to ever correct him, so other kids just steer clear of him.

When a teammate won’t pass him the ball in soccer he punches poor Humza and when he goes to throw another punch he gets pushed off and bumps his head.  He storms off into the forest feeling alone, but not remorseful when a little red creature pops up and tells him he will be weak until he can control him.  Determined to show the creature he is strong he chases after it only to be scooped up by a giant named brother Haneef.

Brother Haneef and his giant friends live in a mud house in Makkah.  Shocked at how he got to the desert, he learns from his giant friend to ignore taunting, when another giant says you cannot learn Surah Al-Falaq in an hour.  Later when the giants race and Haneef loses, he says Audhu bilallahi min ash-shaitan ar-rajm and to sit down if standing and lay down if sitting as per the Prophet (saw) advice.  A giant girl gives Mustafa a strawberry tart and when he reaches to get a chocolate cupcake and someone else takes it, both he and Haneef scream, but Haneef goes and makes wudu reminding Mustafa of another hadith.  When Mustafa asks Haneef why he shouldn’t be mean to people that make fun of him or leave him out, Haneef tells him the hadith about how the strong man is the one who controls himself when he is angry.  As the giants go off to pray at the Kabaa, Mustafa finds himself at home in his bed with his sister waking him up and asking him where he has been.

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WHY I LIKE IT:

I love the topic and that hadith are used and referenced in the book, as well as other resources. I also do like that it was written by a teen.  The pictures in the book are well done for the style and audience of the book, and the six short chapters are appropriate and inviting as well.

Oddly, the tense of the story changes at an awkward place on page 6 and I think it was intentional to go from telling about Mustafa to experiencing his “adventure” with him in the present tense, it just needs to be smoothed out.  Similarly, Mustafa is the protagonist, and we know his thoughts, but randomly at one point we know Haneef’s.  It isn’t technically wrong, but again, it is awkward as it is a short book, and everything else focuses on Mustafa asking Haneef to know things, not suddenly being in Haneef’s head.  I also felt like some resolution with shaytan, the red being, leaving or saying I’ll be back or something to continue his arc and role in the book is needed.  The details are hit or miss, vague descriptions about the giants lumps them all together, why they were at the Kabaa seems a bit random as well.

The biggest concern I have is a common one with these type of books, think Ahmed and Layla Deen books.  To make the point that he has a problem with his anger, the story goes way overboard.  Mustafa is genuinely hurting people, with kicking, punching, pushing, and throwing.  He lashes out and tells his little sister to shut up and calls her an idiot, and never once does he apologize even after his time with the giants.  Haneef makes the point that we all lose our temper, and need to simmer down, but Haneef also never apologizes for yelling or getting upset.  This is not ok, if you are teaching with the Prophetic method then that is a fairly large hole to have in the story.

There are no parents or adults which could make the point that kids won’t play with him stronger, but I feel like it really just means he gets away with a lot, and as a bully, that is not reassuring at all to the other characters in the book.  Some immediate consequences would be nice, or delayed guilt, something to make Mustafa not just seem like an awful person.  The moral is that he has learned his lesson, but I wasn’t convinced, nor where my 9, 10, and 12 year olds.

FLAGS:

Language and violence. Mustafa says, “shut up” and  “idiot,” he kicks a girl, throws a kid off a chair, throws a plate at his sister, punches a teammate,  and yells at everyone.

TOOLS FOR LEADING A DISCUSSION:

I wouldn’t recommend this book as a book club book, or even one to spend library or classroom library shelf space on.  It isn’t awful, there are just much better books out there and this one if not discussed might leave kids with the wrong impression.

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If Allah Allah Wills by Dr. Oz illustrated by Mariya Khan

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Not all books need to teach something, but when the book would lend it self so easily to dropping a fact or two, it seems like it would take it.  In 40 pages, preschoolers are taken on a highly imaginative journey to the Ka’ba, yet no information about the history of the Ka’ba, or any mention of Umrah or Hajj is shared, not even in passing.

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Faris wants to go to the Ka’ba but it is nearly his bedtime, so he has to act fast.  He asks his mom what he needs to wear, obviously knowing special clothes are required, but his mom prefaces the answer of white sheets as being “odd” and then adds that you need sandals.  For a book that wants to normalize Islam for children, I don’t understand why the mom would say that ihram is odd, why the word ihram isn’t used, why it doesn’t even specify the number of white pieces of unstitched cloths and why sandals would be included.

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Faris then finds two white sheets, but the illustration shows him getting towels out of the bathroom (possibly showing his imagination, but kids will just think it is an error, mine did), packing some food and jumping on his rocking horse to head off for the Ka’ba.

Faris finds himself among the stars without a map and starts to worry that he won’t find his way.  He then sees a flock of birds and wonders how they know where to go.  The book however, doesn’t answer how birds know, and just has him land and find someone to ask.

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Luckily Faris finds a camel to ask, and luckily he is a nice camel and he shows Faris to the Ka’ba.  Faris is surprised at how big it is and then supposes that Allah’s house has to be.  But he asks it as a question, which makes it a little off grammatically.  The camel points out that Allah swt is above and that the Ka’ba is for people to visit.  Faris asks what is supposed to be done at the Ka’ba and the camel answers, “We circle the Ka’ba, pray to Allah, and thank Him.”  This seems like a great place to sneak in some facts about who built the Ka’ba and why or mention Hajj or Umrah, it seems so misguided to just say we circle it.

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Faris makes some prayers that he can return for real one day with his parents before he finds a place to eat his snack and share his food with his camel.  It is nice that he shares with his new friend, but odd that when they part Faris asks him his name and he says he doesn’t have one.  Maybe give him a name, and detail its meaning or don’t include the exchange at all.  I seriously don’t understand the purpose of the exchange.

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Faris makes is home with a crash and his mom tidies him up and they say InshaAllah that Faris’ prayer inshaAllah will come to fruition.

The book has a great premise of imagination and tying in the Ka’ba, but truly there is no information about Islam or the Ka’ba or even Allah swt, it gives a mood of worship, but that is about it.  I get that it is for little kids and the book is supposed to be whimsical and light, but sneak in some facts, kids can handle it.

As for the illustrations, they are just ok.  They would have benefitted from being a little smoother and not looking home-done, but there is nothing terribly wrong with them aside from the towel and sheet imagery.    The glossary cover and large font inside is age appropriate, some pages are a bit text heavy, but overall sufficient.

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The Swirling Hijaab by Na’ima bint Robert illustrated by Nilesh Mistry

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Written in 2002 I’m not sure why this book isn’t in libraries or easy to find, it is wonderful.  We all got so excited when Mommy’s Khimar came out, and for good reason, it is great, but I feel like this book is very similar and somehow not appreciated.  The book is written in verse, with just one line on each page, there are 20 languages that this book appears dual language in, and the author is incredibly well known (Ramadan Moon, From Somalia With Love, Boy Vs. Girl, Going to Mecca, She Wore Red Trainers).

The large pictures show a small girl using her mom’s hijaab to play pretend with as a fort, a boat’s sails, a cloth for her tea party, a comfort when mom isn’t there, and most of all as a covering as a part of one’s faith.  The book shows the little girl as a desi bride, an African warrior queen, a beduin, and a relatable little girl having fun.

The book works well for little ones, with its simple text and large pictures, and is perfect for story time and bedtime alike.  The pictures aren’t bold and vibrant, but are colorful in their muted state and engaging as the swirling hijaab transforms into so much more than a piece of cloth.

It doesn’t mention Islam or Muslims, but just that the hijaab is worn as a sign of faith.  It depicts the girl praying, but doesn’t offer and text regarding it.