Tag Archives: series

Hamza’s First Fast by Asna Chaudhry

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Hamza’s First Fast by Asna Chaudhry

hamza fast

Hamza’s First Fast starts out a bit wordy as the author tries to explain what Ramadan is and who is required to fast and why, before getting to the actual story line of the book.  The premise that Hamza’s siblings are fasting and that Hamza doesn’t know why or that it is Ramadan is a little questionable to me, but I doubt most 2-6 year olds are as cynical as I am.  Once the story gets going, however, the amount of text on the page drastically decreases to fit the younger demographic and the point of the book is charmingly exposed.

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Hamza understands that he doesn’t “have” to fast, but decides he “wants” to try. He prays with his dad, his sister helps him to understand how fortunate he is to have food, he goes outside to play, and he even tries to get lost in some video games.  But, it still isn’t time to break his fast and he is hungry! As his frustration mounts he decides to sneak a cookie, but when he gets it, he will have to decide to eat it or not.

I like that it is realistic that fasting for kids is hard, and can be really frustrating. It still encourages them to try, and the family members support him which is nice.  It also stays positive framing it that Allah will be pleased if he fasts, not that Allah will be disappointed if he eats the cookie.  Overall, there isn’t much religious rationale for why we fast and the Islamic traditions celebrated as the book stays on age level in what Hamza does.  This leaves the door open for discussion, lessons, insights, and interpretation, but does not weigh the book down with it.

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Perseverance is the theme of the story and that it feels good to do something hard.

Jannah Jewels by Umm Nura illustrated by Nayzak Al-Hilali

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Strong muslim girls  (check)

Historical fiction (check)

Elementary level chapter book (check)

Beautifully illustrated (check)

Action, adventure, fun (check, check, check)

Really what more can you want from a book, or better yet a series of books?

The premise of Jannah Jewels is four Muslim girls each with specific skills that travel back in time to various places in the world to retrieve artifacts to save the world before the “villians” do.  Along the way they share knowledge of hadith, Quran, and Muslim achievements and advancements while meeting with influential Muslims.  I mean really, what is there not to like.  This is historical Islamic Fiction for 2nd through 5th grade at its finest, yay!

So far there are nine books in the series, and based on the premise that they must find 12 artifacts to put in a golden clock, I would assume there will be 12 books.  I decided to review only the first two as I think they set the stage and give the reader a good feel for the series’ standards, the tone, and direction the consequent books will follow.  The series is to be read in order and they range in length from 69 pages to 165.  Each book has a description of the main characters, a visual of the supporting characters and is followed after the story by a sneak peek at the next book, a glossary, and some manga anime of the heroines.  Some of the books are co authored (Ustadha S. Karim & Tayyaba Syed), but based on the website http://www.jannahjewels.com Umm Nura is the main author and creator of the series.

SYNOPSIS:

Hidayah sees a woman with a bow and arrow and watches her for many days until finally she musters the courage to meet her.  This meeting is the start of Hadiyah’s training in present day with the Master Archer.  The story however, starts with a prologue of the past and how different approaches to archery have lead to a rift between those entrusted to keeping evil at bay.   The collision of those actions and today occur as Hidayah and her friends Jaide, Sarah, and Iman are chosen to retrieve artifacts scattered around the world and throughout time.  They must bring these artifacts and place them in the golden clock before Jaffar and his son Khan do, to obtain a secret locked away inside.  Each girl has incredible skills and strength as well as fears and doubts.  The stories are action pact as well as enlightening and empowering.  The girls are smart, strong, and supportive of one another and they use team work to make for a smart inspiring read.

In the first book the foundation is laid and the details of time travel and the task are put forth, it is a tiny bit cumbersome, but is quickly believable and accepted as the action picks up.  The Jannah Jewels travel to Timbuktu and meet with Mansa Musa to rescue a lost manuscript.  In the second book they journey to China aboard the ships of Chinese Muslim Admiral Zheng He to recover a medicinal plant.  The recap of the first book and the premise of what has to be done is seamless and quick.  Thus allowing the story to move further below the surface to provide more insight into who the four girls are, and understanding into what occurred in the past that made the Jannah Jewel adventures necessary.

WHY I LIKE IT:

I love historical fiction, so Islamic historical fiction is like a gift, when done right.  To give young muslims a glimpse at some of the remarkable accomplishments and contributions Muslims have made throughout time, in a manner they don’t even know they are learning it, is so needed.  Our kids should know about Mansa Musa, Al-Kindi, Fatima Al-Fihri, Sultan Muhammad II, and more, and sadly many are not tempted to pick up a non fiction book to learn about them.

The Jannah Jewels are also admirable and have the ability to inspire our girls to be better Muslimah’s through their examples of intelligence, strength, and deen. Each book reveals more about their hobbies, passions, and past, and does a good job of giving them each their own personalities. That being said, these books are engaging for both boys and girls.  My own children have read the first four multiple times as have I.  Initially I didn’t think my son would be interested as it seems like a very “girl power” type read, but the story is strong enough and the characters have depth that they work well for all kids and their parents.

In addition to the stories, visually the books are absolutely gorgeous and appealing.  The manga anime style of art is bright and colorful on the covers, and detailed and complimentary throughout the text.

 

FLAGS:

None, alhumdulillah

TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

The website is engaging for those wanting to know about the characters and writing team.  The FAQ section is good background as well.  www.jannahjewels.com

The books aren’t complicated as they are for elementary aged children, that anything more than the story is not needed.  If your readers are like mine, however, you will need some reference books or google on hand for those that would like to learn more.  I think these books would be great in a classroom setting to get students reading.  I also think they would work well in 1st grade for read a loud story time.  I don’t know that they would be ideal for book club, but definitely could be used to compliment lessons in Language Arts and Social Studies.

The Visitors by Linda Delgado (Book #1 of Islamic Rose Books)

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Islamic Rose Books The Visitors

I first read this book in 2004 and it was pretty much my first introduction to what elementary aged/young adult Islamic fiction could and should be.  It set the standard and I think subconsciously I’ve held every other Islamic fiction book up to this series as a comparison.  I’ve taught it to 4th graders and 5th graders, I’ve purchased the series and left it for the students at every school I’ve ever been a part of, I’ve even exchanged emails with the author with students’ questions and been impressed by her responses.  So, after reading so many other books in putting this blog together, I thought it is finally time to revisit a book and series that is dear to my heart, and see if my memories are accurate.

Alhumdulillah, they are.

The book is a bit bumpy at first with the chattiness of the main character Rose, but either like real children, you grow accustomed to her and find her endearing, or the author pulls back as the story progresses and the book finds a more readable and engaging rhythm.  Either way, I still felt a pull to keep reading the book, and feel confident that those that read it, and the entire series (I haven’t read the latest book, “Reunion”) are better for it, alhumdulillah.

SUMMARY:

Nine-year-old Rose is excited that her grandparents, who live next door, are going to be hosting two Saudi Arabian Police Officers who are coming to America to learn English and train with the Arizona Police Department.  In anticipation of their arrival Rose and Grandma do what they can to learn about the food, culture and religion.  Rose’s dad however, is not comfortable with Abdul and Fahd being so close to his family, and for Rose to be so curious about Islam.  Rose works on PLAN after PLAN to try and help her dad and the officers connect, but will it be enough?

WHY I LIKE IT:

The book actually addresses some harsh realities of how Muslims are perceived, yet does so in a tender way.  When Rose wants to go to the Islamic Center and her father objects, or she talks about Muslims at school and her teachers get mad, it opens the discussion for why people may have negative views of Muslims, how to deal with such negativity and how to move past stereotypes.  The book also does a really good job of introducing Islam and Saudi culture to its readers in a fairly non preachy manner.  The inner workings of Rose’s family are also surprising raw and relatable.  Her Mom is not in the picture and Rose must deal with the stresses of a single parent home, luckily her grandparents are next door, but even then, there are stresses and issues that arise.  Rose also deals with a friend moving away, teasing at school, and disappointment.

FLAGS:

None, just some of the stereotypes from Rose’s Dad that may introduce some negative views non Muslims have of Muslims, such as: Muslims as terrorists, Muslim’s being abusive and controlling to women, etc.

TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

There are a few different versions of the book, mainly just cover changes depending on the publisher, but this version:

The Visitorshas appendixes in the back that include a glossary and recipes and facts about Islam as well as Arizona.  The newer version (as pictured at the top of the post) doesn’t include everything and refers those looking for more to see a website.  That website however and all other links to online study guides and reader guides are no longer available or now have different owners.  I’m not sure what happened to Linda Delgado, and if anyone knows how to contact her, I’m hoping you will let me know.

So as of now there are no links to suggest for teaching the book unfortunately.