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.
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.
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.