Tag Archives: Siblings

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

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

mustafa.jpg

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.

41582EA9-516C-41FA-A337-C668F29C9F3A

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.

3F32BB71-B114-48E9-978F-8B6031A2F88F

 

The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad & S.K. Ali illustrated by Hatem Aly

Standard
The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad & S.K. Ali illustrated by Hatem Aly

blueLOVE! Yes, usually when I’m so anxious for a book it disappoints, but not this one, it warmed my heart and soul and made me smile.  In 40 pages surrounded with absolutely adorable illustrations, the reader feels the love between siblings, the strength of self confidence, the power of being true to yourself, the beauty of hijab, and the awesomeness of light-up sneakers and five cartwheel recesses.

C7E95032-E080-4057-BC93-6B25CBCAAA29

It is the first day of school for sisters Asiya and Faizah, and Faizah’s first day of wearing hijab.  The book starts out with the girls and their mom picking out a new scarf at the store.

677BD5F0-0C6E-472A-B086-05F93D4F17CC

The first day of school has the girls walking to school hand in hand, Asiya in her beautiful blue scarf, and Faizah in her new shoes admiring her sister as if she were a princess.

DB80D90A-289E-4F35-A763-24526723E650

In line a classmate whisper asks Faizah about her sister, and Faizah has to find her voice to speak up about her hijab.  She then likens the blue hijab to the sky, special and regular before recalling that their mom had told them “The first day of wearing hijab is important. . . It means being strong.”

DFA253F0-16BC-464A-B630-BB93AFBFCF94

Throughout the day at school Faizah checks on her sister, sees other kids make fun of her, liken the blue to something beautiful, and then recall something their mom has told them to give her solace and strength.

06E90E71-3375-4E26-9F0A-F31DCA8058C4

As Faizah puts into practice the lessons from her mom about being strong, knowing who you are, and not carrying around hurtful words, she, like her sister finds strength.  A strength which radiates to those around them, and further connects the two girls.

C62B2893-3E2B-4628-BAAE-C195FBD3AB7A

Faizah has an amazingly sweet and authentic voice as she counts her light up steps and looks up to her older sister.  I love that the story stays on track and has its own rhythm of a school incident, a strong declaration about blue, a lesson remembered from Mama and a resolution.  With lots of mini climaxes the reader sees the strong perseverance and how being authentic will be challenged repeatedly.  The subtly of the hijab being whispered about and then proclaimed loudly is really tender and emotion filled.  Little reminders why OWN Voice stories are so important.

The illustrations are absolutely amazing on their two page spreads: the colors, tone, expressions, are perfect and a huge part of the narrative.  I love that when a boy points at Asiya, not just Faizah, but Asiya’s friends too are unhappy with the boy.  I also like that the boys being mean are not depicted clearly, but rather are shown in the shadows, furthering the point that mean words and those that spout them are not worthy of your time.

There are Authors’ Notes at the end and a picture of Ibtihaj  and her two sisters Asiya and Faizah. I think the book should be on every shelf, truly.  To be yourself and be proud of who you are is universal, as is kindness. The book does not discuss religion or mention Islamic reasons for her covering, and girls and boys alike will benefit from multiple readings of the book.

 

The Sign of the Scorpion by Farah Zaman

Standard
The Sign of the Scorpion by Farah Zaman

scorpion

This is the second book in the Moon of Masarrah series, but can be read as a stand alone book if you are looking for a linear story with fast paced action, intense twists, decently developed characters and quality writing that brings the sleuthing of Muslim characters to life.  At 229 pages including the glossary, the book reads to me as a middle grades book, but the last 50 pages place a lot of emphasis on accusations of a character molesting servants in the castle and another character having an affair, which might be more appropriate for older readers.  Perhaps middle school readers would be a better target audience, but I’m waiting to hear back from the author regarding who she had in mind when she wrote it.  The author said she wrote it for Young Adult, ages 12 and up in mind.

SYNOPSIS:

Brother and sister, Adam and Layla are reunited with their friends, siblings, Zaid and Zahra after last summers intense adventure involving a diamond.  This summer as a result, they are the honored guests of Shaykh Sulaiman at his dessert home, Dukhan Castle. They arrive to find out that the Shaykh is bedridden from a stroke after learning his son has died.  With a house full of relatives with reasons to want their claim to the Shaykh’s fortune, the four teenagers start putting odd occurrences of a ghoul in white, a hooded horseman, a gypsy woman’s tale, and the idea that there has been foul play, together to try and arrive at the truth of what is going on.  As they piece more and more together about the tutor, the cousin, the fiance, the grandson, and a mysterious mole-man following them, they themselves get tangled in the sinister plot of revenge and must keep an eye out to figure out who the scorpion, Al-Aqrab, is before one of them ends up dead.

WHY I LIKE IT:

Set in a fictious land, the detail is the perfect balance between setting a stage and over describing it.  The book did not drag for me at any place, nor did I find myself confused about what was going on and why.  Granted I probably could not tell Adam apart from Zaid and Layla from Zahra, but the book is about their adventure and figuring out whats going on, not about their relationships or back story.  And with the focus on all the possible perpetrators and their motives taking center stage, having four people gathering clues makes the information come easier and smoother.

All the characters are Muslim.  Some of the women cover and some do not, some stop to pray and make regular references to Islamic hadith or Quranic Ayats, and some are suspects.  For example when they are exploring the dungeons beneath the castle, they liken the caves to the Sleepers in the Cave mentioned in Surah Kahf.  The book never gets anywhere near preachy, nor do the few references ever get annoying, they just flesh out that the characters are Muslim, and thus they see the world through that lens.

FLAGS:

The book has murder, lying, deception, all the ingredients for a good who done it.  And while the details are all clean regarding how the four teens interact with the opposite genders, the climax of the book is the coming to light of allegations of molestation and a failed marriage is attributed to a presumed affair.  No definition of the words is given, and I reread many of the passages and I don’t know that there is even enough context clues to decipher what the word molest means in the text.  Most kids however, could easily ask Siri or Hey Google or whatnot and may have more questions about what it means to sexually assault a person, specifically a woman or child, and why someone would do it.  I leave that for parents to decide at what age those in their charge can grasp such a word and concept.

TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

I’m torn on teaching the book as the linear telling might not appeal to older kids, but the motive and revenge isn’t appropriate for younger kids.  I think if used to discuss broader issues the book could be really powerful, and not just a fun read.  I could see discussing with 9th graders or so the seriousness of false accusations, drawing on the Me Too movement and how sexual crimes and transgressions should be handled and treated.  I think the book could be a springboard for those discussions and seeing the effects of believing or not believing, and perhaps suspending judgement until research can be done.  In the case of the book, it would not have been difficult to pursue the allegations, while protecting any potential victims.

 

NOTE:

The first book in the series, The Moon of Masarrah, was originally published under the title, The Treasure at Bayan Bluffs, some changes have been made in the new printing, so while I don’t normally review second books in a series, I felt this book might bring attention to the new title of the first book and drum up interest for the upcoming third book in the series.  No, I don’t benefit in any way and I purchase my copies just like you, the stories are just really well done and I want readers to give them a try.  Happy Reading!

Secret Recipe Box by Helal Musleh illustrated by Nalan Alaca

Standard
Secret Recipe Box by Helal Musleh illustrated by Nalan Alaca

recipe-box.jpg

The publisher suggests this book for ages 4 and up, but I think it’s a bit long (30 pages) and detailed for that age group, and first grade and up will benefit more from this heartfelt story.

IMG_5872.jpg

Maha is excited her Teta is moving from Palestine to live with her, her brother Sami, and parents in Canada.  Maha dreams of being a chef on a famous cooking show, and her Tata and her secret recipes will be a great way to practice.

IMG_5873.jpg

Her little brother Sami is always in the way though.  Whether it is wanting to hold a sign Maha has made, or is wanting to cook with her, she is annoyed by him at every turn.

IMG_5764.jpg

As Maha listens to Teta’s stories and learns about her life in Palestine, she starts to change in her approach to Sami and realizes that family has to take care of each other.

IMG_5874.jpg

After a day of cooking together, Maha, Sami, and Teta have made too much food and decide to go and share it with those in need at the soup kitchen.

IMG_5763

The book addresses kindness, changing, compassion, immigration, taking care of one another, multi generational lessons and love, stories, life lessons, and some highlights of Palestinian culture, food, clothing, and tradition.

IMG_5761

The book is warm and well done, with the exception of a few of the pictures which seem a bit off to me.  Overall, it is a sweet story that presents with a lot of lessons, but doesn’t force them upon the reader.  The character growth is gentle and subtle and will resonate with readers.

IMG_5762

The characters mention Halal food, and the grandma wears hijab even in the house, where the mother is shown wearing it at the airport, but not in the home.  The book would work for Muslim and non Muslim readers.

More to the Story by Hena Khan

Standard
More to the Story by Hena Khan

more to the story.jpg

For a book written by an accomplished author for 3rd to 7th graders focusing on a Muslim family, I was surprised at how despite wanting to absolutely love this book, I only kind of liked it.  For the first 100 of 271 pages, I really kept hoping there was going to be more to the story.  Luckily the story did pick up, but I couldn’t get passed how much crushing all the sisters were doing on the one boy in the story, and how much stronger I wanted the main character to become.

SYNOPSIS:

Told from Jameela, “Jam’s” perspective, the second of four daughters living with their parents in Georgia, the story focuses on the interpersonal relationships of the members of the family and their parents’ close friends who’s nephew has moved in with them from England, Ali.  All the kids are close in age and of Pakistani ethnicity, and are Muslim.  As the reader gets to know Maryam, Jam, Bisma, and Aleeza, you see the characters develop pretty well and their quirks and personalities emerge.  Jam is more tomboyish than the gorgeous Maryam who likes to bake.  Jam and Bisma share a room and are closer than Jam and Aleeza, the baby of the family who Jam finds is becoming a brat.  Jam also enjoys watching football and eating spicy food with her dad and desperately wants to be an award winning journalist like her grandfather.  She puts out a family newsletter and is ecstatic to be named the feature’s editor as she starts 7th grade.  Ali is a year older and has moved to stay with his aunt and uncle until his mom and sister can join them.  He spends a lot of time with the sisters and in Little Women inspired fashion the little ones want his attention, Jam is a little jealous to learn he finds himself tongue tied when talking to the beautiful Maryam and Maryam in 9th grade is drawn to Ali, but doesn’t vocalize it too much.  And then as the story picks up speed, Jam says, “In a matter of weeks, Baba got a new job and moved across the world, Bisma got sick and has to be in the hospital, and I messed up everything with Ali and the paper. How did my whole life get turned upside down so quickly?”  

The rest of the book is dealing with Baba working in the Middle East, Bisma being diagnosed with lymphoma, Jameela learning some journalistic basics, and Ali and Jameela becoming a bit more than just friends. 

WHY I LIKE IT:

I love that a Muslims desi family is being represented in an own voice novel that mentions religion as a natural part of their life, and doesn’t apologize or overly explain it.  That being said, I feel like the book is trying to present “us” to the outside so to speak, rather than empower our own.  And I point this out, because I feel like it could have done both.  Dialogue between Ali and Jameela about how they might date as they get older, how Ali can’t see any of the sisters having an arranged marriage.  How when Maryam gets asked to a dance her mom doesn’t mention any religious reason her daughter should say no.  None of the girls wear hijab, and they mention that they don’t wear hijab, at one point Jam knows she should get up and pray, but doesn’t.  I don’t expect a fictional story to teach our upper elementary age kids how to behave that is a parent’s job, but to have some basic Islamic tenants brushed aside after being mentioned is worth noting.  Had the book just been more cultural, maybe I wouldn’t be so critical, but Muslim girls are going to be excited to see themselves in this book and some of the messages might tilt a little more liberal than some parents would expect.  It is one thing when our girls read a book with a romantic twist and we say that, that is not for us, but when a book celebrates us not just crushing, but vocalizing those crushes and moving in to a gray area (they hug but it could be an innocent friend hug) and they make a point to be next to each other, Muslim parents should be aware.  In the larger society it wouldn’t even register on the radar, hence I point it out.

Another thing that kind of bothered me and was again related to Jameela and Ali’s relationship was that when Jameela cut her hair in support of Bisma losing hers with chemo treatments, she seems to need Ali’s approval.  I get that she wanted him to see her and all that, but I really wanted her to be strong enough in and of her self that even if she looked awful she would own it and not let it define her and not let a boy’s opinion about her physical appearance weigh that heavily on her.  Again I know 4th grade girls start noticing boys and having crushes and middle school is only worse, but I just was hoping that her strength and confidence would come from her own growth arc, not from someone else, let alone someone she likes. Side-note here too about the hair, it is donated to make a wig, which I know might also be a sensitive subject regarding if that is allowed in Islam or not.

In terms of the cancer and the sister’s rallying together all that I thoroughly enjoyed and found the most interesting passages in the book.  I think the understanding of a real subject and finding a way to help and deal with this was executed expertly and powerfully without sensationalizing the concern or simplifying the experience either.

FLAGS:

The book is clean, but there is a lot of mention of how Ali affects the girls.  And potentially depending your own opinions on the hair being donated.

TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

I wouldn’t do this as a book club book, I’m actually hesitant in even recommending it to my 12 year old daughter.  I know she has read worse, but again me handing her a book about Muslim girls might make her understanding of what we expect regarding boy/girl interactions to be a bit muddled.

 

 

Badir and the Beaver by Shannon Stewart illustrated by Sabrina Gendron

Standard
Badir and the Beaver by Shannon Stewart illustrated by Sabrina Gendron

badir and

This 92 page early chapter book is a great linear story for 1st through 3rd graders.  The size, font, spacing, illustrations, chapter length, and content make it a fun read that incorporates diversity, environmental action, teamwork, information about beavers and acceptance all through the efforts of young Badir, a recent immigrant from Tunisia during the blessed month of Ramadan.

SYNOPSIS:

Badir is new to Canada and while he misses Tunisia, he is joyful and upbeat as we meet his older brother Anis, young twin siblings and classmates.  Out one night before iftar, he sees what he thinks is a giant rat swimming in a lake, but no one believes him.  When he sees it a second time, a lady at the park explains to him that it is a beaver, not a rat, and pulls out a Canadian coin to show him there is a connection between beavers and Canada.  With new knowledge about the difference between a lake and a pond, a rat and a beaver, Badir is fascinated with how beavers build homes, mate for life, and benefit the environment.  He even likens the beaver eating at sunset to his families own Ramadan schedule.

But all is not well for the beaver, as a petition is being circulated to relocate the rodent and save the trees in the park from his sharp teeth.  With new friends, a supportive teacher and classmates, Badir is determined to prevent the beaver from having to leave his home as Badir and his family had to do.

WHY I LIKE IT:

I love that this book is subtle in highlighting the welcoming of immigrants into a community, about having the main character be Muslim and it being Ramadan, and showing that diverse people can come together for a bigger cause and even become friends.  The main story line is naturally to save the beaver and the trees in the park, so the information and facts about beavers is appreciated and well presented.  I think most everyone of every age will learn something new about the common rodent.  But, by the main character being genuinely like-able and infectious, the reader will also realize that any negative stereotypes about Muslims or immigrants really aren’t a factor.  Badir’s family is really nice, the parents prepare food together, they feed their kids’ friends, and invite them over. The author does a good job at accurately making them seem like any other family.

IMG_4808

There isn’t much stress on Badir being Muslim or what that means outside of it being Ramadan, praying, and going to the mosque as a family at night.  The illustrations show the mom in hijab. The book tells a tiny bit about Tunisia, but not why they left, and definitely makes the foods they eat sound delicious.  Overall, it really does a good job of keeping the book about the beaver and finding a solution.

The book is for both non Muslims and Muslims and seems to be written by a non Muslim, and while set in Ramadan it is definitely not limited to being a “Ramadan story.”  There are small pictures on many pages and a full page picture in each of the 12 chapters.

IMG_4806

FLAGS:

None

TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

I think this book should be in classrooms and school libraries.  It really is well written, informative, and fun.  I don’t do a story time for the target audience of this book, but I think it would be a candidate for my “Lunch Bunch” meetings, when I read aloud to 4th and 5th graders once a week while they eat lunch.  Even if it is slightly below a 5th grade level, I think even older kids who pick it up and read it, or listen to it being read, will find it interesting, entertaining, and worth their time.

Publisher’s page: https://www.orcabook.com/Badir-and-the-Beaver-P3992.aspx

 

 

 

 

Mustafa and Arwa go on a Ramadan Adventure by Mekram Mohammad

Standard
Mustafa and Arwa go on a Ramadan Adventure by Mekram Mohammad

IMG_3184

Ramadan is two months away and this little book is a great way to introduce and stir up excitement for little Muslim toddlers and preschoolers. It could work for non Muslims, but the general overview given would need some details and explanations, and this book seems more geared to introduce excitement and a few key concepts for the blessed month.

IMG_3190

In 27 rhyming pages the brother sister duo explore some of the feelings of the month, activities that make the month special and what to expect at suhur, iftar, and taraweeh at night.  

IMG_3185

I like that it makes it clear that you don’t eat one bite, that you fast even if you are at work or school, that you use your time to do good and help people, and that you ask Allah for paradise.  

IMG_3188

The end is Eid and while the text presents some great general info, the illustrations are what really give the minimal clear text life.  Seeing the kids giving presents to people and looking for the moon and enjoying iftar together with smiling faces, show kids the warmth of Ramadan.  

IMG_3186

The book doesn’t have a story, it just talks about Ramadan, but the tone in this book and in Mustafa and Arwa go on a Prayer Adventure is very fun and light.  It doesn’t get into rules or articulate what little kids are expected or required to do, or even why Muslims do it, it just gives them some knowledge and some emotion to create the feeling of it being a grand adventure.

IMG_3189

The book is paperback 8.5 x 8.5 and the thickness, sheen and quality of the pages makes it durable and enjoyable to read at story time (in small groups) and bedtime alike.  This book most likely will be on repeat in the weeks leading up to Ramadan and then referenced throughout the month to remind children about what they are seeing and experiencing.  

Hind’s Hands: A Story about Autism by Umm Jawayriyah and Juwayriyah Ayed illustrated by Emma Apple

Standard
Hind’s Hands: A Story about Autism by Umm Jawayriyah and Juwayriyah Ayed illustrated by Emma Apple

hind

This is an important book to show representation of an underrepresented group, not just those with autism, but also those that love them and live with them.  It is also important to spread awareness so that those that do not have first hand experience can show compassion and patience for the individual and those around them as well.

This 16 page book, only 9 pages of text, is written by a mother and daughter about another daughter.  It is told from the perspective of 9 year old Juwayriyah and how she sees and helps her younger sister Hind.

IMG_2406

I love that it makes it super clear that children with autism are created this way by Allah swt and made special just as all of us are unique and special. I also like that Juwayriyah has had to learn to slow down and say bismillah before often dealing with Hind.  It also shows that it is a work in progress and there are good days and bad days.  It isn’t smooth sailing, and it isn’t something that needs to be fixed, it is what it is and we must adapt.

IMG_2407

The book is wonderful, for what it does and what it represents, however, in terms of story, it is kind of dry.  It very much is a nine year old, optimistically talking about her sister and how rubbing her hands has proved a coping skills when she is overwhelmed, but you don’t get to know any of the characters.  You don’t feel a bond, or understand what life is like for Hind, or why sometimes she has outbursts or what her triggers are.  I don’t know that kids will even understand concretely what autims is other than that it means people with it learn and act and think differently, as no real examples are given.  

IMG_2408

There is a lot of text on the pages.  I think if you know someone with autism or have maybe seen a child having a melt down, children younger kids will enjoy the explanation and fact giving the book provides.  Otherwise I think 2nd to 4th graders will get the most out of this book as they start to notice different behaviors and other’s reactions to them.

Iqbal and His Ingenious Idea: How a Science Project Helps One Family and the Planet by Elizabeth Suneby and Rebecca Green

Standard
Iqbal and His Ingenious Idea: How a Science Project Helps One Family and the Planet by Elizabeth Suneby and Rebecca Green

iqbal

It is a bit odd that this story is fiction, when it reads so much like a piece of nonfiction.  It is a picture book, but has an AR level of 4th grade 4th month.  So, while the story is great and highlights a country and culture, Bangladesh, not often seen, I don’t know that this book would appeal to many kids.  The kids that it does appeal to though and that can find it in a library or bookstore (not sure where it would be shelved), I think will not just like it, but possibly find it both inspiring and worth reading again and again.

IMG_2086

It is monsoon season in Bangladesh and the rains make Iqbal’s mom have to cook indoors.  As a result, she and the baby, Rupa are constantly coughing from breathing all the smoke from the woodburning stove.  Iqbal’s father mentions a propane stove he saw in the market, but the family cannot afford it, despite wishing that they could. 

Iqbal’s school has just announced the School Science Fair and the winners get cash prizes, if Iqbal can win, maybe he can buy his family the new stove.  His little sister Sadia offers her services to help him win and be his assistant.

IMG_2087

After a lot of thinking, pondering, and dreaming, Iqbal decides on the perfect project: a stove that didn’t produce smoke.

With the help of his teacher at school to find ideas and articles and plans on the internet, Iqbal and his sister build a solar cooker with foil and an old umbrella. 

IMG_2088

The science fair is a success, Iqbal wins, the family buys the stove and propane with the winnings, and when it isn’t raining, the family is able to use the solar stove Iqbal and Sadia built.

The book draws on ideas of sustainability, pollution, economic viability, problem solving, and education.  The culture provides the backdrop making all of these issues relevant and real, and mentioning Ramadan, Eid, and prayer provides some depth to the characters and adds to their culture.

IMG_2089

A lot of reviews online criticize that the mom is cooking and that the kids test an egg on the solar cooker and call her to eat it if it is supposed to be Ramadan, but I personally promise you, during Ramadan, we are always cooking.  And if she is nursing the baby, the mom wouldn’t be required to fast, there’s a lot of other reason she couldn’t/wouldn’t be fasting, but really, it is such a small portion mentioned in passing, no detail needs to be given, and it didn’t bother me at all.

Another complaint about the book is that if money is so tight the kids wouldn’t be at a school where they can just make copies, and buy eggs on their own.  I think there is some truth to this, but maybe a wealthy doner funds the school.  I think you could argue it either way.  I don’t know that the family is poor, it is the overall society, so kids could have pocket money, a propane stove is probably imported at least from a larger city so the expense would be more, similarily the infustruction of electricity and gas lines could hint more at why they cook the way they do.  Needless to say the family is smiling in the pictures, they have food, and they seem to be doing ok.  So the fact that the school printed a few articles and the kids bought some eggs without asking permission, didn’t bother me greatly.

IMG_2090

The illustrations are expressive and show the family connections and emotions.  I like that they bring to life a country many wouldn’t know, even if I wish it weren’t a work of fiction, but based on some child actually there.  

The end of the book has information about clean cookstoves, how to build one yourself, and a glossary.  The large 9×12 hardbound book would hold up well to multiple readings, and the amount of text on the pages would work well as a read-a-loud to younger kids who would find the subject matter interesting.  

IMG_2091

 

Little Brother for Sale by Rahma Rodaah illustrated by Fuuji Takashi

Standard
Little Brother for Sale by Rahma Rodaah illustrated by Fuuji Takashi

IMG_1867.jpg

Oh how I love to read sweet books and repeatedly thumb through warm engaging illustrations.  This book is beautiful, fun, and (possibly) very relatable.

IMG_1860

A big sister, Asma, is ready to get rid of her little brother, Hamza, so that she can enjoy all her parent’s attention.  But when the mailman won’t let her ship him to grandma, and neither the lady walking down the street nor the neighbor next door want to buy him, she is determined to find someone to take him off her hands.  Alas though, it is Hamza’s nap time and while mom makes salat Asma finally gets some time to herself.

IMG_1862

Except she misses having someone sharpen her crayons, or eat the blueberries she doesn’t like, and there is no one to dance with her around the living room.  She decides that maybe she does like her little brother, and lays down next to him with promises of loving and protecting him forever.  Ahhh…..

IMG_1866

Yeah, the book is pretty predictable, but the details make it charming.  I love the diverse characters and the love and warmth they all exude.  I love that when she drags her brother out in the wagon and holds up the for sale sign, mom is peeking out from the kitchen.  I reassured myself that she was there, so it was ok for Asma to be talking to the mail man, a potential stranger, and the lady walking down the street, muslimah or not. 

IMG_1861 

The only slight hiccup to me was what one-year-old, he was seemingly taking his first steps in the first picture, can sharpen crayons? Maybe I just failed to prepare my children, but other than that, the book is smooth, and well done.

IMG_1864

The binding quality, the font, the amount of text on the 26 pages, is definitely preschool to first or second grade, and the illustrations will mesmerize even toddlers who won’t understand why the book is so silly. 

IMG_1863

The book has been floating around my house and I’ve seen my 11 year old pick it up and read it on her own, and then read it to the three year old mutltiple times.  She possibly was getting ideas, but maybe it also reminds us that siblings really can be both annoying and lovely as well.

IMG_1865