Tag Archives: Silly

The Storyteller of Damascus by Rafik Schami illustrated by Peter Knorr

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The Storyteller of Damascus by Rafik Schami illustrated by Peter Knorr

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This book is not a quick read, it begs to be read aloud and the pictures poured over.  The 48 heavily text filled pages are a trip back in time before the tale twists in on itself and becomes a story that gets more outrageous with each upgrade.  It claims to be for grades first through fourth, but I think it would need a lot of hand holding and attention to get any children to read it.  The story would really come to life at bedtime with a loved one, or in a classroom with discussion, but I don’t know that most children in that demographic would willingly pick up the book, read it, enjoy it and reflect on it, without some guidance.  The illustrations show characters in hijab and thumbing tasbeehs, the text mentions Allah swt and in phrases calling on Him in exasperation.  There is a “kiss”, it is a love story after all, and some demons and sorcery, but I think it is clean enough and silly enough that kids of all ages will enjoy it and not find it offensive or scary.

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Many years ago an old man in the old city of Damascus, would walk around carrying a large chest and tell stories.  Four lucky kids for only one piaster each could look into the chest and see the images of the story, the other children could listen to the story for free.  He didn’t come often, but when he would come the children would rush to meet him and listen to the stories, their favorite the one of Sami and Leyla.

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Sami was a shepherd boy, he was beautiful, but poor.  Leyla was the daughter of the richest farmer in the village and after their “accidental” kiss Leyla and Sami met every evening despite Leyla’s father forbidding it.  The whole village is in a buzz over the two lovebirds.  When Leyla is kidnapped, her father reluctantly tells Sami that if he can bring her back then they can marry.  When Sami returns with her, Leyla’s father pretends to be ill and in need of milk from a lioness.  Once again he promises that if Sami can obtain the milk than the two can marry.  Sami not only gets the milk, but returns riding a lion.  Leyla’s dad says that he is brave indeed, but that his daughter can only marry a rich man and needs to pay 300 camels as dowry.  Sami heads to Damascus to steal the camels from the king, but gets caught and put in prison.  Lucky for Sami, a dove comes to visit him and after he saves her life, she grants him one wish.  Yes, the animals can talk.  The camels and freedom are granted, but still Leyla’s father is not willing to allow the marriage.  He summons a sorcerer to send demons to turn his daughter in to a lizard.  When night after night the demons fail and beat the sorcerer, it is revealed that the father hired him.  The next day the two are married.

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Over time the pictures in the chest began to fade and new pictures from modern advertisements are used to replace the traditional images.  Leyla becomes Colgate, yes, from a toothpaste advertisement.  She has a glorious smile and is now the daughter of a car dealer who drinks only Fresh Mountain mineral water.  She gets kidnapped and Sami hears about it on his Filix portable radio that she is being held in a club and is forced to serve ice-cold Coca-Cola.  The story continues like this, but at some point the children in the story become bored with the new version, and sing the jingles for the items mentioned instead, until the story teller packs up and leaves.

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Two years pass and no one has heard from the story teller, some say he went mad, others that he died.  Then one day he comes back to town and the children all run to listen to his stories.  There is a chest to peer in, but there is nothing inside, like magic however, when the old man starts to tell his story, the images appear in the minds of the children.

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The illustrations are wonderful and detailed, and radiate warmth and richness.  The conversation I had after with my own kids, about what was valued and the power of stories is so powerful to see dawning on the listeners.  They get it, they do, and they realize how ridiculous the “updates” were.  When they realize it is the story teller and the magic of being together and sharing a story, they too become one of the children in the book and it is wondrous to observe.

The Great Hair Exchange by Asmaa Hussein illustrated by Milton Bazerque

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The Great Hair Exchange by Asmaa Hussein illustrated by Milton Bazerque

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I don’t know if twins plot and plan to trick people, but I think those of us that are not twins, and don’t have any in our immediate family, all assume that switching places with someone who looks exactly like us, would be a regular prank with hilarious outcomes and convenient benefits. Two twin Muslim girls with different hair and vastly different personalities learn to love themselves, appreciate how God made them, and get reminded that sneaking has consequences, all while evoking giggles from the reader throughout their adventurous day in each other’s shoes (hair?). This 32 page full-color, high-gloss, fantastically illustrated book is filled with silliness and lessons that will appeal to children five and up.

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Bushra and Roda, are nearly identical, except Roda has curly hair, and Bushra’s is straight.  They often want to try different hairstyles, but their parents tell them they should appreciate how God made them and they can experiment when they are older.  The girls decide that their parents, with their perfectly wavy hair, just don’t understand and sneak in to their parents’ bathroom before school to straighten and curl their hair accordingly.

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Surprised at the final results, “You look like me!”The girls realize they are going to get in trouble and decide to switch clothes and backpacks and head off to school.  At school the girls are ushered in to each other’s classes by their teachers despite their protests that they aren’t who they look like.

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The girls carry on as each other struggling in classes they normally excel in, get annoyed by their hair, and suffer through lunches that they don’t like.  Roda even fools herself as she bumps into a mirror thinking she is going in to hug her sister, and Bushra is startled by a spider that Roda loves.

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After school their dad drops them off at their after school activities and still doesn’t suspect a thing. Roda goes to Bushra’s soccer game and Bushra to Roda’s girl scout hike.  When it starts to rain, the girls’ hair returns to its natural state and when they get picked up, they have a lot of explaining to do.

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The girls are reminded that hair gadgets require supervision, that God made us all unique and being dishonest is not ok.  From here on out the girls still prank their friends and teachers, but do so with their parent’s knowledge.

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The book is fun and silly and for both Muslim and non Muslim’s alike.  It uses the word God, not Allah, and while the mom wears hijab, and the girls do on the last page, there is nothing Islamic or even Islamic specific in the book.  I feel like the grammar on the last page is off, but nothing too major.  The book ends with five discussion questions.

Watermelon Madness by Taghreed Najjar illustrated by Maya Fidawi

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Watermelon Madness by Taghreed Najjar illustrated by Maya Fidawi

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This 32 page picture book for preschool and up is silly and fun.  There is nothing Islamic in the text or illustrations by this Muslim author, but there is Arab culture as it mentions molokhiya and zaatar. The large 8.5 x 11 hardback book is wonderfully illustrated with detail, color and expression.  The playful font and text makes reading it fun and enjoyable for little ones, who will get the message, and laugh along the way.

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Noura loves watermelon. She eats it in the morning and in the afternoon and in the evening too.  At dinner she doesn’t want to eat her chicken, rice and molokhiya, she just wants watermelon. 

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That night after dinner she sneaks to the kitchen, sees a huge watermelon on the table, and decides to take it up to her room to enjoy all by herself.  She puts the watermelon under her bed, and dreams wonderful watermelon dreams.

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The watermelon gets bigger and bigger, and there is a door! She goes inside the watermelon and eats until her hearts content.  But as she gets bigger, the watermelon gets smaller.  She is trapped and her tummy is hurting.  

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Her mother rushes in to find a watermelon under the bed and Noura screaming from a bad dream.  Resolved to deal with the magic watermelon in the morning, Noura goes back to sleep having learned her lesson (without being reprimanded), and happily eats her breakfast of a fried egg and zaatar.  

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The book concludes with some information about watermelons and info about molokhiya and zaatar.  

The Salams: Cranky Kareem Says Alhumdulillah by Kazima Wajahat illustrated by Chaymaa Sobhy

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The Salams: Cranky Kareem Says Alhumdulillah by Kazima Wajahat illustrated by Chaymaa Sobhy

 

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Part of me is tempted to channel my own Cranky Kareem and say how awful this book is, just because I know that the author reads my reviews of her books with bated breath, but alas I cannot lie even in jest as the book is truly adorable.  This 40 page book in a new series highlights and starts to fill the gap in children’s Islamic fiction that is so needed.  There are a number of books and series for toddlers teaching them to say Bismillah, Assalamualaikum, and MashaAllah and all the praise-filled Islamic expressions, but they are very basic, this book, and hopefully the rest of the series, goes a bit deeper.  It shows how to truly mean what you say, how to glorify Allah not just in your words, but in the way you think about things, handle stresses, and carry on.  The concepts and amount of text probably will most appeal to mature kindergarteners to early second graders at bedtime or in small groups.  I do wish that Cranky Kareem apologized to Happy Hamdi after he relentlessly attacked him at the masjid, but in much the way Oscar the Grouch gets away with being so negative, the characters in the book and the readers alike will have to settle for Kareem finally learning the lesson, in this case, of being grateful to Allah (swt) for everything.

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The book starts out with Happy Hamdi waking up in Salamville and praising Allah in appreciation of the fresh air, birds, flowers, and allergy medicine that works.  Across town Cranky Kareem is having the opposite kind of morning.  The sun is blinding, the birds annoying, coffee bitter, and he’s out of milk for his cereal.

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When Kareem finally finds some peace and quiet on a bench at the park he is disturbed by Happy Hamdi and all his happiness.  As Hamdi and bounces off to talk to Greedy Gamal and Healthy Hassan, Cranky Kareem gets an idea.

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When Happy Hamdi heads to the masjid, Cranky Kareem sticks out his foot to trip him.  Hamdi falls and gets a bruise on his nose, but still says Alhumdulillah. He then knocks sticky baklava on him and again he responds with Alhumdulillah, he then dumps a bucket of ice water on Hamdi, and Happy Hamdi says Alhumdulillah once more.  When he leaves the masjid, Hamdi’s car is not working and he has to walk home.

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Kareem can’t take it anymore and confronts Hamdi.  Happy Hamdi explains that he was hungry and didn’t mind the syrup, then the water washed the syrup off and now that he is walking home, his fur is drying.  Flabbergasted by Happy Hamdi, Cranky Kareem stomps off.

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Convinced that Hamdi’s happiness is an act, Kareem pauses to ponder how his plan failed.  Healthy Hassan jogs by and bumps in to him, knocking him off the train track and causing Kareem to twist his ankle, just before a train goes swooshing by.

Realizing that the bump saved his life, Cranky Kareem expresses his appreciation to Allah swt by saying Alhumdulillah.

I love the illustrations and the horizontal layout of the book.  The book is cute and I can’t wait to share the rest of the series with my kids.  Thank you to Crescent Moon Store for having this, and so many wonderful books available.

 

 

 

Poe Won’t Go by Kelly DiPucchio illustrated by Zachariah Ohora

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Poe Won’t Go by Kelly DiPucchio illustrated by Zachariah Ohora

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This silly book has an abrupt ending, but plenty of giggles along the way that make you forgive the sudden conclusion.  Additionally there is a lot of diversity in the illustrations, a little hijabi girl of color that steals the show, and a lesson about asking and listening that children 4-7 will find sweet and enjoyable.  It is an AR 2.5 and has 36 pages.  Some are text heavy, but my 4 year old had no problem sitting through it with the silly pictures and large 9 x 11.5 size.

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Poe is an elephant that has planted himself in the middle of the only road in Prickly Valley.  The citizens do everything they can think of to get him to move.  They honk, write him a ticket, bang pots and pans, play trombones, blast megaphones, tickle, beg, and bribe.  They even bring in mice, and magnets, and motivational speakers.  Clowns and copters, cranes and pastors, magicians and the mayor, no one can get him to move.

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After lots of discussions involving coffee in stryrofoam cups, a little girl named Marigold, asks the mayor if anyone has asked Poe.  Such an obvious suggestion, the Mayor laughs and says she doesn’t speak elephant.  Little hijabi Marigold says, “anyone can speak elephant if they just listen hard enough.”  She is also fluent in kitten and hedgehog.

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Marigold discovers that Poe is waiting for a friend that is very late.  A reporter asks if the friend could be wearing a polka-dot-tie, it is determined that it is possible and that also perhaps he is sitting on his friend. At that Poe stands up, finds his friend Mo and the two walk off.

The randomness of Poe sitting on his friend made me have to read the story a few times checking to see if a page was missing or stuck together, but alas no, it just suddenly is resolved and ends with no clues indicating that the elephant is sitting on a monkey.

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I love that the name in the text for the little girl is Marigold, and that the illustrator chose to depict her as a little Muslim girl of color.  On many of the other pages with the town folk trying to move the elephant, there are people of all colors, body shapes, hairstyles, head gear, eye wear, facial hair, body art, etc shown.  Marigold seems to be at work with her father at their flower shop, and the mayor is a female.

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There is nothing religious in the book, save a pastor trying to persuade the elephant to get behind him, and it doesn’t appear that the author or illustrator are Muslim (it is published by Disney Hyperion) which in someways makes the normalizing of a girl in hijab all the more sweeter.  Sure, someone her age wouldn’t be required to cover, but the message and representation is deliberate and appreciated.

Katie Woo’s Neighborhood: Open Wide, Katie! by Fran Manushkin illustrated by Laura Zarrin

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Katie Woo’s Neighborhood: Open Wide, Katie! by Fran Manushkin illustrated by Laura Zarrin

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Oh how I love when a popular series includes diverse characters, and more specifically Muslims, I’m biased that way.  In this Katie Woo early reader for KG-2nd grade, a trip to the zoo and wondering how animals clean their teeth ties in to Katie’s trip to have her teeth cleaned by Ms. Malek, a hijab wearing dental hygienist, and having her teeth checked by dentist, Dr. Ali.  Spread over three chapters, the 5×9, 32 page book familiarizes kids with what happens in a dental check-up and shares some silly facts about animals too.

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SYNOPSIS:

On a trip to the zoo, Katie’s dad jokes that the alligator must need a big toothbrush.  This reminds Katie’s mom that Katie has an appointment with the hygienist the following day to have her teeth cleaned.  The next day on the way to see Ms. Malek, Katie sees her friend Haley, who along with her brothers also goes to the same dentist.  Everyone seems to love Ms. Malek.  In the waiting room theres lots of toys and when she gets called back, she gets to sit in the big blue chair that tips back.  Ms. Malek uses a little mirror to  check every tooth, before she brushes them.  She then tells Katie that hippos let fish clean their teeth.  This visit Katie doesn’t need X-rays taken but next time Dr. Ali says she will.  After picking a new toothbrush and toy, she is all set to go home.

On the way home, Katie sees some more friends and tells them about hippos using fish to clean their teeth. Pedro tells Katie that the dentist at the Zoo has to clean the tiger’s teeth.  Thinking that he must be really brave, Pedro explains that the dentist first puts the tiger to sleep.  Later that night, Katie brushes and flosses her teeth and then tells her dad that maybe when she grows up she can work at the zoo and clean the elephant’s tusks.

WHY I LIKE IT:

I love the diversity of Katie and her friends, and the people in her neighborhood.  Normalizing diversity in literature is a great way to open kid’s eyes to the world around them.  I also like that there is a glossary of words in the back, many dental in nature.  There is a page of Katie’s questions to get readers thinking.  And there is even an interview between Katie and Ms. Malek the dental hygienist.

FLAGS:

None.  There is nothing religious in the book, other than the names of the dentist and hygienist and the scarf on Ms. Malek.

TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

I think this book would be great at story time, and in classrooms.  It isn’t meant for a book club, but I think even in a group setting, kids will be reassured about a trip to the dentist and find the animal information funny and informative.   Kids might even have some more fun animal teeth facts to add to the discussion.

The Mighty Head of Moustafa by Rania Emara illustrated by Fruzsina Kuhari

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This fun new twist on “The House that Jack Built” uses the same style of building sentences on to a repeated story that the classic uses, as well as the silliness of it all, but is made unique with the Middle Eastern setting and cultural aspects.

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The 8.5 x 11 size gives ample room to see the fun engaging illustrations that bring the comical rhymes to life in both small to medium sized groups.  I won a digital version, and will probably end up purchasing a paperback copy for my bookshelf, as the pictures and text will be easier to pour over in physical form.

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The book is 22 pages of text and perfect for toddlers to listen to, on up to 2nd or 3rd graders to read on their own and still be entertained.  There is nothing religious about the book, the boy is named Moustafa obviously, and there is a girl whose veil is the climax of the story, but nothing in the text is religion specific.

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It all starts out with a tray on the mighty head of Moustafa.   Upon that tray is bread stacked and spread that goes with cake that was quick to bake, and before you know it, there is an aunty who rode a donkey next to a child with a veil, and then a nail, oh that tricky nail that caught the veil. . .

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Moustafa and his tray and everything along the way are all brought to a tumbling halt, all because of a nail. The crash and falling down undoes the entire build up, and the smiling face of Moustafa makes you want to read it all over again.

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Alhumdulillah!

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Mr. Wolf’s Class by Aron Nels Steinke

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Mr. Wolf’s Class by Aron Nels Steinke

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I know this AR 2.1, 156 page graphic novel probably doesn’t deserve a review, but for as important as OWN voice books are, books with Muslim characters thrown in the mix are important for representation too.  Yes sometimes we are the star and we definitely need to tell our own stories, but we are also friends, and side-kicks and supporters too.  In this case we are a purple duck with a headscarf named Aziza, that thinks she is smarter than the other 4th graders in Mr. Wolf’s class, but fits right in with the quirkiness of the anthrmorphized cast too.  There is nothing mentioned about the scarf or about Aziza’s faith, there is also a boy named Abdi in the class that is a cat and could also be Muslim, but really, in this silly book which is the start of a series, I was just so giddy to see a Muslim included and grateful for the representation.

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SYNOPSIS:

It is the first day of 4th grade and Mr. Wolf is nervous.  Margot is new too, but the other kids seem to know each other already.  Aziza, Abdi, Randy, Sampson, Henry, Penny, Bobby, Lola, Oliver, Stewart, Miguel, Noah, Molly, Lizzy, Oscar, and Johnny are all different animals and all unique.  The book is really just a handful of the characters trying to survive the first day of school.  Whether it be confronting another teacher about stealing your stapler, making a friend on the bus, having rats steal your lunch, falling asleep in a box because your new baby brother kept you up on all night, or trying to figure out why you have to show your work when on a math assessment.  The book will resonate with kids 2-4th grade and make them giggle at the silliness of it all.

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WHY I LIKE IT:

I love that the teacher is more nervous than the kids about the first day of school and that they all seem to be doing the best they can.  Aziza is earily irritated by her classmates who don’t seem to want to do their work, but she is no more annoying than the other students and all seem to have diverse backgrounds and issues at hand.  The author was an educator and the book reads true to any one who has littles or has been in a school environment, making it all the more charming.  There are four books thus far in the series and my kids say Aziza features prominantly in the second book too.  I have had this book in my house for a while now, and for some reason just now paid attention to the cover today when begrudgingly scolding my kids about leaving books out everywhere.  I asked if the duck had on a hijab and two of my boys without budging to put away said book, replied, “yeah it is Aziza.” As if seeing a muhajaba duck is the norm, who knows maybe it is.  So, I sat down to read the book with enthusiasm and 20 minutes later, thought how great it is to be included. Representation does shape perception, and non Muslim kids may not think anything of it, or my own kids who are flooded with Islamic fiction books, but I can only imagine how ecstatic I would have been as a kid to be included as the norm without fanfare or explanation given.

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FLAGS:

They talk about if farts are better or ice cream in the creation of a venn diagram.

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TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

Wouldn’t do it for a book club, but would definitely have it in a class library and school library.  Fun book, seemingly fun series, and easy reading for all levels.

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Tunjur! Tunjur! Tunjur! A Palestinian Folktale retold by Margaret Read MacDonald illustrated by Alik Arzoumanian

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Tunjur! Tunjur! Tunjur! A Palestinian Folktale retold by Margaret Read MacDonald illustrated by Alik Arzoumanian

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This delightful little folktale is beautifully presented in 32 pages on an AR 1.7 level.  Perfect for little ones to listen to and early readers to tackle on their own.  The pictures are fun and engaging and the story teaches a great lesson of right and wrong in a silly memorable fashion.

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A childless woman asks Allah to bless her with a child, even if it is just a cooking pot, and “Willa! She had a child! And it was a little pot!”

At first taken aback, the little pot professes her love for mama and thus the woman decides to take care of the little pot.  Every day the little pot bumps against the walls as she rolls and jumps around making the sound, Tunjur.

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One day the pot wants to go to the market by herself.  Mama refuses as she is too young and doesn’t know right from wrong, but alas she talks her mom in to it, and off she goes.

She meets a rich man who wants to fill her with honey for his wife.  The pot loves honey so she doesn’t protest, but she refuses to release her lid when the man gifts the pot to his wife.  Angrily he throws the pot out the window and the little pot finds her way home. Mama assumes the honey seller sent it as a gift and little pot says nothing at all.

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The next time little pot heads out she finds herself filled with the queen’s jewels and when she returns Mama is not happy that her little pot has taken things that do not belong to her.

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When little pot heads out again to apologize, the rich man takes her to the king and queen for a reward,  and they fill her with something to teach her a lesson.  When she comes home to Mama, she has definitely learned her lesson.

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The women in the story seem to wear hijab, most notably the wealthy man’s wife.   The Mama asks Allah swt for a child, but other than that there is nothing religious in nature in the book and seeing as I checked it out from the public library, I think it appeals to all kids.

 

The Adventures of Nuh’s Ark by Khadijah Khaki illustrated by Tashna Salim

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The Adventures of Nuh’s Ark by Khadijah Khaki illustrated by Tashna Salim

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If you are looking for a comprehensive or somewhat detailed story about Prophet Nuh (AS), this book isn’t for you or your child.  If you want a silly story with hilarious animals to introduce your little one’s to the concept of the animals boarding Nuh’s Ark as a commandment from God, then order this book already!

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This 24 page rhyming hardback 8×10 book written for preschoolers through early readers takes the idea of animals boarding Nuh’s ark and tells what it is like in a fictional account narrated by the animals themselves.  And focuses on a pair of confused koalas as to what is going on.

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The poor koalas, are not prepared for rain and don’t do well in small spaces.  They pack too much and can’t keep up, but luckily the other animals are nice and they all work together until it stops raining and they can disembark on to land.

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The pictures are cute and comical and bring the text to life.  With the conversation bubbles adding to the story, even the pages that are a bit text heavy keep the younger listeners engaged, as they know something funny is about to be said.

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Also, the book is one in a series or three, so far, and the characters are the same ones found in the Adam and God’s Creation book as well (might be in the Ibrahim one too, but I haven’t read that one), making the nameless animal characters actually memorable as they say silly things, and are pictured being rather unique too.

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The books do not use the word Allah, but do mention God, and the Arabic of Nuh, rather than Noah, and there is mention of why there is a flood and how long it will last, but nothing quoted directly from the Quran.

My older elementary and middle school kids found the books silly as well, and giggled their way through.  It is a a fun read that even adults won’t mind repeating.  If you want a more Prophet story retelling, Migo and Ali Love for the Prophets is a good non fiction book, and it, along with the three book Lunar Learners serious can all be found at my favorite supplier Crescent Moon Store.