Tag Archives: storytime

Allah Knows All About Me by Yasmin Mussa

Standard
Allah Knows All About Me by Yasmin Mussa

IMG_0013.jpg

This adorable 24 page board book by Learning Roots has been adapted (with permission) from a book by Kate Toms called “God Knows All About Me.”  The 7.5 x 7 book is perfect for little toddler hands, and the repetition will help convey even to little ones that Allah is ever-present and all-knowing.

IMG_0015

The illustrations are soft and warm and as with all Learning Roots books, I believe, the characters do not have faces.  The text is large and clear and many of the stanzas are silly is they show bottoms and talk of being smelly.

IMG_0016

It covers Allah swt knowing us from our heads to our toes, when we are happy and sad, when it is raining or snowing, in all situations, all hours of the day, all environments, He knows and is always there.

IMG_0017

The reassurance that we are never alone or never apart from Allah’s love is a great message that is well done in this little book. A mention of Allah’s applicable 99 names might have been a nice addition at the end, but perhaps being the book is redone from an existing book, it wasn’t possible.  Hopefully parents will take the book to the next step and teach kids all of Allah’s many attributes in ways similar to how the presence of Allah is presented in this one.

IMG_0018

Peg + Cat: The Eid al-Adha Adventure by Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson

Standard
Peg + Cat: The Eid al-Adha Adventure by Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson

peg.jpg

Easily the most anticipated Eid al-Adha book to come out this year, the book does not disappoint.  Following the episode, the book, is 32 pages and while ok for ages 3 and up, like the show, it really is geared to children able to grasp the math concepts presented.

The book’s story is that it is Eid al-Adha, and Peg and Cat are learning about it with their friends Yasmina and Amir. The holiday facts don’t seem forced and words like hijab. oud, and Eid Mubarak, are integrated naturally.  The concept of giving charity, giving to those with LESS, becomes the set-up for learning about more than, and less than. 

peg4

A few pages later the tradition of dividing meat into three parts: one to keep, one for friends, and one for the poor, sets up a lesson on fractions and using a pan balance.  The really big problem, involves moving crates.  They count down from seven to calm down, and then use all their lessons learned to solve the problem and help a neighbor.

peg5.jpg

The illustrations are straight from the show in all their adorable glory, I’m not sure why Yasmina has some strange tree branch looking loose hairs poking out of the top of her scarf.  I love that the page numbers are math problems (2 +1=3 for the 3rd page).  And the hardback with slip cover workpages on the underneath side, are a nice treat.  I was especially greatful the picture on the slip cover is the same as on the book, so the cover can be discarded, as will ultimately occur with multiple readings.

peg2

Books like this are great ways to introduce an Islamic tradition to non Muslims in a non preachy, non threatening way.  By seeing beloved characters with Muslim friends helps shape perceptions and increase understanding, inshaAllah everyone wins, alhumdulillah.

Nusaiba and the 5th Grade Bullies by Asmaa Hussein illustrated by Zul Lee

Standard

Nusaiba.png

As someone who deals a lot with reading and comprehension, I really misread the description of this book and assumed erroneously that it was a chapter book targeting 5th graders.  Oops, alhumdulillah, my confusion and slight disappointment didn’t last long as I got swept up in Nusaiba’s spunky imagination and endearing personality.  The message of the book is powerful.  Not only does Nusaiba have to deal with bullies, but she has to wrangle with accepting herself, even if that means being different.

nuaiba2

Nusaiba is almost to school when she overhears some 5th grade boys making fun of her mom and what she is wearing.  Nusaiba’s mom is wearing a hijab, and the story is set up to imply that that is what they find “weird.”  This morning encounter bothers Nusaiba all day, and while she doesn’t talk to her teacher about it when asked, she does spill the beans to her best friend Emily.  The next day Nusaiba distances herself from her mom and asks to walk to the school gate alone.  The bullies don’t say anything, but Nusaiba feels guilty about leaving her mom like that. Later that day when Mom picks Nusaiba and Emily up from soccer they swing by a local hijab shop for some clothes shopping.  I don’t know why, but I found the premise for taking the girls clothes shopping a little forced.  It seemed too words of a setup, and I couldn’t help but wonder why Emily would be dragged along.  As mom tries on skirts for work, the girls in their boredom get swept up in using the scarves as costumes and transforming themselves from queens, to underwater divers, to fisherwomen, to mountain climbers, to fantastic cleaners ready to clean up all the scarves on the display.  Her mom lets her pick one to buy, and she decides to wear it to school the next day.  It is noteworthy that Emily doesn’t try on any of the scarves.  She is an amazingly supportive friend, and even in make-believe is right there with Nusaiba, but she doesn’t put one on, and I kind of want to know the author’s reasoning or purpose as to why.  So the next day at school, Nusaiba asks her mom to again walk with her, and when the 5th grade boys call her mom an “odd-ball.” Nusaiba finds her courage to confront them.  Nusaiba and the reader discover the boys are making fun of Nusaiba’s mom, but it isn’t for her hijab.  Nusaiba and her mom set the boys straight and giggle in the process, as Nusaiba realizes she can be anything she dreams.

nusaiba1

The book is 44 pages and probably about a second grade mid year reading level.  The pictures are big and bold and beautiful making it a great option for story time to ages 4 and up.  The pictures do an amazing job complementing the story and going back through to look at them after the “twist” at the end was even more delightful.  The illustrator draws you into Nusaiba’s world and you really do cheer her on when she stands up for herself. The book easily lends itself to discussion, and there is also a question guide at the end, incase you get stumped. It reads more like a school assignment, but it could obviously be re-worded to engage a child at bedtime or in a read-a-loud environment.  The font is a nice size, however, I found it distracting. On some pages it is white on others black, on some it has a shadow and on others it does not.  I’m certain most people would not notice, but for some reason it was jarring to me.  Alhumdulillah, alhumdulillah, if that is the only negative in a book, I think everyone who reads it will be glad to have a copy of their own to read again and again and again and again and….

 

King For A Day by Rukhsana Khan illustrated by Christiane Krome

Standard

King-for-a-Day1.jpg

Its time for Basant, the Lahore, Pakistan kite flying festival, and Malik and his siblings are ready.  Ready to launch Falcon into the sky, ready to set other kites free, and ready to put the bully next door in his place.  While some kids have huge kites, and some have many, Malik has just Falcon, a speedy little kite that Malik prays can get the job done.

King for a day inside

Once again Rukhsana Khan does a remarkable job of taking a universal theme, adding some culture, and finding artists to empower minorities without making it an issue, all in a 32 page children’s book.  Written on an AR level of third grade ninth month, readers see characters handling a bully by beating him “on the court” so to speak, a character having confidence in his abilities, yet still asking Allah swt for help, and a boy in a wheel chair celebrating a fun spring time festival with his family.

king 1

The illustrations are rich with texture and angles, which contrasts the font and text presentation.  Little kids probably won’t be tempted to pick this book up, but as a read-a-loud first and second graders will enjoy the story and the kite flying action.  Third and fourth graders will enjoy reading the book independently, and find themselves cheering for Malik, appreciating his kindness, and wanting to pick up a kite and head out themselves.  The author includes a note at the back which provides more information about Basant and how it is celebrated.  Although it takes place in Pakistan and is a festival not celebrated in America, there isn’t a “foreign” feeling to the book, as kids can relate to bullies, wanting to be the best and the satisfaction of succeeding and feeling like a “king for a day.”

king2

Silly Chicken by Rukhsana Khan illustrated by Yunmee Kyong

Standard

silly chicken

Silly Chicken is a story about sibling rivalry, except there isn’t a sibling, there is a chicken.  Rani feels that her mom, Ami, loves a chicken, Bibi, more than she loves her.  Rani is jealous of the attention Bibi receives and finds the chicken in general, silly.  One day when Rani and Ami leave their home by tonga to visit her father’s grave, a dog gets in and when they return, Bibi is no more.  Ami is devastated and Rani is sure she closed the gate.  It isn’t until Bibi’s egg hatches by surprise, that the story comes full circle and Rani responds to Ami’s chiding that she loves the baby chick more than her mother, that the reader and Rani realize how silly that would be.

I really liked this 32-page, brightly and playfully illustrated book.  It is written on a AR 2.3 level and is fun out loud or at bed time.  The story takes place in Pakistan and a lot of reviews online remark that it is a good book about Pakistan or for showing Pakistani culture, critiques that I both agree and disagree with.  Every kid, everywhere, through out time, can probably relate to being jealous of something or someone occupying their mother’s attention.  The concept of a pet and loving it and being sad and feeling guilty, are all universal themes.  That being said, both the author and illustrator do a remarkable job of breaking stereotypes without drawing attention to them.  Ami and Rani are relatable and are clearly Pakistani, subtly removing an us and them stance.   Rani’s dad has passed away, but Ami and Rani seem to be doing well.  Ami seems very self-sufficient in daily activities and brave when they think a burglar may be present.  The two chat with neighbors and travel independently breaking down the erroneous stereotype that women cannot go out or be recognized without a male.  The mother wears hijab and traditional Pakistani clothes while Rani being young obviously does not cover.  Their clothes are bright and colorful and their expressions relatable and inviting.  The way that Bibi’s death is handled is age appropriate and a child could possibly think she simply was run off rather than killed, either interpretation would allow the reader empathy for Ami and be a great topic to explore with a child.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

Nadia’s Hands by Karen English illustrated by Jonathon Weiner

Standard

nadia's hands.jpegNadia’s aunt is getting married and she gets to be the flower girl in the Pakistani-American wedding.  She also will get mehndi put on her hands for the big event.  Her cousins warn her that she might mess up and even in the midst of her excitement she begins to worry what the kids at school will say when they see her hands on Monday.  As her aunt prepares the mehndi and the application process begins, various uncles peek in on her and her aunt gifts her a beautiful ring.  The mehndi has to sit on the skin for a while to set and as Nadia practices sabr, patience, I couldn’t help but think something seemed off in the story.  I’ve been at, in, and around a lot of Pakistani and Pakistani-American weddings, and this story didn’t seem to reflect the tone of such occasions.  The book doesn’t reflect the hustle and bustle and near chaos, it doesn’t sound like the tinkle of jewelry and laughter as the women sit around chatting and getting mehndi put on together, the pots on the stove are referenced but not described so that the reader can smell the sauces thickening and hear the pans crashing and taste the deep rich flavors.  It is lonely.  Nadia is lonely and filled with anxiety about Monday.  Durring the wedding she is walking down the aisle and suddenly freezes when she looks down and doesn’t recognize her hands.  Her cousins seem to show unsupportive “I-told-you-so” expressions as she searches for some comforting encouragement to continue on.  When she finishes her flower girl duties, her grandma asks if she understands why looking at her hands makes her feel like she is “looking at my past and future at the same time.” Nadia doesn’t understand and the author doesn’t explain.  At the end she is ready to embrace that her hands are in fact hers and that she will show her friends on Monday.  But the reader has no idea how it goes, or what exactly the significance of her painted hands are.  The book fails to give any insight or excitement for a culture bursting with tradition at a time of marriage.

 nadia's hands inside

There is a glossary at the beginning for the few Urdu words sprinkled in the book.  There is no further explanation however, of  mehndi, or weddings, of the brides clothes etc.  The illustrations are adequate, but because the text doesn’t offer much warmth or vibrance, they seem a little drab, and raise more questions about what some of the traditional items depicted are.  The book is a standard 32 page picture book and is written on an AR 3.8 level, which I think is a little high.  Granted my children are familiar with mehndi, but my first grader read it to me with little assistance.  There isn’t any mention of Islam and could probably be argued that the story reflects any wedding from the subcontinent background performed in the west.  The bride has a duputta on her head in the picture, but that is neither here nor there, and no one in the audience appears religiously covered.  I would assume they are Muslim because of the minor characters’ names: Omar, Saleha, Amina, Abdul Raheem.  Also, the word Sabr, an Arabic word, suggests that they are Muslim.  Plus they eat kabobs which the glossary defines as mincemeat, so probably not Hindu.  Overall the book is not, “bad” or “wrong,” I just wish there were more to it.

 

Elephant in the Dark: Based on a poem by Rumi retold by Mina Javaherbin illustrated by Eugene Yelchin

Standard

Elephant in the Dark

Rumi’s poem The Blind Men and the Elephant has been retold and transformed over time to emphasize many lessons: getting the whole story, defining truth, not being nosey, understanding points of view amongst others.  The basic story is that each person touches a part of the elephant in the dark and cannot fathom each other’s perspectives or what an elephant is, thus they take to bickering and proving that they and they alone are right.Elephant in the Dark inside

A big fan of the Karen Beckstein early reader version, that involves 6 blind men and is presented on a 2.6 level I was skeptical of this 32 page AR level 3.0 version.  The bright pictures and large picture format quickly won me over.  This book works so well for story time as the kids all know what an elephant looks like, they can all understand how the people are getting confused and all can see how their arguing isn’t helping.  All without much adult prompting.  The kids get so annoyed by the villagers not respecting Ahmad’s personal property and not listening to one another that when the illustrator has the children being the smart ones and enjoying the elephant at the end, the reader/listeners are giggling and feel like they are “in” on the truth.

elephant in the dark end

one translated version:

Some Hindus have an elephant to show.
No one here has ever seen an elephant.
They bring it at night to a dark room.
One by one, we go in the dark and come out
saying how we experience the animal.
One of us happens to touch the trunk.
A water-pipe kind of creature.
Another, the ear. A very strong, always moving
back and forth, fan-animal. Another, the leg.
I find it still, like a column on a temple.
Another touches the curved back.
A leathery throne. Another the cleverest,
feels the tusk. A rounded sword made of porcelain.
He is proud of his description.
Each of us touches one place
and understands the whole that way.
The palm and the fingers feeling in the dark
are how the senses explore the reality of the elephant.
If each of us held a candle there,
and if we went in together, we could see it.

Ruler of the Courtyard by Rukhsana Khan illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Standard

RulerOfTheCourtyard

Set in Pakistan, Saba has to cross the courtyard to get to the bathhouse.  Fearful of the chickens that seem to have it in for her, she braves the distance in a dashing sprint and slams the door to relish in the safety of a chicken free patch of space.  However, today as she searches for courage to face the chickens after her shower she spots a snake near the door.  She is afraid, and wants to scream for her grandma, her Nani, but worries that the snake will bite anyone that comes through the door.  Realizing she must face this fear and solve the problem on her own, not only empowers her, but puts the chickens in to perspective.

This 32 page picture book written on an AR 2.6 level is a good book when discussing overcoming fear.  It reads aloud well, as the short sentences from Saba’s perspective convey her trembling fear, her determined resolve, and her elation and freedom after she faces the snake.  The illustrations on first glance, and even after the first reading seemed off.  They didn’t seem to compliment the story smoothly, however, after revisiting this book, I think I have grown to appreciate the exaggerated features of the girls face, and the simplistic blurred images of her surroundings.  I think it shows her focus and skewed view when faced with such a fear.

The Author’s website & teaching guide

Ilyas & Duck and the Fantastic Festival of Eid-al-Fitr by Omar S. Khawaja illustrated by Leo Antolini

Standard

Ilyas & Duck and the Fantastic Festival of Eid-al-Fitr

 

In the world of Islamic fiction, there are a lot of Eid books out there for children, but this one is definitely more fun than most, especially for the younger crowd.  The presentation of a big, bright, hardback book is aimed at 3 to 6 year olds, and reads well out loud, however, the book is very, very inviting, and older kids with happily pick it up and thumb through the 32 pages of rhyming lines as well.

The book starts with Ilyas watching the sky to see if Ramadan is over and if Eid is here.  Duck in all his silliness doesn’t know what Eid is and rushes out to get decorations to celebrate.  he returns with a Christmas tree and ornaments.  Ilyas non judgmentally explains that those are for our Chrisitian neighbors for their holiday.  Duck then runs out again and returns with a menorah and dreidel and once again Ilyas explains that those are for our Jewish friends celebrating Hanukkah.  Ilyas and Duck then fly away in their hot air balloon to the Masjid to learn about Eid.

Ilyas and Duck2Ilayas and duck

The book works for Muslim children to understand what others celebrate and works for non Muslims to see what we celebrate.  It is all done in a matter of fact way of celebration, not of doctrine.  It is built on the idea that, “There is an Eid for every nation ant his is our Eid.”ilyas and duck eid

Much like the first Ilyas and Duck book, this one is great to have around and read again and again!

Calabash Cat and His Amazing Journey by James Rumford

Standard

calabsh cat

We stumbled on this book at the library and got excited when we saw that it is written in both English and Arabic.  It isn’t a book that has been translated, the author wrote it in both the Arabic dialect of Chad and English.  The Arabic script compliments the artistic style of designs burned on a calabash gourd. The simplistic contrasting color illustrations, force the reader/ listener to give life to the folktale style story.  I debated on whether to review it here on the blog being as it is not Islamic (or unIslamic) in any way, but opted to do so, because it would probably excite other children to see the Arabic just as it did mine.

calabsh cat 2A calabash cat in the middle of Africa wants to see where the world ends. When the road stops at the edge of the great desert he thinks it stops there. But a Camel corrects him and offers him a ride on his back to show him where the world ends.  When they get across the desert, the camel puts him down on the edge of the grassland and tells him this is where the world ends.  A horse corrects him, that in fact this is not where the world ends and offers to show him where it does.  He climbs up on the horse and the gallop through the grassland.  This continues through the jungle on a tiger, the ocean on a whale, then on the back of an eagle all the way home. Written on a 3.3 level, there are 32 pages with a author’s note about where the idea for the story came from.  The book works well for story time and  the repetition makes it good for bedtime too.

 calabsh whalecalabash