Tag Archives: teaching

Be Sure to Pray, Zain! By Humera Malik illustrated by Gonmuki

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Be Sure to Pray, Zain! By Humera Malik illustrated by Gonmuki

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A very relatable 31 page early elementary chapter book about not only establishing salat, but doing it for the right reasons.  The book is not preachy or reprimanding, and even with a moral purpose, Zain manages to connect with readers and be funny and likable along the way.  Told from the view of the young narrator, realization is achieved, confessions made, understanding gained, and inshaAllah regular prayer established.  A great book to share with your own children when salat integrity is in question, and a great reminder of the power of salat that kids will enjoy reading even when it is not, alhumdulillah.

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SYNOPSIS:

Zain starts off by introducing himself as a kid who lives with his parents and is having an  awful week.  He rewinds and begins with recapping Monday.  Right away he acknowledges that Monday actually started out ok as he was having an awesome dream, but that sometimes when he is mad he only sees and remembers the bad things.  Because of his awesome dream he didn’t want wake up and pray Fajr, but his parents reminded him that when you pray you can ask anything you want from God and that praying protects us from bad decisions.  He drags himself up to pray and asks God to help him on his spelling test.  Later that day he took his test, said Bismillah, and aced it.  So he concludes that maybe Monday wasn’t so bad, and Tuesday wasn’t either.

On Tuesday, Zain sticks up for his neighbor Joey who is being picked on by some older bullies.  Later that night Joey’s parents come over to thank him and take him out for ice cream in appreciation.  Wednesday, starts out great at school, and after school he gets to bake blueberry muffins with his mom.  When the muffins are done he was suppose to pray Asr and then take the muffins to his friend Ali’s house.  His mom reminds him to take the safe way and not cross the busy street.  But, Zain forgot to pray Asr and sees no cars coming and chooses to take the short cut across the road.  When he gets to Ali’s house his backpack is open and the muffins are missing.

The rest of the week continues with highs and lows.  Many of the lows coming when he doesn’t pray.  At one point a friend comes to tell him to come to the park to play soccer, and he knows his mom is going to ask him to wait a so they can pray together, so he pretends not to hear and rushes out the door.  Another day he chooses to not miss the end of a show he is watching to pray and heads off to tutoring without praying at all.

When the book rejoins Zain in the present he is feeling bad about kicking a friend playing soccer, cheating on a math test, and not getting to taste his muffins.  He unloads everything that has happened over the week, and his parents calmly and patiently ask him if he has been praying.  When Zain realizes he has been neglectful his mom likens prayer to bricks in a wall that help keep bad things out.  His parents tell him that when we miss our prayers, we end up with holes in our wall and bad ideas can sneak in.  Resolved to stay strong, Zain wakes up the next morning to pray Fajr and have a good day, inshaAllah.

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WHY I LIKE IT:

I love that it stays with a young kids perspective and doesn’t get weighed down with hadith and ayats and lectures.  The parents let him learn from his mistakes and he comes to his own realization, not through their reprimanding or catching him in his deceitfulness.  The book is a great way to remind kids that it is their responsibility to pray and that Allah swt knows everything, so that connection has to be made between the person and their creator, it isn’t something you do only when someone is watching or telling you to do it.  I do wish that when he did resolve to pray that there would have been a bit of an outpouring to Allah.  I love that he had tears in his eyes when he told his parents everything, but I think it would have been really powerful to see Zain ask Allah to forgive him and to help him keep his wall strong.

The book reads smoothly, and the illustrations are well done and inviting.  Early chapter book readers will enjoy the font and format and knowing where the story is going with the days of the week chapters.  On one occasion I wish the word “wudu” would have been used instead of ablution, and I’m not sure what Zain has against carrots, but nothing too major will keep kids from enjoying the story and understanding it.

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TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

This book is for children learning to pray and realizing how important salat is.  So while it won’t work for a book club, I really hope teachers in Islamic Schools and Sunday Schools will read the book aloud or assign it to their students.  It is a great teaching tool, a great reminder, and a fun story too.

 

My First Muslim Potty Book by Yousfa Janjua illustrated by Golnar Servatian

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My First Muslim Potty Book by Yousfa Janjua illustrated by Golnar Servatian

07041C66-B149-48A8-9CC7-B2752984EE68I’m not sure why this book is just coming out now and why I never realized how important it is.  It sounds silly, but we as Muslims are very precise about our bathroom habits and cleanliness and the fact that this is the first book to address it for children is actually, kind of surprising.  But Alhumdulillah, you only need one if it is done well, and over 16 pages of cute illustrated rhyme filled pages, istinja is explained and normalized.  The book is a great tool to use, not only, when potty training toddlers, but also for reviewing with your preschooler when they might be leaving home for the first time and/or seeing other people’s bathroom habits.

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The book starts out with a thorough “Note to Parents” explaining istinja, tahara as well as giving parents some tips to handle potty training in general.  The book starts by noting how you started out as a baby and are now growing and part of the growth has you ready for big kid underwear.

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It talks about what it feels like when you need to go, and how when that feeling happens, you need to hurry to the bathroom.  If you hurry and still have an accident, we (the parents) will clean it up and not to worry.

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The book teaches that you enter with your left foot, and ask for help if you need it.  That you sit down to do your business because poop and pee are najis, impure. You then have to do istinja, which is like a germ fighting ninja!

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It teaches the toddler to call for mom or dad to wash them with the lota or bidet or pot using their right hand to pour and their left to wash.  You then use toilet paper to dry.  After you flush, you wash your hands for 20 seconds, leave with your right foot and be done.

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The book then has a glossary, some ayats of Quran and some Hadith as well as Duas relating to the bathroom.  The 8×8 hardback book is done really well and conveys the key points on a kid’s level, which is great.

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I love that the book uses Islamic Arabic words and shows a diverse family being patient and encouraging.  I am fine with the child illustrated as reading a book while on the toilet, but I think some parents might frown on that.  The book is meant for Muslim kids, and does a good job of showing the practicing family in the illustrations and in the text.

Thank you to Crescentmoonstore.com for their great price and service!

 

Teach Us Your Name by Huda Essa illustrated by Diana Cojocaru

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Teach Us Your Name by Huda Essa illustrated by Diana Cojocaru

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This book will resonate and empower anyone who has a “different” name, and hopefully provide insight and awareness for us all.  This 32 page picture book for grades 1st and up has a self empowering message, a confidence building approach, and problem solving tips to achieve a desired goal in a respectful way.  Written by a Muslim author, the book’s text is well done, unfortunately the pictures are inconsistent to me, some are beautiful and detailed, others seem rushed and unfinished.

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There are 20 letters in Kareemalayaseenadeen’s name, and the first day of school is such a stress for her.  She fears the teacher stumbling over her name, the other children laughing, and her unable to tell them how to pronounce her name correctly.  Her mom tries to explain that for some people the kids at school have hard names, and that for some people her name is easy.

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She reflects that in fact no one has ever made fun of her for her name, but that in history class she never sees her name, or on TV or in movies or on key chains.  She can hardly fit her name on her worksheets, and fitting it on banners is impossible too.  Eventually the kids kust call her Karma-Deen and even though she dislikes it, she is too shy to speak up.

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Over the summer, Kareemalayaseenadeen goes on vacation to visit family.  She doesn’t even think much about her name where everyone can pronounce it and say it with ease. Her Sittee though, has heard about her anxiety and sits with her to help her work through it.

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Sittee asks Kareemalayaseenadeen if she knows that her name means “excellent guidance” and that her name is a big part of her.  If she doesn’t like her name she isn’t liking an important part of herself.  She then urges her grandaughter to guide others on the proper way to pronounce her name.

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On the flight home, she ponders her grandma’s words and how to guide others to proper pronouncation, without being rude or settling on them shortening her name.  When she gets home she puts her plan in to action. And it works!

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When Kareemalayaseenadeen grows up, she becomes a teacher and each year she reads this book she has written (the one I’m reviewing) and asks her students to teach her how to say their names.

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The importance of how valuing someones name values the person and their family and culture is really one that as a society we have to keep working on.  We can say  names from Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars and Game of Thrones with no problem, so why can’t we try and pronounce someone’s name who is real and next to us and important to us? We have become lazy, and we need to do better, this book is sweet and kind and should really be read regularly as a reminder to us all, that names are beautiful.

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There is nothing religious about the book or even culture specific. There is a hijabi in the illustration of the market place in the unspecified “overseas country” and the name Kareemalayaseenadeen has Arabic bits, but a lot of names do as well, grandma is refereed to as Sitti, but isn’t defined, so the book is definitely meant for eveyone, especially those who will never find their name on a mug at a gift shop!

 

 

Allah Gave Me Two Eyes to See. . . by Fatia M. D’Oyen illustrated by Stevan Stratford

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Allah Gave Me Two Eyes to See. . . by Fatia M. D’Oyen illustrated by Stevan Stratford

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This series (Allah Gave me Two Hands and Feet, Allah Gave Me a Nose to Smell, Allah Gave Me a Tongue to Taste, Allah Gave Me Two Ears to Hear) has been around for over 15 years and is a staple in most Islamic School libraries, and Islamic preschool classes.  They aren’t really fiction in that there is a story, but they are rhyming verses thanking Allah for our five senses in a hard 8 x 8 bound, 32 page, 3-5 year old age appropriate book.

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Allah Gave Me Two Eyes to See, starts with eyes, but covers all five senses equally.  The book uses rhyming lines to give examples of what we can explore through our senses to understand Allah’s gifts.

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After the senses, the book tells us about Allah giving us a mind to think, and a heart to love, and how we should thank him for all we have been given.  The pictures aren’t great, but they aren’t off-putting.  It gives kids the chance to connect words to pictures in a very literal sense as it shows exactly what is being mentioned in the text.

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While I questioned to review this book or not, I thought I should because it is such a staple in preschool through kindergarten classes when discussing the body parts, gratitude and the five senses.  So many other books discuss the blessings all around us, but might require a little more discussion for this age group to understand how we know Allah through our senses and through our experiences.  

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I used this book when I used to teach Sunday school, I saw my mom a preschool teacher for years and years use this book when introducing the senses, and when I was asked recently to read books about body parts, I reached for the series to see if they were still relevant and sure enough they are, Alhumdulillah.

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The Clever Boy and the Terrible, Dangerous Animal by Idries Shah illustrated by Rose Mary Santiago

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The Clever Boy and the Terrible, Dangerous Animal by Idries Shah illustrated by Rose Mary Santiago

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This book makes me forgive the author for his other books that left me puzzled as to his popularity.  This is wonderful, timeless and so simplistic, yet full of wisdom, lessons, and reflection that I’m thinking of gifting it to many of my teacher friends.  In its 32 pages written on an AR third grade, 2nd month level, the simple and powerful lesson of how ridiculous it can be to be afraid of what you don’t know is driven home.

And just think. It all happened because a clever boy was not afraid when a lot of silly people thought something was dangerous just because they had never seen it before.

A boy goes to a neighboring village and finds the villagers afraid of, wait for it, a watermelon.  The boy laughs and laughs, and pulls out a knife to cut it and enjoy its sweet juices.  The villagers then fear the boy, until experience and knowledge about what it is and how to grow it, change everyone’s opinion and the village renames itself Watermelon Village. Oh, the power of knowledge.

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I can see this book being so great to introduce kids to how a little knowledge, asking questions, trying something can do everything from finding something you like, to breaking down stereotypes, to shifting your paradigm.  I feel like Islamaphobia, among so many other things, could be done away with by and large if people would just get to know us!

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The villagers depicted wear kufis and hijabs and kurtas, and the author writes to share his stories from his oral Sufi tradition, but there isn’t anything overtly Islamic in the text.  The kids as young as preschool will enjoy this at storytime.  They will find being afraid of a watermelon preposterous and silly, making the point that much stronger.

I like that the cover doesn’t given much away, and most children will take the title at its word and think that it is an animal.  Getting student’s ideas of what the terrible animal will be adds to the creative thinking and discussing after as well.  The pictures are wonderful and endearing and many editions come in two language formats.

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