Before she was Grandma Najma, she was just Najma. A girl in Turkey with a secret dream of being a musaharati, the person who walks the streets waking up the neighbors for suhoor in Ramadan. But, a girl had never done this and thus the dream stayed hidden until she was 12 and the neighborhood musaharati was feeling ill. Confiding in her baba, his love and support makes her dream come true against cultural norms and naysayers. The line from her Baba, “Girls can be anything they like,” is so clear that her one girl revolution grabs the hearts of the reader and turns readers into cheerleaders. The added beauty is her father’s support is not limited to his words, he accompanies her out every night almost challenging anyone to say she can’t do it. Overtime she becomes the pride of the area, and her brothers accompany her if she doesn’t want to go alone, and then eventually her husband and her children.
The book warms the soul and uplifts the spirit. The text seems geared to 7 year olds and up, as there is a lot of it, and at 26 pages does require some ability to focus. But with minor tweaks and condenscing the story appeals to children 4 and up and the pictures help hold their attention as they create a mood of wonder and whimsy.
Structurally the book is hardback and dust jacket free, yay! the cover is printed on and thus easier to maintain. The book is longer horizontally with most illustrations on the left side making it great for story time where the kids can see the pictures and the reader can hold and easily see the text without blocking the children’s line of sight. There is a glossary, an author’s note telling where the story comes from, and a little biography of the author and illustrator and publisher in the back.
A beautiful, beautiful book to share with children this Ramadan and all year long, alhumdulillah.
I love learning about people’s Ramadan traditions, and am slightly embarrassed to admit that I never knew about this Gulf tradition of Girgian. My kids and I enjoyed reading this book during the middle of Ramadan, when the moon is full and bright, and thus known as the white nights of Ramadan. Written on an AR 3.6 level the story does a good job of blending the concepts of Ramadan, Girgian, Islam in a 32 page fiction story format for Muslim and non-Muslim children alike. There is an Author’s note and Glossary in the back as well.
A young girl, Noor, excitedly waits and prepares for Girgian. She explains the activites to her two younger brothers, Sam and Dan, how they will walk the streets with lanterns (fanouses) and get treats from neighbors for three nights. But before night falls, they first have a lot to do to prepare, and with the help of their parents and grandparents, the children make and wrap the candy, decorate bags to keep the candy in, and get dressed in fancy traditional clothes. In the process the book also explains Ramadan, and shows Noor praying and reading Quran. Arabic and islamic words are tossed in and well explained: iftar, fanous, suhoor, dishdashas, musaher, etc.. Noor in all the excitement shares a tender moment with her grandma where they discuss how fun Ramadan is, but that the “true meaning of Ramadan is spending time with family and sharing with those less fortunate.” A religious scholar may add more to what Ramadan is, but for a children’s book, the message is beautiful and perfect. The story concludes with Noor and her grandfather taking a basket of food to the mosque to give to the poor.
The book has a slow melancholy type feel to it and the pictures definitely help set that tone. They are detailed and well done, but maybe not overly inviting to younger readers.
The book made me want to learn more about the tradition, and talk to people that may have celebrated it to see how it has evolved over time. My kids liked the idea of having a musaher, a drummer walking the streets waking people up for suhoor. As a mom of four, I can see why something fun in the middle of the month, especially when the days are so long, is a great way to re-energize the children about the fun and blessings of Ramadan.