It is always a cause of giddiness to find a good book, but to have one recommended by a mutual friend of the author, makes it all the better. Bismillah Soup is a spin-off of the Stone Soup folktale, but without the “trickery” of the classic. Hasan, wants to surprise his mom with a feast, but money is tight and when Hasan is sent to ask the local Imam for some rice, a plan: Bismillah Soup, forms that brings the entire community together. The story takes place in Somalia and the cultural words that are peppered in to the story add detail and talking points to have with the kids. As each community member shares something small, the enormous feast that is created is a wonderful example of what can be achieved when we each give our best to help others. The book is 40 pages with a glossary at the back and is definitely one that can be read over and over to kids of all ages. Even the littlest ones are able to grasp the beauty of coming together through the colorful and playful pictures.
The real treat of the book however, is how it all comes together: the words, pictures, sentence structure, font, size, and diction all compliment each other on the same level. I read a lot of books aloud as a children’s librarian, and while the rhyming ones are great for the littlest listeners, there is often a void of read-out-loud stories for the kindergarten and first grade levels. And I am talking about all books, not just Islamic ones. Most picture books in my experience are written on a third grade level, with longer blocks of texts, smaller fonts, a wider range of vocabulary and longer sentences. These books are often beautiful and very tempting, however when I read them during story time I end up “summarizing” them, and telling the story rather than reading it. Similarly, early readers often find them frustrating and too difficult to read independently. Bismillah Soup strikes a wonderful balance, mashaAllah.
I read the story to my own children who enjoyed it and have found my first grader reading it independently twice this week. Each time beaming with excitement to tell me something new he has gained from the book. When I read it aloud to them, my kids marveled at how having a good intention and being so generous could benefit everyone. The first time my son read it independently he was in deep thought about how grateful Hasan was even though they didn’t have much food and how he was a determined problem solver. The second time I found him reading it, he was so very impressed at the kindness of Shaykh Omar. He really started to understand the subtle beauty of the character not just in helping Hasan’s family with food, but also supporting and working with the young boy to make the feast happen, alhumdulillah.
I highly recommend the book and I can’t wait to read it to my students at school next week, inshaAllah. For more about the book, the author, and her other work you can go to the author’s website http://www.ruqayasbookshelf.com