This book is perfect for early readers that are more fluent than picture books, but not quite ready for a full on chapter book. With five chapters, pictures on every one of its 73 pages, this book is a joy to read both on your own or out loud to a group. It is fun for Muslim children and non Muslim kids, and a great addition to bedtime or story time at Ramadan, or any other time of the year for that matter.
Samia and her Yaba live in Lifta, Palestine and her dad’s job in the month of Ramadan is is to wake the whole village up as the dawn waker-upper. Samia loves his important job, and hopes one day to do it too, but her dad says a girl has never done it before. Samia doesn’t understand why, girls can shout and bang drums as well as anyone else.
The day before the start of Ramadan, Yaba is not feeling well and doesn’t know what he will do. Samia sees her chance and says she can do it. Her drum is loud, her lantern is bright, and her dog, Barkie, will keep the wild wolves away.
As she sets out in the dark, she sees orange scary eyes in the woods and sings a song to herself to keep her brave as Barkie defends her. When she gets to the first house, they are surprised to see her, but the children of the home rush out to join her with their own drums. When the three children and Barkie get to the next house, their friend Omar wants to join in with his tambourine. This continues as the village children join together with whatever instruments, even pots and pans, they have to make sure everyone gets up in time for suhoor. For five is louder than four, all the way up to nine being the loudest of all.
The children all sing and the villagers reward them with candy and treats. On the way back home the wolves stay away and when they reach home Samia’s dad is feeling better and can’t wait to hear of her adventure.
WHY I LIKE IT:
The book is based in truth which is detailed at the end of the story on three pages that tell about Lifta, and how after a war the people were not able to return. It also tells about Ramadan as the story text itselft mentions it very little. Yes, it takes place in Ramadan, and the people need to be woken up to eat before the day starts to fast, but the afterword gives a bit more about the holiday and Eid that follows.
I love that the book is about a girl doing something because she can, I was afraid it was going to be like Hiba Masood’s Drummer Girl, but it takes a different turn in showing Samia having to be brave, showing team work and cooperation in getting the job done, and the village not even really caring who wakes them up, her being a girl doing a “man’s job” is never even mentioned again.
The book is fun with the sound effects and inclusion of everyone and the illustrations are incredibly well done.
The book is clean, the “scary part” is quick and while it adds a little tension, not enough to scare even sensitive little ones. The dog stands his ground and becomes the Dog King of the Village.
TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:
I’m trying to see if I can do this as an online story time during Ramadan amid Covid 19. It is a super quick read, and is a lot of fun, but the small (8×5) size might make the pictures hard to see. I think all kg through 2nd grade classes should have this story. It explains a cultural celebration of Ramadan in a universal way that will make Muslims feel proud and non Muslims excited to learn about something new.