Tag Archives: 2nd through 4th grade

Nanni’s Hijab by Khadijah Abdul-Haqq illustrated by Vitchapol Taerattanachai

Nanni’s Hijab by Khadijah Abdul-Haqq illustrated by Vitchapol Taerattanachai

Nanni's Hijab

MashaAllah, there are so many things to like about this 36 page, brightly illustrated, elementary aged story.  Nanni, the main character, is spunky.  Not only is she strong enough to wear hijab to school, but she also is brave enough to confidently handle a bully on her own.  Surrounded by a supportive teacher, friends, classmates, and her mom, Nanni’s creativity and understanding that Allah swt will help her find a way to handle her predicament results in a happy ending, and many empowering messages.


The book would work for most children, but I think second grade and up would get the most out of it.  The girl might be young to be wearing hijab, but it seems like she wears it because she wants too.  I like that the illustrations have her and her mom uncovered at home, and that there is a glossary at the back, opening up the book to muslim and non muslim kids alike.


I also really like the larger messages of acceptance, trying new things, and doing better when you know better.  The supporting cast in the book resonates with muslims who go to schools where they are the minority, but have support and encouragement to practice their faith none-the-less.  Nanni’s teacher remarks that her “hijabs are as regal as a princess’s crown,” and the other students like seeing what color or design she is wearing each day.  Although a children’s book, the author does very clearly explain that the hijab is part of Nanni’s faith, although not mentioned by name, and that it is an act of worship. Nanni wants to handle the problem on her own, and for as bad as she wants to punch Leslie, she knows it isn’t the right thing to do.  As she wrestles with what is the best approach, she puts her trust in Allah, swt, which perhaps is the greatest lesson for us all in the book, alhumdulillah.

Umar and the Bully by Shabana Mir illustrated by Asiya Clarke


Umar and the Bully.jpg

With it being October and Bullying Prevention Month, I thought to review a book that has been on my bookshelf for a long, long time.  It won the Islamic Foundation Story Writing Competition in 1996 and is just as relevant today.  At 44 pages, the story, the layout, and writing style appeal to children on a second or third grade level.


Umar stumbles across some older kids plotting something covertly in the school yard and some money being exchanged.  He then encounters a younger student upset.  Being a kind person, Umar gets Asad to confide in him what the bullies, Harith and David, are up to, and vows to keep Asad safe.  While all that seems simple enough, the true battle begins within Umar,  as he has to figure out what is he going to do, and how is he going to stop the bullying.


I love the length and the target audience.  My six-year-old son summed it up perfectly when he finished.  “Woah, that was a good book, I didn’t expect it would give me so much to think about.”  The author follows the bullying strategy of telling an adult, or a teacher, but gives some depth when that teacher doesn’t care or take the time to help.  It also shows a variety of people that you can go to for help and characteristics you should look for when deciding who a good person to talk to would be.  Umar decides to talk to a good friend of his about what is happening to Asad and devise a plan to help.  Mohammad is kind and trustworthy.  He also gets some advice and encouragement to be brave from Mohammad’s older sister and brother.  All this is done within an Islamic context of asking Allah swt for help, of finding inspiration from stories of his namesake Syedina Umar Al-Farooq. It also, as we get in Umar’s head, reveals how he himself is scared of facing the bully.  This is great because it shows that it can be scary to confront someone even if you are not the victim.  Umar feels he shouldn’t be scared because he is a Muslim, which I really don’t understand, but he turns to Allah swt asking for bravery to do what is right and to be strong.  And beautifully, after it undoubtedly raps up in a happily ever after children’s story way, he does remember to thank Allah (swt) for being there for him and gives credit to Allah for giving him strength.  The book shows the responsibility we have to do what is right even if it isn’t being done directly to us.  It also shows one or two children can make a difference.  I really like that the point of view is from Umar, not the one doing the bullying or receiving it.  Allowing the reader to see how empathetic he is to another person is a wonderful lesson in and of itself.

The book also has mostly Muslim characters, but a few names sprinkled through out as victims and perpetrators could suggest non muslims as well. This is great in showing that bullies are everywhere and that perhaps being in an Islamic school or in a majority Muslim school does not mean bullying doesn’t exist.  Similarly it is good to see that bullying isn’t just non Muslims disliking Muslims, as often time books about bullying for Muslims would suggest.  I think the book could be for Muslims and non Muslims alike, but with the religious reliance, it is geared more for Muslim readers.


The book is clean, it mentions that the bullies are violent, and possibly smoking.  The children being bullied obviously are lying but it is clear that it is done out of fear, not because they are deceitful by nature.


There aren’t any reading guides or activities to accompany the book that I could find online, but I think the natural discussion that would follow make it a great option to read as a book club book, or in small groups.  There are a lot of very easy places to ask children what they would do, if Umar made a good decision, and how they would feel as the story unfolds.




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



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.


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.


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….


The Best Eid Ever by Asma Mobin-Uddin Illustrated by Laura Jacobsen


best eid ever

For some this book may have a lot going on it’s 32 pages: Eid ul Adha, parents at Hajj, refugees, charity, Pakistani culture, but if you are reading this book to Muslim children (or they are reading it independently, it has an AR level of 3.8) i think it is delightful.

Aneesa wakes up on Eid morning missing her parents who are in Saudi Arabia performing Hajj. Her grandma, Nonni, surprises her with three new outfits complete with bangles and shoes for each of the days of Eid and is preparing her favorite dinner, lamb korma, for them to eat after Eid prayers.  At Eid prayers Aneesa meets some refugee girls and wants to do something to make their Eid a little brighter.  Nonni and Aneesa come up with a plan and the result is “the best Eid ever!”

I love that it has morals and plot and sparks dialogue.  The message is so simple yet beautiful, that it stays with the reader, adult and child alike.  The illustrations are beautiful and warm providing a nice balance to the long passages.  There is an author’s note and Glossary in the back, but I think this book is really intended for a Muslim audience familiar with Hajj, Eid, and Paksitani culture.  It wouldn’t be lost on someone new to the vocabulary and customs, but definitely wouldn’t be as magical or memorable.

My 3rd grader loved the book and we were able to talk about it and reflect upon it long after the initial reading.  My younger boys enjoyed it, but didn’t get as much out of it.  I think this book works better in smaller groups rather than story time, or simply to have on the shelf to sweep the reader up and allow them to draw their own conclusions on what it means to do something for someone else.

Deep in the Sahara By Kelly Cunnane Illustrated by Hoda Hadadi



SubhanAllah, how absolutely wonderful to walk into your public library and find such a treasure of a book.  So simple and beautiful in appearance, in its poetic text, and in its message.  Set in Mauritania, West Africa and sprinkled with Hassaniya (an Arabic dialect), young Lalla wants to wear a malafa, a beautiful, colorful cloth that some Muslim women in Mauritania wear to cover their clothing and heads when they go out in public.  She wants to wear it to be beautiful like her mother, mysterious like her older sister, a fine lady like her cousin, and a long-ago queen like her grandmother but it isn’t until she understands what the malafa means and why the women wear it does she receive a beautiful blue one from her mother.

The illustrations and descriptions take you to a far a way land, with eager anticipation at what you will see, hear and experience.  Culture is shared, tidbits about Islam’s traditions are shared and a wonderfully simple, yet thought provoking story is conveyed.  With an AR reading level of 3.7 this book would be wonderful for story time listeners as well as independent readers.  Also because it is probably not a culture most are familiar with I think students up to 5th grade would enjoy the book and close the last of the 40 pages with a smile on their face and a light happy heart.  Alhumdulillah

A Party in Ramadan By Asma Mobin-Uddin Illustrated by Laura Jacobsen



This is a great book that works on a variety of levels.  Leena is fasting the whole day for the first time, but is also invited to a friends party.  Her mom gives her the choice to fast or not as it is not yet mandatory at her age, and she decides to fast AND go to the party.  The story takes you through the activities of the party and how some parts are easy and some harder for the fasting Leena.  The end has a wonderful surprise for both Leena and the reader as the author gives us all reason to hope that respect among friends exists, and that in fact one can stay true to their beliefs and have support from their friends.

This book is  great conversation starter for older kids who maybe have tried to fast and felt the temptations of day-to-day life in a non -Islamic environment.  With an AR level of 4.2 and 34 pages the story is strong enough to hold a fourth graders attention and get them to analyze what they would do in a similar situation.  Although the book is about Ramadan and some facets about how fasting is done, what it means, and why Muslims do it, are sprinkled in, the story isn’t overly religious in nature.  The characters are simply Muslim, they pray, they thank Allah, they wear hijab, they make duaas and they also go to friend’s parties. I think non-Muslims would benefit from this book and see the beauty of diversity as Leena and her friends support one another.  The pictures also do a wonderful job of depicting the story: the characters are warm and happy, some cover some do not, they eat chocolate pudding and Baklava and the reader sees how a Muslim family is just like any other family.

The added beauty of this book is that it also works for story time. The younger ones may or may not understand the potential stress of being the only Muslim at a party, let alone being the only one fasting, but they do understand that Leena wanted to eat and drink and she remembered that when her little sister wanted her dessert.  They also understand how sometimes it is hard to do what is right, but inshaAllah the reward is sweet indeed.