Tag Archives: 3rd Grade to 6th Grade

The Visitors by Linda Delgado (Book #1 of Islamic Rose Books)


Islamic Rose Books The Visitors

I first read this book in 2004 and it was pretty much my first introduction to what elementary aged/young adult Islamic fiction could and should be.  It set the standard and I think subconsciously I’ve held every other Islamic fiction book up to this series as a comparison.  I’ve taught it to 4th graders and 5th graders, I’ve purchased the series and left it for the students at every school I’ve ever been a part of, I’ve even exchanged emails with the author with students’ questions and been impressed by her responses.  So, after reading so many other books in putting this blog together, I thought it is finally time to revisit a book and series that is dear to my heart, and see if my memories are accurate.

Alhumdulillah, they are.

The book is a bit bumpy at first with the chattiness of the main character Rose, but either like real children, you grow accustomed to her and find her endearing, or the author pulls back as the story progresses and the book finds a more readable and engaging rhythm.  Either way, I still felt a pull to keep reading the book, and feel confident that those that read it, and the entire series (I haven’t read the latest book, “Reunion”) are better for it, alhumdulillah.


Nine-year-old Rose is excited that her grandparents, who live next door, are going to be hosting two Saudi Arabian Police Officers who are coming to America to learn English and train with the Arizona Police Department.  In anticipation of their arrival Rose and Grandma do what they can to learn about the food, culture and religion.  Rose’s dad however, is not comfortable with Abdul and Fahd being so close to his family, and for Rose to be so curious about Islam.  Rose works on PLAN after PLAN to try and help her dad and the officers connect, but will it be enough?


The book actually addresses some harsh realities of how Muslims are perceived, yet does so in a tender way.  When Rose wants to go to the Islamic Center and her father objects, or she talks about Muslims at school and her teachers get mad, it opens the discussion for why people may have negative views of Muslims, how to deal with such negativity and how to move past stereotypes.  The book also does a really good job of introducing Islam and Saudi culture to its readers in a fairly non preachy manner.  The inner workings of Rose’s family are also surprising raw and relatable.  Her Mom is not in the picture and Rose must deal with the stresses of a single parent home, luckily her grandparents are next door, but even then, there are stresses and issues that arise.  Rose also deals with a friend moving away, teasing at school, and disappointment.


None, just some of the stereotypes from Rose’s Dad that may introduce some negative views non Muslims have of Muslims, such as: Muslims as terrorists, Muslim’s being abusive and controlling to women, etc.


There are a few different versions of the book, mainly just cover changes depending on the publisher, but this version:

The Visitorshas appendixes in the back that include a glossary and recipes and facts about Islam as well as Arizona.  The newer version (as pictured at the top of the post) doesn’t include everything and refers those looking for more to see a website.  That website however and all other links to online study guides and reader guides are no longer available or now have different owners.  I’m not sure what happened to Linda Delgado, and if anyone knows how to contact her, I’m hoping you will let me know.

So as of now there are no links to suggest for teaching the book unfortunately.

The Great Race to Sycamore Street by J. Samia Mair


the great race to sycamore street

A fun book for elementary aged children looking for a fast paced, energetic read, with Islamic morals and lessons.  Overall a great book about character, being a good neighbor, and never giving up, The Great Race to Sycamore Street is not in the AR database, but I estimate it at about a 4.3 level and think even for higher readers there is plenty to learn about archery and peach trees, and plenty to enjoy as Amani and Hude take on bullies, grumpy neighbors, dogs, and making the most of a summer with their grandma in the country.  There are 180 pages followed by acknowledgements, references, and glossaries explaining archery terms, Islamic terms, and where the hadith and Quranic ayats come from, theoretically making the book accessible to Muslim and non Muslims alike.  I however, think the book would be a bit preachy to non Muslims or to those unfamiliar with Islam.


Siblings Amani and Hude arrive in Fairfax County, Maryland to spend the summer with their Grandma Hana in the quiet town of Cherry Hill, for what they think will be a slow laid back summer of reading, swimming in the lake, and preparing for the County Fair.  Grandma Hana has the undisputed best peach tree in the county and makes the best pies to enter in the pie competition at the fair, and this year Amani gets to help.  Hude is a budding archer and with his recently deceased grandfather’s journal and old archery regalia he is determined to compete and win the archery competition.  But their simple plans quickly meet twist after twist: from bullies on the train, to swarms of cicadas greeting them on arrival, to a new neighbor who discovers the beloved peach tree is actually on his property and he wants it gone, to the bullies on the train ruling over the lake and proving to be great archers themselves.  Can the  peach tree be saved? Can they be victorious at the fair? With lots of stories about Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) woven in, and ayats from the Quran used to emphasize points, not only is the book a quick action packed story, but it is also poignant, educational, and memorable as well.


I love that it is clean and requires the brother and sister duo to work together to do something that is bigger than themselves.  I also love the way that Islam is given practical uses for the children, it isn’t taught in the abstract they must pull on their understanding of their deen to decide what to do, how to act and what the next step should be.  I also like how the fast paced story is set in contrast to the slow thematic ideas of a peach tree, baking, archery, and a stereotypical summer with grandma.  Most readers I would assume don’t know that much about fruit trees and county fairs and archery, and I think the author does a good job of introducing the audience to these concepts and weaving Islam into it while keeping the story exciting and moving along.


Clean, alhumdulillah.


The plot is pretty linear, and a quick discussion of what every one liked and perhaps what surprised them would be a sufficient review of the story. From there I would probably go through the reference of hadith and ayats from the Quran to guide the discussion, you can get the online reference of that here:


scroll to the bottom and click on the link to download the text.

Night of the Moon By Hena Khan Illustrated by Julie Paschkis


night of the moon

Night of the Moon is a beautiful book both visually and content wise.  The pictures are bright and inviting and consume the entire page, keeping even the youngest of listeners engaged.  The book has an AR level of 4.1 and has 32 pages, making it work great for story time and well for independent readers too.

The book tells of seven-year-old Yasmeen, a Pakistani-American girl experiencing Ramadan. The story is moved along by the ever changing phases of the moon. While this book is adequately called a Muslim Holiday Story, it is very cultural.  The characters go to the mosque, but the focus of the story is not why we fast, the revelation of the Qur’an to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), or even manners.  The story focuses on going to iftar parties, having henna painted on your hands, presents, and the very Pakistani-tradition of celebrating chand-raat, the night of the moon.

I like that this book shows Yasmeen talking about Eid at school with classmates of other backgrounds, I even like that her grandma wears hijab and her mother does not.  I also like that they eat a variety of foods, from kebobs to cupcakes.  Thus far, so many of the Ramadan and Eid books I’ve read contain the same information in a fictionalized setting, this one is definitely different, instead of focusing on what Ramadan is, it shows how it is celebrated.  The book works well for Muslim and non Muslim children from all around the world.  If your audience lives in American and has ties to the Asian subcontinent they will see them selves in this book, and even if they don’t, they will probably want to join Yasmeen and her family is celebrating Ramadan and the Night of the Moon.

The Garden of My Imaan By Farhana Zia



I really, really wanted to love this book, I saw it in last month’s Scholastic catalog and without even reading it I ordered a copy for me and two classroom six packs (total of 13 books).  I was so excited, a 3.6 AR reading level, 226 pages, a sweet hijabi girl on the cover, a Muslim author, good reviews online, I was waiting to be swept away.  Nuts, perhaps it was over anticipation or perhaps the book just fell short.  Either way we will not be using this in our current book club, nor will I kick off a 3rd grade book club with this book, sorry parents.   As I type this my printer is spewing out the return label to send the classroom copies back. 


Aliya is a fifth grader dealing with typical pre-teen issues of friends, family, and school.  The book starts with her at religious Sunday school surrounded by diverse friends.  Some friends are contemplating wearing hijab full-time, some preoccupied with their new boyfriends, some excited about fasting in Ramadan and others dismissing it completely.  On the way to Sunday school, Aliya’s mom is taunted by stereotypes from an angry motorist that has Aliya rattled and confused.  Immediately the author establishes that Aliya is unsure how to fit in because she is unsure where she stands on many of these issues.  Her home life involves multiple generations of Pakistani immigrants, and US born characters in one home, her great grandmother, grandmother, parents and her brother.  Later a great Aunt comes to visit as well.  At school Aliya has a best friend, Winnie, who is by far the best character in the book, a bully she has to deal with, a girl that Aliya is intimidated by, a boy she has a crush on, and a new student, Marwa. Marwa is Muslim from Moroccan heritage, wears hijab, and while religiously is the same as Aliya, culturally is worlds apart.  Marwa also is confident, strong, and devout; characteristics that Aliya slowly comes to admire and draw strength from as she defines who she is and wants to be in some aspects of her life.

Although there seems to be a lot of characters, there is no problem keeping them straight, the writing is very simplistic and at times weak, but clarity is never a concern. The first 15 pages of the book bring up stereotyping, discrimination, bra sizes, boyfriends, hijab, menses, and fasting.  All told from a very naive, innocent character’s voice which makes for an awkward start in my opinion.  As the book progresses she begins writing letters to Allah (swt), which, while I don’t imagine is wrong, seems odd, but that is probably my own background projecting.  My concerns with the book are that for as open as Aliya is with all the mulit-generations living in her home, there is no moral compass.  No one guiding her to be a better Muslim, to help her develop her internal conscious of what is right or wrong.  They all read her letters and no one discusses her infatuation with a boy? Seems a bit odd to me.  She tries to fast, against her families protest then breaks her fast with pepperoni pizza (she took it off) isn’t that a learning moment? I’m not saying the book should have become preachy, but the lack of basic parent-child interactions make it seem that everything she does is basic common sense, and I cannot with a good conscience encourage my little 3rd and 4th graders to read the book.  They will think I’m supporting Aliya’s actions and frame of mind.  Had the author opened the door to discussion or even had Aliya’s conscious question her actions, as a teacher/librarian the students and I could discuss the issue, but there is no pause, the story just states it and moves on.  Same goes for the fact that her father doesn’t fast regularly because he has important business decisions to make.  A concept so contrary to what we teach our kids, we teach them to fast when they have a big decision to make. Once again had the author taken just a few sentences to explain that the dad travels for work and that travelers are not required to fast, readers would get a more accurate view of what Islam teaches, not that fasting in Ramadan is optional.  

The one character that is presented as religious is described as being OCD, belligerent, rude, uneducated and a nuisance.  The character eats only halal, religiously raised and slaughtered meat, and the family essentially refuses to accommodate her, lies about what they feed her, and bully her.  Seemed to me the same treatment they are whining about receiving from society as a whole, they were projecting onto their great aunt within their home.   Finally the tipping point was when this same great aunt started praying/asking Bibi Sayeda for help, a saintly person who helps people find lost things…what? Islam is pretty clear we pray to Allah swt and only Allah.


I like that the book shows diversity within the religion, it isn’t preachy, and it shows the balance that non-Muslim kids often have to balance.  I think if my daughter picked this book up at the public library and we read it together we might be able to talk our way through it.  I think students in public school who have to face more of Aliya’s struggles or students that have non-Muslim family members will see themselves at some point in the book and find comfort in it.  But again, because of the reading level, I can’t justify handing it to a Islamic school student to read without numerous warnings and disclaimers.

I like that the characters do discuss their different view points on hijab, and that Aliya forms her own opinion on it.  And while it takes awhile to make the point and does involve Aliya yelling and insulting the bullies, she does find a way to handle them by being kind, which for this age level is a nice, albeit optimistic, message. 


Questionable basic Islamic facts, minor characters with boyfriends discussing kissing.