This book’s beautiful dark blue cover with sparkly stars feels good in your hands and looks lovely on the shelf. It is a collection of 10 short stories presumably to be read by an adult to a child or children during Ramadan and has its highs and lows. As often is the case in anthologies, some are written better than others and while I particularly liked two of the stories contained, I couldn’t help wishing that the entire collection would have been better edited. I don’t know any of the authors, or their ages, and there is not an intro or conclusion detailing how the stories were selected or compiled, but as a whole, the grammar errors (spaces before and after commas and periods), failure to spell out numbers less than ten, and the overall plot holes in so many of the stories, makes it hard to love this book. Something about judging a book by it’s cover would seemingly apply here, the illustrations are decent, the topics and themes covered are important, but the finishing is lacking, and the book really had a lot of potential.
The ten stories cover Ramadan in different ways, and do not get repetitive. With different authors and illustrators and pictures on every other page at a minimum, the books presents well. Many of the stories are adequate, but largely forgettable as the plot holes just made me and my kids dismiss them. A few are too lengthy and wandering, but there are two that even despite writing obstacles, thematically were memorable: “A Ramadan Surprise” by Malika Kahn and “Iftar in Space” by Tayyaba Anwar.
“A Ramadan Surprise” is written in rhyming verse and discusses the need for wheelchair accessibility at masjids. Focusing on a young girl it also hints on the importance of accessibility for the elderly. This is such a needed and important reminder and I love that it is present in a book that is positioned to be read and thus hopefully discussed.
“Iftar in Space” similarly opens itself up to be discussed and marveled at between a child(ren) and an adult: how would you fast and pray if you were on the International Space Station. This connection could then be made for people that live near the poles, and how science is valued in Islam and so much more. I love that Islamic information is seemingly sourced, but I would have loved a line or two at the end clearly articulating that in fact this is what this scholar or these scholars have declared.
WHY I LIKE IT:
At first it didn’t bother me that the text was so small, but mid way through, it started to because the pictures are so inviting and regular. If a child is snuggled up with a reader looking at the pictures it is impossible for them to follow along. I get that that is kind of the point, but with huge margins, the text size can easily be increased.
I don’t know why the book doesn’t seem to have been edited. The cover and illustrations and binding are all decent to high quality, the cost of the book for consumers is high, so I don’t know why an editor was not (seemingly) involved in the process. Sure I am picky, but it isn’t one or two grammar errors, it is a lot, and when it is a regular concern, it ruins the flow and feeling of the book.
Overall, honestly there is also very little Islam present in most stories except for the timing of Ramadan, and many of the stories seem to have gaps. In the first story, a boy is found by a stranger and gifted a lamp, and the family never even tries to find the person who saved their son to thank him? They live in a small village? In one of the stories where a little girls is fasting for the first time she is also making a salad independently and pulling a cooked tray of lasagna out of a hot oven. A child in one story eats moldy candy, and in a contemporary story kids donate their money to an orphanage. Are there still orphanages? In one story it opens with a banner being made that is crooked, but the accompanying illustration does not match. One error or two is easy to overlook, but again, when it is every single story, it is incredibly disappointing.
TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:
I think while reading it you would find plenty to discuss with your children. On stories where your children seem bored you could skip them, if sentences don’t make sense you can alter them. I doubt children will read the book independently, so there is some wiggle room to add or subtract from the text to make the points you want to make and keep the stories engaging. There are a few stories that discuss Covid and the frustration that it has caused to daily activities, which might help add another layer of connection to the text.