Tag Archives: Beautiful Illustrations

Salih by Inda Ahmad Zahri illustrated by Anne Ryan

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Salih by Inda Ahmad Zahri illustrated by Anne Ryan

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This is an example of a picture book that should not be categorized as being only for children.  The passages of short simple text and the expansive illustrations that pull the reader in, combine to set a powerfully moving tone that holds you in it’s grips until the final page.  The names and hijab clad women could make this book a refugee tale with #muslimsintheillustrations, but because the author is Muslim, and the book so beautiful, I wanted to do a full review.  Some of the vocabulary is a bit advanced for younger children, so I think the best application of this book is not to hand it to a small child to read independently, but rather to read it to a child and let the words tickle their hearts while they immerse themselves in the pictures.  I look forward to sharing this book at story time to kindergarten through third grade.  I think the imagery, concepts, and emotion will resonate and open minds and hearts.

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Salih is like a turtle, he carries his home on his back. He and others are heading to the sea.  He tries to remember when things were better, and forget the bad times.

An old man shows him how to paint.  Salih shares this creativity with others.  Then he slips all the paintings into bottles and when he is on the rough sea, the bottles float away.

The storm rages, but then it calms, and land is seen, and hopes and dreams return.

We, collectively, have become numb, apathetic even, to the plight of refugees.  I have been trying for a while to get this book from Australia, and even though I am over a year late since its publication, it is still timely.  It will always be timely.

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We cannot be so arrogant to dismiss the plights and challenges faced by those in our world.  That is why I say, yes it is a children’s book, but people of all ages, need to be reminded.  It isn’t the worst of the worst incidents that need to only be shared, or the over the top happy stories.  We need to not let our hearts grow so hard. And this gentle book, with a sweet boy and turtle shell imagery has a lot of potential to remind us of the human element of global conflict.

Available to purchase in the USA here

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One Sun and Countless Stars by Hena Khan illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini

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One Sun and Countless Stars by Hena Khan illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini

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I don’t think that Hena Khan is necessarily a controversial figure, but some days her work feels very polarizing as some praise her ability to share OWN voice desi American Muslim stories while others feel like she waters down the very stories she is sharing to appease the majority.  Irregardless of our nuanced views, many of us first were made aware of her when we we were swept away in 2012 by the mainstream book, Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns.  Since then she also has published a book about shapes in the same format, and now this counting book that reminds me how beautiful and powerful it is to see Islam so unapologetically presented to all children.

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The author’s note at the end is important:

There are many significant numbers in Islam.  They include one for God, five for the pillars of the religion and daily prayers, seven for the circles pilgrims and visitors walk around the Ka’aba during hajj and more.

Mathematics and astronomy were among the intellectual pursuits of early Muslims.  They helped to develop algebra and used geometry to create the elaborate patterns found in Islamic art.

For this book, I chose concrete and illustratable terms rather than abstract concepts.  The representations for each number focus on things we can count in the world around us.

The book counts the diverse and global parts of a practiced faith.  The unique and the mundane, all beautifully illustrated and richly conveyed.  From cups of tea and shoes taken off for prayer to two hands making dua and four lines of a surah being memorized.  The book counts up to nine and then marvels at the countless stars that we see each night.

The first page is possibly a bit problematic in accuracy.  The tone and framing of starting the day with the sun rising and the sound of the adhan is warm and beautiful, but the adhan is not called at sunrise for the first prayer of the day, fajr.  Fajr begins at dawn.  There are only 21 words on the first page, so I’m inferring a lot about the correlation of the sun and athan that may or may not be present.  It is something frequently misrepresented, so it catches my attention. And yes, the seven tawafs mentioned in the author’s note would also apply to umrah, not just hajj.

Overall, the book is lovely and will remind many of us what made us all celebrate Hena Khan and her stories so many years ago.

Mustafa by Marie-Louise Gay

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Mustafa by Marie-Louise Gay

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This 40 page book caught my attention because I have a son named Mustafa, and the illustrations looked endearing and fun.  The author/illustrator was inspired to write the story when she visited Croatia and saw the resilience of the children.  She also remarks on her website, that children in new places can all relate to the nuanced uneasiness and gradual fitting in process that takes place universally (http://marielouisegay.com/blog/).

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The text is prose-like as young Mustafa ventures from his apartment each day to the park nearby.  He notices things he has never seen before and compares them to the destruction he recalls of his homeland.  He also finds things that remind him of home and things that look familiar. From little ladybugs and a heart-shaped leaf, to the changing leaf colors and kids dressed up in costumes, there is so much to take in and understand.

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As the days go on, he begins to wonder if he is invisible.  Finally, a little girl with a cat makes a small beckoning gesture to him that doesn’t need language to be understood, and just like that, the world gets a little more welcoming.  This gentle story shows what being new can feel like, and reminds us that sometimes all it takes is a simple act of kindness to change so much.

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The book mentions that Mustafa came on a long journey, but does not specify where he has come from.  He draws his house being bombed in the dirt with a stick and mentions loud noises and fire.  The mother wears hijab, and obviously his name would identify them as Muslims, but other than that there is no reference or mention of religion.

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Overall, the book would be great for ages 4-8.  The passages are a little long, but with the illustrations and relatable concepts, I think children will reflect on what the author is trying to convey, and be able to process what Mustafa has been through, and how hard even the littlest things can be in a new place.

Yo Soy Muslim: A Father’s Letter to His Daughter by Mark Gonzales illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini

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Yo Soy Muslim: A Father’s Letter to His Daughter by Mark Gonzales illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini

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I feel like I preordered this book years ago, I have been so anxious to see what all the hype was about. When it arrived I tore open the box and read it on the short walk from the mailbox to the house, read it again standing in the kitchen, left it for a few days, and reread it now to write the review. SubhanAllah, it didn’t disappoint.

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It reads, as intended, as a powerful letter to a child.  There aren’t long winded morals or overly fancy words. It is direct in its many ways of telling you, that you matter, where you come from matters, that your foundation matters. That you are strong, and beautiful, always, even when the world may not think so. That you are Muslim, that you are from Allah, that you speak in Arabic and Spanish and dreams.  The verses become poetry that dance on the page with the illustrations telling the story as powerfully as the words.  The words in turn float and lilt around images as old as time and as innocent as dancing in the wind.

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The 32 pages fly by that you can’t help but read it again, slowly, savoring all the harnessed power and hope of a multi culture world, a multi cultural faith, that is truly beautiful.  Recognizing the humanity that we all share, yet feeling pride in your own unique skin is a balancing act that doesn’t need to be apologized for, and should be celebrated.

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I love that this book exists.  That it is available on Amazon.  That it is bold and colorful and hardbound, and so well done.  There is diversity in Islam.  There is diversity of belief in Indigenous populations, that there is so much inspiration in the world around us and in our past.  Are all messages that come through even for the youngest readers.

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Allah Created Everything by C. Alta

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Allah Created Everything by C. Alta

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The version I have is called Allah Created Everything, but it seems that the more common edition is God Created Everything, regardless the book is beautiful, timeless, and a perfect book for story time with the little ones.  The simple words and beautiful illustrations are the perfect level for Daycare through Kindergarten students.  They can gaze at the pictures and absorb the simple text, and even participate in a powerful conversation after about how Allah/God created us all, and everything around us.

The Blades of Grass,
The Oceans and Seas ,
The Rocks-
The Soil-
The Beautiful Trees,
The Majestic Mountains That We See,
Allah Created Everything.
The Dog-
The Cow-
The Whales-
The Birds, The Spiders and Bees,
The Wild-
The Tame-
Allah Created Everything.
The Sun,
The Moon,
The Rainbow-
The Clouds, Tornadoes, Volcanoes,
Lightning Shattering the Skies.
People of the World,
Shapes-
And Colors We See,
Allah Created Them
Just like You and Me.