Tag Archives: beautiful

One Wish: Fatima al-Fihri and the World’s Oldest University by M.O. Yuksel illustrated by Mariam Quraishi

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One Wish: Fatima al-Fihri and the World’s Oldest University by M.O. Yuksel illustrated by Mariam Quraishi

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This book is so long overdue, yet at the same time it was worth the wait.  The writing is simply superb: Fatima al Fihri is celebrated, Islam is centered, there are references, and the story compelling.  We, Muslims, as a whole know so little about the beautiful impact fellow Muslims have had on the current world and our way of life, that to see this book being celebrated in public libraries, in Islamic schools, at masjids, and retail bookstores, truly makes you sit up a little straighter, and reach confidently to get this book in your hands to share with those around you.  Thank you Mindy (@moyuksel.author) for these 40 pages of absolute delight, ages 5 and up will read it to learn, read it again to enjoy, and inshaAllah read it repeatedly to be inspired.

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The book begins with a Hadith regarding seeking knowledge and leaving knowledge behind.  It then begins the biography of Fatima as a small girl curious about the world around her starting with the word Iqra, read, from the Qur’an.  It sets the stage of her living in the desert in the early ninth century, a time where some boys went to school and some girls learned at home. Her connection to Islam and it teaching her the value of knowledge caused her wish, to build a school, to grow stronger.

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When war destroys her town her family flees to the busy city of Fez, Morocco.  She begins to accompany her father to the souk and enjoys listening to talk of planets, distant lands and different languages and wishes these scholars could educate everyone. She grows and gets married and her and her family become wealthy merchants.

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Tragically, her father and husband die, and Fatima must decide what to do next for her family.  She decides to help her community as a form of sadaqah jariyah and make her wish a reality.  She sets out to build a school where everyone can live and study for free.  She purchases land, and the building begins.  Fatima oversees each detail and names it the al-Qarawiyyin after her hometown in Tunisia.  It takes two years to build and it still functions today.

The back matter is just as compelling as the story with an Author’s Note, information on The University of Al-Qaryawiyyin, a Glossary, Bibliography, and a Timeline.  The only complaint I have about the book, are the illustrations.  I really don’t understand why half of her hair is showing when based on the time and her connection to her faith, she most likely was a niqabi.  I don’t understand the continuity of the hijab from a young child to adulthood.  I get that it shows her influence moving forward at the end, but it could have been a small print on an outfit for token representation of symbolism, I don’t get it as being a complete outfit her whole life.

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I absolutely love the role of Islam in both Fatima’s life and in this book.  It is so much a part of her and her wish, that every reader will recognize how connected her faith and the creation of the University were and I’m confident both Muslim and non Muslim readers will be in awe of her devotion and accomplishments, inshaAllah.

Environmental Sunnahs: Emulating the Prophet One Earth-Friendly Act at a Time by Alia G. Dada illustrated by Sarah Hafeez

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Environmental Sunnahs: Emulating the Prophet One Earth-Friendly Act at a Time by Alia G. Dada illustrated by Sarah Hafeez

This beautiful book explores how intertwined Islam and caring for the earth are in a kid appropriate manner.  The rhyming lines and fun illustrations are accompanied at the end by very detailed sourcing, references, and tips.  All non fiction or fictionalized fact books should be sourced this well, it really has set the bar, and left most books in the dust.  My only real critique of the book is that I wish it was larger.  The pictures and dancing text need more space to be poured over and enjoyed. The 8×8 size doesn’t do the 36 page book justice.  The inside text should also be a more uniform/consistent in size.  At times the rhyme is off and feels forced, but because there are facts on each page the story isn’t read consecutively.  You break the rhyme scheme to ponder over the “Did you know?” sections, so the beat and cadence isn’t super important.  Overall, a well-done book to share and discuss with children ages 5 and up, and a great reference, resource, and memorable teaching tool to bring us all closer to the prophetic mannerisms we strive to emulate.

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The book starts off with a message by naturalist, Director of the Art and Wilderness Institute and author of “How to Draw 60 Native CA Plants and Animals, a Field Guide (and my former childhood penpal) Sama Wareh.  It then jumps in to exploring the miracle of nature on land and under the sea. It shows desert landscapes, and mountainous ones, jungles, and farms, valleys and cities.

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The book talks about water: Zam Zam and wudu and where clean water comes from.  How little water we should use according to hadith and how to respect all living things. It talks about Prophet Sulaiman (as) showing kindness to even an ant. And how planting a tree is charity. It shares information about reusable goods, limiting waste, and understanding eco systems.

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The book concludes with easy to read Hadith references, Quranic references, a glossary, and action items.

In My Mosque by M.O. Yuksel illustrated by Hatem Aly

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In My Mosque by M.O. Yuksel illustrated by Hatem Aly

I know I am a little late to the review party of this highly anticipated beautiful book, but for good cause: I wanted to test it out in a virtual storytime for preschool to third graders before I chimed in with my opinion of this 40 page picture book ideally for four to eight year olds, but wonderful for all ages. The hardback binding, the glossy pages, the AMAZING illustrations and the factual information at the end, make this one of my favorite books ever for Muslim and non Muslim readers alike. If you can, gift this book to your child, your child’s teacher, their friends, your friends, and ask your library to shelf it. It is unapologetically Muslim, and has the power to mirror our own love of our masajids as well as encourage others to stop in and visit if they are curious about what a mosque is like. After reading it aloud, my only critiques are the very thing pages that make it hard to turn when reading to a group, and the small font which is appreciated so that the illustrations can be enjoyed, but hard to read when the gloss causes a glare and the thin pages bow. The only words in the text that gave me pause is when the “imam tells us stories…” to explain the khutba and speech, and when it says after salat “I whisper heartfelt wishes.” I understand the intent, but feel like the word “stories,” isn’t the correct word for ayats and hadith, nor is “wishes” the right framing of duaa or longings. I also wanted there to be a page number in the references section referring back to the pages in the book that link the inspired illustration of mosques to the real ones detailed at the end. Undoubtedly minor stuff for a book that came with a lot of expectation and yet still managed to blow me away, alhumdulillah.

The book shows diversity of tones, body shapes, and mobility as it welcomes and invites you in to a mosque. The shoes are lined up like beads as you enter and you let your toes sink in to the carpet. We wear our best clothes and get hugs from aunties because we are loved. Grandfathers do thikr on tasbihs and its ok to snuggle up with your dad while he is praying. Grandmas are reading Quran and little kids help put out prayer rugs. The imam gives speeches about unity and that we are all from the same creator. The muezzin calls us all to prayer and we stand in lines linked together with friends like a long chain. Hijabs flow and sometimes we get distracted. We say greetings to the angels on our shoulders and whisper our wishes. We learn to help others, we play in the courtyard and gaze up at the domes. We feel safe and joyful like our friends of other faiths in their places of worship and all are welcome in the mosque.

The book does not shy away from Islamic words in Arabic, nor from faith references such as the “most High,” and “subhanAllah.” The glossary at the end covers their meaning and the text flows in a way that you can stop or review afterward with relative ease. The imagery in the text of the shoes like beads, and standing in salat like a chain, are warm and relatable, and the illustrations, they are magical. The expressions on the children’s faces as they try and pray and stay still, but alas are children and they are silly and sweet and not chided, but loved, is so refreshing in both the text and pictures. The different masajids that are referenced, and the detail make repeated visits to the book heartwarming and joyous.

I love the lists and details about mosques around the world at the end, and the successful portrayal of genuine love and connection Muslims feel to the mosque as a place of coming together, or worship, or friendship, of play, of charity, of community, and of openness.

Go On, Zap Shaytan: Seeking Shelter with Allah by Razana Noor illustrated by Omar Burgess

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Go On, Zap Shaytan: Seeking Shelter with Allah by Razana Noor illustrated by Omar Burgess

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In rhyming couplets spread out over 32 pages with adorable illustrations, this book is a great introduction to the whispers of shaytan that encourage us to be naughty, and how to counter them without frightnening young listeners.  Meant for preschool age children and up, this is the second book by the author discussing an important religious concept in an easy to understand manner (the first book was about Kiraman Katibinthat empowers children to make great choices and find strength in doing so, even when mistakes are made.4CB95EFD-0B5A-4725-B110-4361E48CD9A4

The “Note to Parents” at the beginning provides great framework for the takeaway message of the book.  That yes, shaytan whispers to us and we will make mistakes, but the power is ours to overcome such temptations and inshaAllah do good.

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The book starts out a bit shakey for me as the rhyming is a bit off on one page, and the blame for the little boy with the great hair’s naughtiness is blamed solely on shaytan.  As a former teacher, this is always a tricky concept when trying to teach children to take responsibility for their actions, but then knowing full well that shayateen are real too.

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Once the flip side, of how to protect yourself from shaytan, starts: by saying aoudhu-billahi minashaytanir rajeem, bismillah, salam, reading Quran, calling athan, etc.. the book flows really well.

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I love how much information is conveyed about the jinn and their purpose and how they cower and put their fingers in their ears to not hear the praise of Allah swt.

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There is a glossary for the Arabic words and Islamic references, some kids might need some additional understanding about jin and responsibiltiy, but a solid book that I have read over 20 times to my 4 year old in the last week, alhumdulillah.

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Thank you again to Crescent Moon Storefor their incredibly quick fullfillment of the order.

The Most Powerful Night: A Ramadan Story by Nada Hassan illustrated by Soumbal Qureshi

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The Most Powerful Night: A Ramadan Story by Nada Hassan illustrated by Soumbal Qureshi

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This beautiful poetic book about Laylat Al-Qadr explains in detail and wonder the importance of the most blessed night in the blessed month of Ramadan.  The soft purples and pinks of Laila’s room, and the repetitive refrains set the mood and tone of an informative bedtime story that will convey the awe and mercy of the night to seven and eight year olds.

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The book is 40 pages, and pretty text heavy, but it flows smooth enough, and the details in the pictures are enough to keep little ones engaged. Younger and older children will also enjoy the story as both an introduction to the night the Quran first came down, and as a reminder of the gifts to be had.

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Laila is sad that Ramadan is leaving as she peers out the window and sees the moon resmembling a crescent again.  Her mother takes the opportunity to tell her about the blessings of the last ten nights, and Laylat Al-Qadr specifically.

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“The Night of Power and Miracles,” Laila’s mother explains is a night like no other, that comes only once a year.  Thousands of angels come down until there isn’t a speck of space that they do not fill.

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The night that is better than a thousand months and all our deeds are multiplied 70 times, the night the Holy Quran was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad (saw).

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Laila wants to make sure she pronounces it correctly and practices saying Laylat Al-Qadr.  Excited to make sure she is praying and reading Quran that night, she is desperate to know what day it is.  Her mother explains to her that we do not know.  Laila uses this to her advantage to get to stay up past bedtime for each of the last 10 days.

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The book begins with Surah Al Qadr in Arabic and with the meaning of the translation in English.  It ends with a glossary, more information about Ramadan, and a glimpse of the author’s first book: Ramadan Around the World.

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The 9 x 11 hardback binding and font are beautifully done and with there no other books for children that I can think of that discuss Laylat Al-Qadr, I foresee this one being read at least once a year, if not more, for many years to come, alhumduillah.

 

Khadijah and Cat: Ramadan is Here by Shamsa Ahmed illustrated by Afsaneh Bagherloo

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Khadijah and Cat: Ramadan is Here by Shamsa Ahmed illustrated by Afsaneh Bagherloo

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New this year in the Ramadan category is this gorgeous 40 page hardback book that mixes information about the blessed month with personable characters very well.  It stays on track without getting silly, even with a talking cat and a reoccurring super hero dinosaur, but I don’t understand the attempted rhyme scheme.  I’ve read the book over a dozen times trying to map it, and sometimes it is so natural that it makes reading it aloud smooth and lyrical, and sadly a few times it seems so forced that it makes the sentence nonsensical or awkward.  There is so much information, so beautifully paced and illustrated for children 4 and up, that I’m willing to overlook the few sentences that irked me to recommend this book for you and your children to enjoy this Ramadan.  Without a glossary though, it is probably best for Muslim children, or those with someone who can explain words such as: suhoor, iftar, adhan, SubhanAllah, dua, Allah, etc..

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Khadijah and Cat are looking for the moon to know if it is the start of Ramadan, and once they find it, they rush to spread the news.  Immediately everyone starts decorating and celebrating and sharing delicious food.

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They then head home to sleep so they can wake up early for suhoor.  They make a point to eat something healthy to sustain them for the whole day, then they pray and go back to sleep.

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Cat wakes up ready to eat and is surprised that they have to wait until sunset before they can eat or drink anything.  Khadijah explains that Ramadan is a holy month and one of the five pillars of Islam.  The illustrations show the other pillars, but the explanation of Ramadan is a bit advanced with words such as regression, unpriviledged, compassion, and purifying.

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The next page continues listing off what Khadijah and Cat are learning about Ramadan, as they spend time praying and reading the Holy Quran.  At the sound of the fourth Adhan they break their fast.  The names of the salat or that they pray five times a day is not mentioned, but lends itself to a great teaching point.

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They then pray and eat and take the neighbors some gifts.  Cat is convinced that the day was good and is ready for the next 30.  The last ten nights are identified as important and Laylat al Qadr is mentioned as being special, but it does not tell why they are unique.

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Khadijah and Cat then invite you to fast and see why Ramadan is so special.  The end of the book has some questions, a Ramadan count down and a coloring page.  I was surprised that there was not a glossary as the Arabic words in the text are enlarged, and often not defined.

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I love the font and binding and horizontal 10 x 11.5 layout.  The illustrations are gorgeous and the details in the decor and Khadijah wearing hijab while out, but not at home are very well executed.  I’m not sure why the Meer-Rex is in the book, he is never identified or given attention, maybe in future books he will have more of a role, inshaAllah.

I ordered mine from Crescent Moon Store and received it within days of placing the order, thank you!

Yan’s Hajj: The Journey of a Lifetime by Fawzia Gilani illustrated by Sophie Burrows

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Yan’s Hajj: The Journey of a Lifetime by Fawzia Gilani illustrated by Sophie Burrows

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With less than a month until Hajj, this book should definitely start making an appearance in your children’s story selection rotation.  The focus is not on the parts of hajj, but rather the desire and intense yearning to go for the sake of Allah (swt).  Granted, it doesn’t take much to get me to cry these days, but this 27 page book for ages 5 and up, got me emotional.  Going for hajj is always something to plan for and hope for, and the sweetness of the reminder that we plan, and Allah plans and Allah is the best of planners is so beautifully brought to life, that I benefitted from the reminder and my kids from the lesson.

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Yan is a farmer, a poor farmer, who loves Allah and wants to go for hajj more than anything else.  So he decides to work hard and fill up his money bag so that he may go.  After years of hard work his bag is full and he begins his first steps in his journey proclaiming his love for Allah.  After a few days of walking however, he comes upon some sad children who have recently lost their school to a fire.  Yan, uses his money and time to fix the school and returns back to his farm to start saving up again to go for hajj.IMG_5486.jpg

When his bag is full again and he sets out again, he is met by an injured boy who is being yelled at by his owner.  Yan, once again reaches into his money bag to generously do the right thing, in this case to pay off the boy’s debts and takes the boy home with him to be nursed back to health.

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After some time he again has a full money bag and sets off for Hajj.  Along the way he finds a village trying to build a mosque and after two months of helping with the funds and offering his own labor, the mosque is complete and Yan returns home.

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Now Yan is old, and after many years he looks in his money bag and it is not full and he sadly admits he cannot do hajj.  But then the boy he saved, Habeeb, returns with a horse cart to take him for hajj and they pass through the village where he repaired the school and is greeted with rose petals and gifts of ihram, they then pass by the mosque he helped build and the villagers gift him with food and water, they then arrive at Habeeb’s house and he is given a bag filled with money and at long last Yan’s dream comes true as he sees the Kaaba.

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The book shows how steadfast Yan’s love of Allah is and how generous and patient he is in pursuing that love. The illustrations of him aging are truly touching and gentle.  In some ways it reminded me of Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, but with a happier ending, in bringing a large grown up concept down to size and presenting it in a genuine way.

 

 

Allah Made Everything: The Song Book by Zain Bhikha illustrated by Azra Momin

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Allah Made Everything: The Song Book by Zain Bhikha illustrated by Azra Momin

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I’ve reviewed a few song books over the years and often don’t love them, this one however, is awesome!  This 30 page hardbound 9×9 book is a great size for toddlers and up, the only thing hard about the book is reading the words and not singing them.

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The text is large and easy to read as it dances around the pages.  It follows the song exactly, just not the repeating lines.

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Each stanza tells a bit about an animal, and the animal answers who created them.  The chorus is that Allah is our creator and some attributes.

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The back of the book says for ages five and up, and yes some of the vocabulary is a bit advanced, but the general feel and point of the book is appropriate for little ones and the pictures will keep the littles engaged as well.

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The bright colorful illustrations are playful and fun.  They make the book able to stand alone even by chance you have never heard the song, or had it stuck in your head for days.

The book recently came out and it appears that they have plans to turn other songs of Zain Bhikha’s into books, which inshaAllah will be just as enjoyable and faith reinforcing as this one.  Special thanks to http://www.crescentmoonstore.com for their friendly service when I purchased the book. https://crescentmoonstore.com/products/allah-made-everything

R is for Ramadan by Greg Paprocki

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R is for Ramadan by Greg Paprocki

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This book is fabulously fun, but incredibly puzzling.  The book without a glossary is presumably meant for Muslim children, with words like U is for Umrah and T is for Tasbeeh, and N is for Night of Power.  Which is interesting, because it seems to be written by a non Muslim, who writes and illustrates a lot of various alphabet books, and published by a mainstream company.  I’m sure this adorable book will appeal  to many non Muslims but after reading it, I’m fairly certain they will be 80% clueless as to what most of the letters are about.   Maybe they would be able to make a guess based on the pictures, but with the pronunciation for Arabic words being given underneath, it sure makes for an odd juxtaposition in a toddler board book.

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Additionally, if you are Muslim reading the book and can describe the Arabic to your 3-5 year old, you will possibly have to explain some of the “big” English words too.  H is for Hospitality, G is for Generous, O is for Obligation.

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Thrown in are also some completely silly, random letter prompts.  W is for Watermelon and Y is for Yay.  So, I probably shouldn’t like this book, but it is an absolute delight to look at and read through if you can account for all the aforementioned things.

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The illustrations are engaging and detailed and oh so happy and fun.  The book feels good in your hands reading it with a little one snuggled up beside you at 8.5 x 6.5 and 32 thick pages long. 

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I guess I can’t offer a finalized opinion on the book, just know what it includes (or doesn’t include) before you buy.  I was able to check it out at my public library, and online it is just under $10, so hopefully people won’t be disappointed with the purchase, if nothing else for the pictures alone.  But maybe don’t get excited to send it off to non Muslim friends and family this Ramadan, as it might not offer much in terms of understanding what the blessed month is all about.

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Love by Matt de la Pena illustrated by Loren Long

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Love by Matt de la Pena illustrated by Loren Long

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This 40-page-book may have a simple title, but most of us know, there is nothing simple about love, and this book shows love in many forms from a child’s perspective as they grow.  Sometimes picture books are basic and inspired to teach, or simply entertain.  Sometimes when picture books try to do more, the audience is confused when the pictures and amount of text on page don’t seem to align.  And sometimes, large pictures, with thoughtful poetry make the pages come to life and sing.  The book is written on an AR 3.7, so people thinking this book is for preschool aged children seem to be upset by the concepts hinted at and illustrated, but for older kids, this book has amazing power, and beauty that can show just how complex this universal feeling is.  

Love is your parent’s voice, love is burnt toast, love is the stars after your house burns down, love is in your grandpa’s wrinkles, love is staring back at you in the bathroom mirror.  But sometimes love also burns out and love is shielding you from things that might hurt you, and love separates people too. 

 

As humans, we can all relate to the same emotions, whether we give and receive love the same, the book shows the value and meaning it has to us all.  Hurray for illustrator Loren Long, because page after page, shows diversity of color, mobility, socio economics, age, and religion.  On a page where the love of the child is keeping her from seeing the TV that the family is crowded around a cross is present, and then a few pages later,bam, there is a girl in hijab looking up at the trees and listening to the love shared in their rustling. 

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I had no idea this illustration was present, and gasped aloud.  I said nothing to my daughter, finished the book, and handed it to her to read.  She turned the page and gasped aloud as well saying, “there’s a muhajaba, haha, we are in it too.”  Granted she is my daughter, so environment and genes account for something, but EVERY PAGE I think resonates with someone, and that gasp in my living room from me, from her, could come from anyone who turns a page in this book and bam suddenly feels represented, feels included, feels validated.  That my friends, is LOVE. 

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We are more alike than different.