Tag Archives: cute

Tittle Tattle Talia: A Story about Gossiping by Salwah Isaacs-Johaadien illustrated by Zeyneb Yildirim

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Tittle Tattle Talia: A Story about Gossiping by Salwah Isaacs-Johaadien illustrated by Zeyneb Yildirim

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I really enjoyed this Islamic moral book about gossiping.  Over the years I’ve taught a few Sunday school lessons, class lessons, and even hosted story times on the Islamic cautions regarding backbiting, and honestly I don’t think kids really grasp how easy it is to commit the act and be a part of it.  They understand they shouldn’t do it, what the punishment is, and that it is bad, but I don’t know that the materials I’ve used and seen, have really connected with younger kids without a lot of supplementing; and this book highlighted that we really can be messaging better on a child’s level.  The pages are incredibly text heavy, but neither I nor my audience seemed to mind until close to the end, because of the comedy and relatability of the story up to that point.  I think the coach getting overly involved took it back to being a lesson from adults and broke the child perspective tone.  I do love that the kids that listen to the gossip are also held accountable, the importance of the coach’s message clearly is important, but the story telling quality would have benefitted from a few tweaks.  The illustrations are cute, unfortunately the font is not very appealing.  I do like that the salwat is given in Arabic, and that Hadith are mentioned in the text as well as in the backmatter with an author’s note.

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The story starts with Talia owning that she loves to share tales about the people around her, before telling one to her older sister.  Her sister tries to stop her and tells her that she needs to watch what she says or she might one day have to eat her words.  Talia wonders what eating your words means.  Similar situations occur between Talia and her brother, her mother, as well as her father.  Each time the story is reprimanded and a funny euphuism remarked upon and then giggled about by Talia.

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At school she does the same, telling stories, often at the expense of a boy named Ahmed, and the more interest the other kids show, the more outrages her tales become.  She soon starts telling them about everyone, and her classmates and friends grow weary and fearful that they might be next.

It all comes to a climax when Talia’s classmates say enough is enough and stop talking to her, and go as far as refusing to pick her when picking teams, and playing with her at all.  The coach concludes then that the match should be cancelled and Talia should apologize.  The cancellations seems extreme, and the forcing to apologize almost takes away from the emotional realization that her “tales” have become bullying.

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As Talia leaves, her classmates gather up and she sees Ahmed not joining them.  When she gets to her front gate, her friends catch up to her and apologize and acknowledge their roles in perpetuating the gossip.  Talia then goes to find Ahmed and get him some ice cream to apologize.

I don’t quite think the friends needed to apologize, I think they should have just realized their role, I think with discussion it might be clarified, but I worry that it defers Talia’s ownership of wrong doing, and could send some mixed messages.

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It is also a little pausing that Talia makes up a story about why a girl wears hijab, when her own mother wears hijab and she is clearly Muslim.  On the one hand, I like that it shows how ridiculous her tales have gotten, but it also could seem like she is falling for a stereotype as well.  There is good rep in the illustrations of those that cover and those that don’t, there is a child in a wheelchair and lots of shades of skin colors and hair types.  The text also contains traditional Islamic names and some that are not.

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The book helps our children to be better and the story engaging enough to be memorable, that while I wish it was cleaned up a better to strengthen the writing, I do find it a benefit on a shelf to be shared at bedtime, in classrooms, in story times and as a reminder to not participate in gossip or listen to it.

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That’s Not My Name by Anoosha Syed

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That’s Not My Name by Anoosha Syed

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I have been looking forward to this book, as I’ve enjoyed so many of the illustrations the author has created for other authors, and was anxious to see what kind of story she would write for her own authorial debut.  Unfortunately, the book didn’t wow me.  It is rather forgettable, the book conflates notions of not being able to pronounce someone’s name with not being memorable and with not having a “normal” name, and then recognizing how so many classmates have unique names too.  A bit scattered in messaging, and overall reading like an adult talking, not a young girl of four or five, on her first day of school.  No doubt the illustrations are beautiful, and the book isn’t “bad” or a “waste of time,” but it isn’t a strong clear story.  I’ve seen reviews where people find the little girl rude, and I don’t know that I’d agree with that, she is frustrated and wants to scream, “that’s not my name” when people say it wrong, but I do agree that she could model what to say better and how to handle it.  Not that I expect those with uncommon names to have to carry the weight of making things easy, but the little girl at the end remarks that she has so many new friends at school with “unique, beautiful names, and she always makes sure she says them right,” implying that some dialogue, both about her name and about theirs, takes place to ensure pronunciation is correct, and some “showing” of how that is achieved would be nice.  Before the story starts, on the title page, there is a pronunciation breakdown of Mirha, but not in the text itself. There is nothing Islamic in the book, the Grandmother wears a scarf loosely draped over her head, there is a crescent and moon wall hanging in an illustration, and the girl’s name is claimed to be Arabic in origin.

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The book starts with it being Mirha’s first day of school.  She is excited to learn, to play, and to make friends, but when no one seems to be able to say her name, she starts to feel shy. Frustrated and sad she decides to change her name, and tells her mom when she gets home.  Her mother tells her, her name is beautiful and why she was named what she is named.  She builds her up and the next day armed with her mother’s words she is ready to make friends and teach them how to say her name. By the end of the book Mirha has friends, and wants to be your (the reader’s) friend too.

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The voice of the book is inconsistent at times it feels very older kid, almost adult, even though the 40 page book is meant for three to five year olds.  The examples read like an adult reflecting on their childhood struggles with their name, not as a young girl finding her voice and appreciation for the name she has.

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When Hayden asks if he can call her Maya instead of Mirha it is because Maya is easier.  Kids are hearing all sorts of names for the first time when they enter school, that conversation seems so forced.  Whether the kids are in preschool or daycare or kindergarten, most of the names they are hearing of their classmates are being heard for the first time.  If they watch a lot of tv and YouTube and movies, they have heard a whole variety of names, they are not going to have a dialogue that sounds like that, at that age, just not realistic.  Similarly after the first day of school she wants to change her name to something “normal?” What is a “normal” name even, then the mom even reinforces that notion when saying she knows she named her something “unique and different.”  A concept that returns at the end when asserting that Mirha has friends with lots of unique names.  Seems to go in circles.

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I appreciate that examples are given about not seeing your name on keychains or having the barista get it right, but again, she is under the age of five, are these really her points of reference for having a less common name than those around her?  When her mother is making the case that she shouldn’t change her name she references that names such as Beethoven and Tchaikovsky and Michelangelo are memorable.  First of all, what (under) five year old knows those names or who those people are, and second of all, now her name is not memorable? I thought it was hard to pronounce? Has she done something worthy of history books and admiration? I get what the author is trying to do, I often tell my students that they need to demand people say their names right.  If they can rattle off names from Pokemon, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Beyblades, they can say the beautiful names they have been given.  But the kids I am saying it to are not in preschool, nor am I conflating the pronunciation of their names with being names of famous people that are memorable. Additionally, I do not speak Arabic, but a quick Google search does not show that Mirha means happiness in Arabic, and I have heard from native Arab speakers that they also found the meaning off.

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The illustrations are engaging, the broader message of getting people’s name right and demanding people get your name right is important, it just needed a more age aligning voice and connecting with the reader.

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The Sleepy Farmer: The Farmer Who Almost Missed Fajr by Shazia Afzal illustrated by Ingy Hamza

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The Sleepy Farmer: The Farmer Who Almost Missed Fajr by Shazia Afzal illustrated by Ingy Hamza

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This adorable board book combines animal sounds, team work, appreciation, and getting to the masjid on time for fajr.  Oh ya, and it is silly too.

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Farmer Salman stayed up late and doesn’t wake up in the morning when the rooster crows. The crowing wakes the hen who starts to cluck, the clucking wakes the horse who starts to neigh…and before you know it, it awakens the entire farm.

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But, Farmer Salman still doesn’t wake up, so the animals get louder, and louder, and finally the cat in the house wakes up and meows in the farmer’s face.  The meowing wakes Salman up and he makes wudu and heads to the masjid, just in time for fajr salat.

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He returns from the masjid, thanks the animals and gives them their breakfast, alhumdulillah.

The book is only 10 pages and some pages are text heavy.  I think a few more pages to reduce the text on some of the pages would really make an already fun book, incredible.

A Sky-Blue Bench by Bahram Rahman illustrated by Peggy Collins

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A Sky-Blue Bench by Bahram Rahman illustrated by Peggy Collins

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I know many of you are thinking, another book about school for girls in Afghanistan, and given the reception by most to the author’s first book, The Library Bus,  I can sense the rolling eyes.  I was in the minority on that one, as I enjoyed it, but, this one is simpler, sweeter, more universal while being complimented by culture, and I hope it is a more authentic and accurate OWN voice portrayal.  I know I have a lot to learn about white washing narratives and breaking down colonial paradigms, so I promise if you disagree I will listen.  But I genuinely enjoyed the illustrations and little Aria finding a way to make a bench so she could sit comfortably at school with her prosthetic leg.  The girls go to school, and the furniture was burned to keep warm in the winter, a concept that the author verifies at the end as something experienced in his own life.  Aria has to find a way to sit in class because she wants to learn, and lack of wood working experience, resources, and doubt that a girl can do it from her classmates, isn’t going to stop her.  Over 32 pages, early elementary age children will meet a determined young girl as she pieces together scraps to build a bench.

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Aria has been in the hospital for a while after an accident took her leg.  She is excited to be back at school, but quickly realizes it is hard to sit on the floor with her new helper leg.  She tries leaning on the wall, standing even, but just getting up and down off the floor is really difficult.  At home when she mentions it to her mom, her mom reassures her that she can get through it and her little brother offers to help her carry her things.

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That night Aria considers how much she would miss school if she isn’t able to figure something out.  Then she has an idea, she’ll build a bench.  At school the next morning, classmates tell her “Girls don’t build benches,” but Aria responds, “I can do anything a boy can.”

With that, a single friend joins Aria as they comb the city for discarded wood, broken furniture, screws, and nails.  They assemble the resources and when they have enough Aria and her mom head across town, past the Blue Mosque, to visit the carpenter, Kaka Najar.  He shows them how to fit the pieces together like a puzzle and loans them the tools needed to be successful.  He even gifts her some sky-blue paint, “the color of courage, peace, and wisdom.”

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That weekend Aria and her mom and little brother build a bench, paint it blue, and get it to school.  When the other students see it, their excitement bubbles and they imagine building tables, book cases, and more.  Anything is possible after all, there is paint left in the can and they are willing to work together.

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There is nothing religious in the text, save the mention of walking past a mosque, but in the illustrations the women are all covering their heads when they are out, and are uncovered at home, the school uniform seems to be a white hijab and black abaya.  I wish there were some Pashto words sprinkled, and it was a bit off that she was building a bench, but the finished project was a bench and table. The end has an Author’s Note and I enjoy seeing the smiling faces and bright illustrations in a book set in Afghanistan.

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Hey, Presto! by Nadia Shireen

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Hey, Presto! by Nadia Shireen

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This 32 page picture book about friends learning to appreciate each other is both silly and sweet.  An AR 2.6 the book is great for preschool through third grade and gives lots of teachable moments along the way if you want to make it more than just a fun book.  There is nothing religious, but I believe the author, who is also the illustrator, is Muslim.

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Presto and Monty are best friends.  Presto is a brilliant magician and Monty is good at singing, eating ice cream and making funny faces.  When the carnival comes to town the two decide to put on a show and become famous.

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Monty suggests they take turns being the star of the show, and Monty decides to go first.  Monty isn’t a magician, so Presto stays behind the scenes to make sure the tricks work.  Somehow, this is how it ends up going night after night after night.  Presto never gets his turn.

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Monty gets bossier and bossier, demanding things of Presto and being rude.  Presto is no longer having fun.  When Monty signs a contract to go on TV with his magic show, Presto has had enough and leaves.

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When showtime rolls around, Monty realizes Presto has left and has to try and learn magic real quick.  The show doesn’t get off to a good start when none of the magic tricks work.  As the show goes from bad to worse Monty realizes how bad of a friend he has been.

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Presto watching from home can no longer bare it and rushes to save the day.  Monty promises things will be different and the two of them cook up a new act and realize together their show is perfect.

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Yeti and the Bird by Nadia Shireen

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Yeti and the Bird by Nadia Shireen

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What a sweet story about assumptions, loneliness, friendship and kindness.  An AR 2.0, this 32 page simple picture book tells the story of an accidental meeting, making friends, and the opening of hearts of the forest critters as a result.  Written and illustrated by a Muslim author, the adorable illustrations make the story come to life and provide smiles for kg-2nd graders along the way.

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Yeti is the biggest, hairiest, scariest beast anyone has ever seen.  So no one comes near him, making him very lonely.  But one day a lost bird thunks him on the head.  The Yeti growls, but the bird doesn’t get scared. At all. Instead the little bird tells Yeti about her journey and how she was headed to a hot tropical island for the winter.

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Yeti doesn’t know what to do with the sad little bird, so he picks her up and takes her home.  The next day the two play and laugh.  The forest animals look on in surprise and curiosity.

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As it gets colder, Yeti knows his new friend will need to leave so he studies the map and helps give her directions for the long journey ahead.  Once she leaves, Yeti is even lonelier than before.

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But, alas, new friends are ready to play and the little bird stops by to play when she can.

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Cute and fun and great for littles, to be brave and give a new friend a chance.

The Green Dinosaur Umbrella: A Hajj Story by Amina Banawan illustrated by Rania Hasan

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The Green Dinosaur Umbrella: A Hajj Story by Amina Banawan illustrated by Rania Hasan

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This 36 page Hajj story covers the steps of Hajj by following a green dinosaur umbrella as it gets passed around to those that need it more than the person who currently holds it.  A great story for ages 4 to 8, the large 8.5 by 11 colorful pages-full of diversity, kindness, and bits of information help inspire and amuse our little Muslims.

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Ibrahim is getting ready for hajj and picks out a green dinosaur umbrella to take to Makkah.  When he gets separated from his father while making tawaf, it his umbrella that his father sees to find his grateful son again.

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Outside Ibrahim sees an old man sitting in the hot son and gives him the umbrella realizing the old man needs it more that he does.  The old man takes the umbrella to Mina and makes dua’as for the generous boy at Arafat.

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When a tour leader comes around to hand out water and juice, the old man determines that he needs it more than he does and passes it on.  The leader carries it toward Jabal Ar-rahma and Muzdalifah.  He is awoken from his sleep by two men arguing and uses the dinosaur to defuse the tension.

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The next morning he sees a mother carrying a young child and gives her the umbrella as the rain starts to come down.  She and the baby are kept dry as they go to throw their pebbles as the jamarat, and kept them dry as they walked back to Mina.

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After they trim their hair and prepare for Eid, she sees a little girl looking sad and gifts her the green dinosaur umbrella. After performing the Sa’ee, her father offers to take her to feed the pigeons and she runs off forgetting the umbrella, as it rolls under a book shelf of Qurans.

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After making his farewell Tawaf, Ibrahim goes to get a Quran for his father and finds his special umbrella peeking out from under the shelves.

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A beautiful fun book that shows the steps of hajj for even the little ones to enjoy all while teaching lessons about generosity, selflessness, and worshipping Allah swt, alhumdulillah.

We are Muslim, Al-Hamdu Lillah! by Kathy Fannoun

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We are Muslim, Al-Hamdu Lillah! by Kathy Fannoun

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In digging through and pulling out board books for my nine month old to chew on, I realized I never reviewed this staple.  Published in 1994, this 16 page 4 x 5 book does a good job in rhyming verse discussing the universal bond of Islam for our littlest ones.

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It starts out by stating that we are children form many different nations, and are different shapes and sizes, but that Allah swt created us all.

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It reminds us that even though our words are different, and some of us are rich and others poor, we still enjoy God’s gifts and love our families, because in the end we all praise Allah, and are Muslims, Al-Hamdu Lillah!

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The illustrations are clearly hand drawn and filled in with colored pencils, but they show diverse skin tones, a few different ethnic dresses, some in hijab and kufis, others not, and all smiling.

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This book is basic, which makes it perfect for little ones at bedtime and even in small groups.  Younger children appreciate the simple message and rhyme scheme and it is the perfect size in their hands.

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This book is probably bringing back memories for many of you, as it was one of the first books of its kind.  A board book, that is Islamic, cute and fun, for English readers. I remember in high school reading it to my Sunday school preschool class at the masjid, sharing it at story times at the masjid as an adult, and reading it to my own kids over the years.  The binding is still holding strong, and the words still remind me how blessed I am to be s Muslim, Al-Hamdu-Lillah!

Cotton Candy Sky by Zain Bhikha illustrated by Amir Al-Zubi

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Cotton Candy Sky by Zain Bhikha illustrated by Amir Al-Zubi

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So glad to see another Zain Bhika song hit the mark and bring the beloved lyrics to life in book form. Ages 2 and up will enjoy the 28 page book even if they haven’t heard the song, and parents will enjoy watching the kids sing-read the pages independently if they have.

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The illustrations are sweet and diverse with the characters and their families changing with each verse.  But all celebrating in their appreciation for the light of Allah’s blessings and the patience of waiting for the rain to pass.

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I particularly enjoy the Arabic in the clouds on the pages explaining what the character does whenever he/she feels down and looks up to the sky to see Allah’s signs.

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The hardback book is sturdy with a playful large font on the pages, and is meant for Muslim kids with the concept coming from Surah An-Noor (24:35).

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Once again, thank you Crescent Moon Store (https://crescentmoonstore.com/products/cotton-candy-sky?_pos=1&_sid=c94d58757&_ss=r) for fast friendly service and great prices!

 

 

Owl & Cat Go To Hajj by Emma Apple

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Owl & Cat Go To Hajj by Emma Apple

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I thought I knew what this latest Owl & Cat book would entail.  I figured like the Islam is… and Ramadan is… books, this book would, in its simplicity, poignancy, and repetitive sentence structure convey the emotions and importance of Hajj.  So imagine my complete surprise when the 78 page book with two familiar characters actually detailed day-by-day the steps of Hajj for young preschool aged readers and listeners and up.

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Owl and Cat show what a pilgrim does on each of the 5 days of Hajj.  Each section is separated by days with color tabs on top to keep the steps clear.  The illustrations are a little crisper than in previous books which resembled little doodles a bit more to me.  And while the simplicity of sentence structure, length, and diction remains, the book is a lot more factual and didactic than sentimental, especially compared to the other books in the series.

The book starts off with a a list of contents and an informative page about Hajj.  Owl and Cat then pack their bags, and travel by plane to Mecca. Day one has them putting on ihram, performing tawaf, sa’iy, and heading to Mina.  Some details about what each step means are given, but nothing overwhelming or too wordy.  The illustrations show what the text means and offer a lot to the understanding, if the concepts are foreign.

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Day two is going to Arafat, and standing in prayer at Jabal ar-Rahma.  They then head to Muzdalifah to rest and collect stones.  It also mentions that “many Muslims who are not on Hajj will fast.”

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Day three takes them back to Mina to throw their pebbles, make sacrifice, cut their hair, and change out of their ihram before they do their second tawaf, sa’iy, and travel back to Mina for Eid.

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Day four is in Mina stoning the jamarat as is day five before they travel back to Mecca to do the final tawaf and drink Zamzam water before their Hajj is complete.

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The book would probably work for non Muslims in that it isn’t preachy, but some base knowledge would be needed as there isn’t a glossary.  The book is pretty thorough for a children’s book, but I think the information is needed.  Many children do stimulations of Hajj or read simplified versions and don’t realize there is some back and forth and many of the actions are done more than once, and that it is a lot of actions, steps, and traveling in a short amount of time.