The book isn’t much to look at with its black and white, with yellow thrown in cover, and its 40 pages bound with a staple, but for independent readers between 2nd and 4th grade or so, the book is good. In many ways it is an older kids version of Zaahir and Jamel, adding a fictional story to the learning about the steps of Hajj.
The setting is Hajj and all of its different rituals, but the story is that Jamila and her pet mouse Fasfoose get lost in Mecca. Along the way to finding Jamila’s parents and performing the requirements of Tawaf, Sai, Arafah, Mina, Muzdalifa, Jamrah, and Eid, a few duaas are thrown in, friendship with people of different nationalities and lessons in patience, speaking with your heart and finding your internal compass of wrong and right all come to light.
WHY I LIKE IT:
I like the target audience, and how it doesn’t ever feel preachy or like a How-to-perform-Hajj manual. If a child is familiar with the rituals of Hajj the story gently reminds them of what they already know and the story takes center stage. If they are unfamiliar, the book doesn’t talk down to them, and may prompt them to want to learn more. Strong lessons of being kind and not hurting anyone or anything while in ihram are strong, as are the beauty of multiple cultures speaking from their heart to find common threads. There are illustrations to break up the text and not overwhelm the young reader, and the story is divided into seven chapters. The font and size are all age inviting and even older middle school kids would probably pick it up if they saw it, read it in about 20 minutes and be glad that they did.
TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:
The book is fun, probably not long enough for a book club selection, but a great read -a-loud. The length of the chapters make it a short read that ideally could be read the week before Hajj or Eid. My 3rd grader read it and is enjoying listening to me read it to my 2nd grader.
This is a good little story about Eid ul-Adha for 2nd through 4th graders. It is not AR and at 29 pages it balances information about Islam and Eid with a simple little story that keeps the target demographic interested. It isn’t great, but for a book that would probably be a level reader equivalent of a three, it suffices in being a bit of a mystery, a bit of a comedy, and bit of a lesson on why and how we celebrate Eid.
Rahma’s Grandma and cousin, Muslimah, are visiting for Eid. The girls start off the story trying on their beautiful dresses and feeling like princesses. The girls and Grandma then get to work on making samosas for Eid. Rahma sees her grandmother’s ring next to the bowl of dough and tries it on. The story moves fluidly and the girls take turns helping with the folding of the samosas. Some more adults come in and add tidbits to the story about giving gifts on Eid and getting ready for Salat and depicting a typical practicing family.
The story shifts to dad asking the kids what they remember about Eid-ul-Adha and what they know about Eid-ul-Fitr, the Festival of Sacrifice. On the day of Arafat the children fast, visit the hospital and take gifts to people in the community and the neighbors. After Salat-ul-Maghrib dad reviews some of the sunnah acts for Eid as well. It doesn’t get too preachy, or overly detailed, it is more highlights and brief summary revisions.
Eid day is fun and exciting, but when night falls and the family prepares for people to come over, Grandma can’t find her ring. The kids want to be detectives, but Rahma suddenly realizes that the ring must be IN one of the samosas. So the children decide to eat them all to check. When the ring doesn’t turn up, Rahma and her cousins recite Ayat-ul Kursi, ask Allah for help and decide to tell Grandma the truth. Just then Mum yells and the ring is found in her samosa, the truth is revealed and they all enjoy a good laugh and resolve to “always remember this as the Samosa Eid.”
There is a lot of text on the page, and a fair amount of “foreign” words that I think the book is probably meant for Muslim children, or those familiar with the basics of Eid. There is a Glossary in the back, but it still might be a bit too much for non Muslim children to grasp without someone to answer their questions. The illustrations have the elder females with hijab and the girls uncovered when not praying. The small pictures are detailed and complimentary, but the younger readers will wish they were a bit more engaging. Overall, a good book to have in a classroom, and a great one to check out from the library to encourage young readers, or just to enjoy before Eid-ul-Adha.
With Hajj starting in the next few days, this is a wonderful book to share with children (and adults) of all ages. The simple text flows, although it doesn’t rhyme, and is action oriented as the reader is encouraged to accompany a family on the rituals of Hajj. The short sentences keep the book flowing and give the Arabic terms for the actions being performed. The pictures show what each step looks like and are large, inviting, and colorful. While the text doesn’t give abundant detail to someone unfamiliar with Hajj, there is basic information about Hajj at the end of the book.
Overall the book, in my opinion, works best for those familiar with Hajj and Islam. For those who are not, they will understand the basics, but probably be at a loss to delve much deeper or to answer any questions without further research. I plan to read it for story time at school and use a storyboard with the students after the initial reading to see what they can recall about the steps of Hajj, supplement, and share with their peers. I also plan to read it with my own children to do the same, as it leaves plenty of holes where those with more knowledge about the details will feel empowered in contributing to the story discussion and thus making the book enjoyable and engaging for older aged children.
The book is not AR, but most second graders should be able to read it independently without trouble.
Is there anything sweeter than a little girl feeling sad that she doesn’t have an Eid gift for her mother and then finding the perfect gift in nature? Probably, but it is still a great premise for a sweet story about a young girl named Sarah and how remembering the hadith “Allah is beautiful and loves beauty” starts a new Eid ul-Adha tradition for her family.
The Perfect Gift is simply written with adequate pictures that move the story along. The text is short and clear leaving the reader or listener with a clear message about Allah’s perfection and gifts, but keeps it on a preschool to first or second grade level. The book is 28 pages and has a few words defined at the end for clarity. While the book takes place close to Eid ul Adha, there is no mention about what the holiday is for and how it is celebrated, the focus is on the beauty of nature and perfection of Allah (swt).
For some this book may have a lot going on it’s 32 pages: Eid ul Adha, parents at Hajj, refugees, charity, Pakistani culture, but if you are reading this book to Muslim children (or they are reading it independently, it has an AR level of 3.8) i think it is delightful.
Aneesa wakes up on Eid morning missing her parents who are in Saudi Arabia performing Hajj. Her grandma, Nonni, surprises her with three new outfits complete with bangles and shoes for each of the days of Eid and is preparing her favorite dinner, lamb korma, for them to eat after Eid prayers. At Eid prayers Aneesa meets some refugee girls and wants to do something to make their Eid a little brighter. Nonni and Aneesa come up with a plan and the result is “the best Eid ever!”
I love that it has morals and plot and sparks dialogue. The message is so simple yet beautiful, that it stays with the reader, adult and child alike. The illustrations are beautiful and warm providing a nice balance to the long passages. There is an author’s note and Glossary in the back, but I think this book is really intended for a Muslim audience familiar with Hajj, Eid, and Paksitani culture. It wouldn’t be lost on someone new to the vocabulary and customs, but definitely wouldn’t be as magical or memorable.
My 3rd grader loved the book and we were able to talk about it and reflect upon it long after the initial reading. My younger boys enjoyed it, but didn’t get as much out of it. I think this book works better in smaller groups rather than story time, or simply to have on the shelf to sweep the reader up and allow them to draw their own conclusions on what it means to do something for someone else.