Tag Archives: Eid

Baby’s First Ramadan by Clare Lloyd design and illustrations by Eleanor Bates

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Baby’s First Ramadan by Clare Lloyd design and illustrations by Eleanor Bates

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I was excited to see publishing company DK add this Ramadan book to their board book selection, but overall it didn’t wow me, or even really impress me.  It has realistic pictures of diverse Muslims celebrating Ramadan, simple text, and bright images, but it read awkward as it switched between first and third person, realistic and stock looking images, and not terribly enticing with slightly faded mehndi and unexplained foods.  There are better board books out there for babies and toddlers than this 12 page mainstream published one.  If you can find it at the library, sure check it out, but I’d save my money on purchasing it.

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The book starts out saying Muslims follow Islam and Ramadan is a special month in Islam.  It features a a man holding a little girl and both are people of color.  The opposite page is a cartoonish crescent moon saying it is the start of Ramadan.

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The next page has a plate of realistic deviled eggs on a bright background stating that many Muslims fast, don’t eat from sunrise to sunset.  It also states that the meal before dawn is called suhoor or sehri.  I’m not sure why Urdu is included with the traditional Arabic and no other languages are mentioned.

The next page then shows a little girl praying and switches to present tense first person and says “Let’s pray…” followed by a little boy reading Quran and stating that reading Quran helps us learn about Islam.  It then switches back to declarative 3rd person saying that people break their fasts before sunset prayers and shows a bowl of dates.

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A family is then shown breaking their fast with a meal known as iftar and the reader is urged to pick their favorite sweet to eat from a plate of different shaped baklava.  There is no description about the baklava and I don’t know how enticing they would be if you have never tasted it before.

The book concludes with the same cartoonish night sky and silhouetted masjids saying the crescent has been seen, Ramadan is over and tomorrow is Eid.  The last page is a girls hand saying , “Let’s celebrate Eid by making henna patterns on our hands.”

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I think the idea is good, but I feel like it doesn’t answer many questions about Ramadan and Muslims and probably makes the religion and celebrations seem foreign and odd, presumably the opposite effect.  I admittedly haven’t read the other holiday books in the series and am not a baby expert, so perhaps I’m really critical and missing the developmental reasoning behind the presentation.  But I don’t know that this book is fun or really informative for any age, it just seems random.

Not the Girls You’re Looking For by Aminah Mae Safi

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Not the Girls You’re Looking For by Aminah Mae Safi

This book did not work for me. Despite the fact that the main character is Muslim and it is Ramadan, no matter how much I wanted to connect with this multicultural lead and her friends, and see myself in her as she navigates high school, I just could not. The writing was choppy 3rd person which distanced the main character for me, the crude language on every page, the drugs and alcohol in every scene, the detailed sexual encounters throughout, the lacking growth of the characters and the muddled point of the book in general made the book difficult to read. The book is an AR 4.9 but content wise is more suited for mature 18 year olds. Even this review might be a little too much, I’ll do my best to keep it clean. Ultimately this book missed the mark for me in showing females defining themselves, celebrating friendships and diversity, or even just creating characters to cheer for as they navigate life.

SYNOPSIS:

Leila is half Iraqi Muslim from her dad’s side and half American Catholic from her mother. She doesn’t know how to pray as her father isn’t religious, but celebrates Ramadan and Christmas and defines the world on her own terms. She is fearless and owns herself, hence she hates her name and goes by Lulu instead. The book opens with her making out with a boy in a closet which she kind of regrets and then goes to join up with her friends at the party to drink and get high and attack one another for their poor choices resulting in drama. In this instance Lulu’s anger pushes a boy in the pool, and then the four friends devise a way to get home and work out the lies they will need to tell to the parents involved. This scenario with only slight variations repeats five or six times in the book.

Lulu is the fearless one, Lo, short for Delores, is the leader, Audrey is an alcoholic math whiz and Emma, not to be underestimated and often is forgotten (literally) is coming out in her first lesbian relationship. Yes these labels are limiting and stereotypical, especially in a book calling for girl power or what not, but sadly that is really the only space they flesh out, not a whole lot more is known about them. The girls defend each other fiercely to outsiders, but are truly awful and angry to one another all the time. They break apart and Lulu doesn’t really know why, so the path back to one another isn’t really cathartic. They pull a prank to get back at a boy that crossed the line with Lulu, but it fizzles when the threat of what the prank could do is enough to keep him away and they don’t have to complete it completely.

Between the parties there are some sub plots that weave in and out. Lulu has to spend time with Iraqi family friends who don’t accept her and are critical, in Arabic, of her mother. This gives some cultural layer to the story, but the characters are pretty flat and petty and hypocritical. The bombings in Paris a few years earlier, and the resulting bullying by classmates hardened Lulu, but there isn’t much info on how awful they treated her or how it defined her, so not much sympathy is garnered by the event nor does it help the reader get inside Lulu’s head. There is also a sweeter love story brewing than the one night stands that define Lulu, but then she goes with her mother to get birth control so she can sleep with him all while making it clear that he isn’t her boyfriend, she just wants to have sex with him- which she does on her seventeenth birthday.

Eventually the girls are back together and gushing with tales of sorrow and personal growth and vows that they will always be like sisters.

WHY I LIKE IT:

I don’t mind the premise so much as the execution of it. I get that people practice Islam differently, but I really don’t get the need to even bring her religion in to such a story. Culture maybe, but even that is a stretch. I don’t know if the story would be better if it was first person, I would like to think so, as not connecting with the main character was such an obstacle for me. I wanted to see her grow and change or at least have clarity in her decisions even if I didn’t agree with them or couldn’t relate to them. I wanted to feel her remorse or the weight of her decisions, but was often just told in passing that something scared her or was hard for her, not shown it. The theme of not belonging anywhere is a legit one, but I don’t know that this book explored it, it just sort of brushed by it almost as a trial to see if the emotions would stick. Which for a character built up to be unapologetic and unafraid to suddenly want a victim label without any real emotional ties, didn’t work for me. There are such holes in the story, that at times things didn’t seem believable or details were so specific with no context that I didn’t get their purpose. I would have loved to know more about her brothers and the tests they went through, or why her family was so loyal to the Arabs around them. I desperately wanted something that showed a different side of Lulu not just the anger and “F everyone who wants to change me” mantra. People are scared of her and she enjoys that power, but I don’t get why they are scared and why she enjoys it. It seems like a big part of her story and of the book in general to miss. Yes she is independent, and I get that can be misread, but she almost seems one dimensional and flat which defies the concept of defining yourself on your own terms and carving out where you want to belong among groups that see you as other, right?

The character is pretty open that she knows little about Islam, she also claims she isn’t interested. She fasts not so much because it is a commandment but more to appreciate poor people. She says this, but actions don’t seem to back it up. She tries not to drink during Ramadan but she still smokes, gets high, makes out, and lies once the sun goes down. At one point she calls a bride and her mother whores, and refuses to apologize, so her dad gets a fatwa issued. Lulu’s mom mentions that something went all Shiite on the situation, so I’m not sure if the fatwa issuing for such a specific thing is a shiite thing or something I’m just not aware of or familiar with as a tool for handling family dramas.

FLAGS:

The whole book really. Sex, drugs, alcohol, sexual assault, lying, cheating, blackout drunk, vaping, talk of orgasms and going down, lesbian relationship, hetero relationships, sexual encounters, language etc etc etc.

TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

Would never cross my mind to share or suggest this book. Even religion representation issues aside, I don’t know that there is really a single “healthy” relationship highlighted among the main characters, some of the side characters maybe, but not enough information is given to really make that case. The characters just all seem so angry, not saying teenage years aren’t angry and messy, but this one doesn’t seem to add much perspective to that singular thought unfortunately.

Once Upon an Eid: Stories of Hope and Joy by 15 Muslim Voices edited by S.K. Ali and Aisha Saeed

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Once Upon an Eid: Stories of Hope and Joy by 15 Muslim Voices edited by S.K. Ali and Aisha Saeed

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I’ve never been a huge fan of short stories, but this book has me reconsidering such an arrogant approach, as every single story in this collection has me feeling the warmth of Eid, the joy of authenticity, and the beauty of being a part of a faith with such strong female writers.  Fifteen entries for middle graders in mind: short stories, poetry, and even a graphic novel, spread over 304 pages that shine light on Eid in today’s world,  Eid al Fitr and Ramadan make up the bulk of the focus, but Eid al Adha and Hajj are in there too.  And the best part of the book is that you will see yourself in it, possibly all through out it, but reading such diverse OWN Voice stories are sure to make a Muslim reader feel represented and right at home, and give non Muslim’s a peek at us from the inside, inshaAllah.

SYNOPSIS:

I don’t know how to review the book as a whole since there really are 15 different stories, that are each heartfelt and strong in their own right and yet somehow made better by the company around them.  There were no weak links.  There are stories with bickering siblings, annoying cousins, different cultures, mixed background familes, divorced families, converts’ stories, stories of families where money is tight, stories with illness, stories of loss, a story from the perspective of a refugee, and stories of reaching out of your comfort zone.  There is one story about Eid al Adha and a story starring a Shi’a muslimah feeling different within Islam.  There are stories told from boys voices and girls voices and every single story has a take home message, some more subtle than others, but all there and all real.  I feel like even a summary of a story would prove a spoiler and take away from one just falling in to the collection and receiving the warm hug that awaits.   I’ll leave the summaries to their titles and well known authors to spark your curiousity.

Perfect: Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

Yusuf and the Great Big Brownie Mistake:  Aisha Saeed

Kareem Means Generous: Asmaa Hussein

Don’ut Break Tradition: S.K. Ali

Just Like Chest Armor: Candice Montgomery

Gifts: Rukhsana Khan

The Feast of Sacrifice: Hena Khan

Seraj Captures the Moon: G. Willow Wilson and Sara Alfageeh

Searching for Blue: N.H. Senzai

Creative Fixes: Ashley Franklin

Taste: Hanna Alkaf

Eid Pictures: Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

Not Only an Only: Huda Al-Marashi

Maya Madinah Chooses Joy: Ayesha Mattu

Eid and Pink Bubble Gum, Insha’Allah: Randa Abdel-Fattah

WHY I LIKE IT:

I recieved this book as an Advanced Reader (digital) copy and I am thinking I want a hard copy too, (I wasn’t able to view the artwork).  A lot of people ask me and I see postings in various social media groups asking for suggestions of books to read each night as a family in Ramadan, and I think this one would work for grades 3 and up.  Have each kid read the story throughout the day and then discuss in the evening.  Every story will have something that is familiar, probably something new, and each has a teachable moment.  I think different kids will identify with different aspects of the story and to articulate them in Ramadan will really bring the already memorable characters to life.

The book is very well done, and reads very smooth and cohesive, it really has a unified tempo and mood which is remarkable because so many different author’s and voices are included.  The book stays focused on the feeling rather than getting too weighted down by doctrine.  There are stories that feature hijab prominantly, and a bit of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), and some slight mention of islamaphobia, but it focuses on the friends and the love that support us, both Muslim and non, that make Eid and life hopeful.

FLAGS:

Clean

TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

I would consider this as a book club book to be hosted just as I hope to do this Ramadan with my own children in my home (see above).  I think really I just want to buy a bunch of copies to give as gifts to the fabulous elementary aged children I know, alhumdulillah.

Eid Breakfast at Abuela’s by Mariam Saad illustrated by Chaymaa Sobhy

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Eid Breakfast at Abuela’s by Mariam Saad illustrated by Chaymaa Sobhy

breakfastThis book is the first in a series (hopefully) called Trilingual Sofia, where English is the predominant language, and Spanish and Arabic are interwoven to tell the story.  Focusing on Eid and spending the holiday in Mexico with her non Muslim grandmother, the story with bright illustrations is a celebration of diversity, acceptance, family, and Eid.

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Sofia has had a special Ramadan.  She tried fasting for the first time and now that the month is over, they are breaking their fast and then getting on a plane to Mexico to have Eid breakfast with her Abuela.

On the plane she keeps her pretzel bag to add to her scrapbook and then they get changed into their Eid clothes before they land.  Once in Mexico they go straight to the mosque to meet their friends and then to Abuela’s house.

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Abuela’s house is decorated for Eid and all the family is there.  They eat breakfast together and the kids play games and sing songs and take pictures.

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The 32 page 8.5 by 8.5 inch hardback book claims to be for toddles and preschoolers, but I think it is more for kids in early elementary with the small and ample text.  The Spanish words are highlighted in green and Sofia teaches some Arabic to her Mexican cousins.  There is a glossary of all three languages at the end.  

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The book is not meant only for Muslim children, but it doesn’t explain Ramadan or Eid, so while Muslim’s might be able to connect the dots of why she only fasted the last two hours of a day or why they went to the mosque before they went to Abuela’s, I wish the book explained it.

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I love that their are subtle connections between the three languages, like Angel Gabriel/Jibreel and the name Yusuf/Joseph.  The book is a great example of Islam outside of the Middle East and the Asian subcontinent and I truly hope there are more books in this series and more books like it to show the diversity of Islam and the commonalities we all share.

Rami the Ramadan Cat by Robyn Thomas illustrated by Abira Das

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Rami the Ramadan Cat by Robyn Thomas illustrated by Abira Das

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This delightful little story about a boy, a lost cat, Ramadan and making friends, has a great lesson in empathy and understanding even when things are hard.  The 28 page beautifully illustrated glossy book (8.5 x 11)  is set in Ramadan, but is enjoyable for children 5 to 9 all year long.

Saleem has just moved to a new city with his parents and doesn’t know anyone.  Feeling lonely on the first day of Ramadan he is outside sulking when he sees a lost little cat.  He brings it in and his parents help him take care of him until they can find the cat’s owners.

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Saleem decides to call the cat, Rami the Ramadan cat for his timely appearance.  The next day the family makes flyers to post around to try and find Rami’s owner.  But no luck even after a few weeks, and secretly Saleem starts hoping they never find the owners.  Rami is his best friend, he jumps on Saleem when he is praying, keeps him company when he reads Quran, even shares his iftar with him.

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One night at the mosque, Saleem makes Dua that Rami will stay with him forever.  After Taraweeh, Saleem can’t find his father, he waits by the door as everyone leaves, but can’t see him, he checks the shoe rack and his shoes are gone.  Feeling scared and alone he wonders if his father left him.  When his father returns from the washroom, Saleem is relieved, but wonders if that is how Rami felt that first day of Ramadan.

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The next morning Saleem and his mom knock on every door in the neighboorhood until they find Rami’s owner.  When they find her, she is a nice lady, and tell Saleem, the cat’s name is Sammy.  Rami gives her his address and asks her to contact him if she ever needs someone to cat-sit Rami.

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Saleem’s Eid isn’t very fun without his only friend.  After prayers, there is a knock at the door, Sammy’s owner has come to offer to let Saleem keep Rami if he promises to bring him around to visit with her and her grandkids sometime.  She has other cats and sensed that he was missing Saleem.

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Saleem’s parents invite the lady, Mrs. Tompkins and her grand kids in to celebrate eid with them and Saleem and the children play with Rami, the best eid present ever.

The book shows Saleem praying and reading Quran and going to the masjid, but it isn’t preachy.  I think even non Muslims would enjoy the book and not be confused by anything Saleem and his family are doing.

I love that the mom so clearly wears hijab out of the house, but not in the house.  That there is some skin color diversity in the book, that Mrs. Tompkins is in a wheel chair.  I also love that the new friends, and only friends are presumably non Muslim, and that a little gray cat brought them all together, Alhumdulillah.

The Little Green Drummer by Taghreed Najjar retuld by Lucy Coats illustrated by Hassan Manasrah

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This book is perfect for early readers that are more fluent than picture books, but not quite ready for a full on chapter book.  With five chapters, pictures on every one of its 73 pages, this book is a joy to read both on your own or out loud to a group.  It is fun for Muslim children and non Muslim kids, and a great addition to bedtime or story time at Ramadan, or any other time of the year for that matter.

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SYNOPSIS:

Samia and her Yaba live in Lifta, Palestine and her dad’s job in the month of Ramadan is is to wake the whole village up as the dawn waker-upper.  Samia loves his important job, and hopes one day to do it too, but her dad says a girl has never done it before.  Samia doesn’t understand why, girls can shout and bang drums as well as anyone else.

The day before the start of Ramadan, Yaba is not feeling well and doesn’t know what he will do.  Samia sees her chance and says she can do it.  Her drum is loud, her lantern is bright, and her dog, Barkie, will keep the wild wolves away.

As she sets out in the dark, she sees orange scary eyes in the woods and sings a song to herself to keep her brave as Barkie defends her.  When she gets to the first house, they are surprised to see her, but the children of the home rush out to join her with their own drums.  When the three children and Barkie get to the next house, their friend Omar wants to join in with his tambourine.  This continues as the village children join together with whatever instruments, even pots and pans, they have to make sure everyone gets up in time for suhoor.  For five is louder than four, all the way up to nine being the loudest of all.

The children all sing and the villagers reward them with candy and treats.  On the way back home the wolves stay away and when they reach home Samia’s dad is feeling better and can’t wait to hear of her adventure.

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WHY I LIKE IT:

The book is based in truth which is detailed at the end of the story on three pages that tell about Lifta, and how after a war the people were not able to return.  It also tells about Ramadan as the story text itselft mentions it very little.  Yes, it takes place in Ramadan, and the people need to be woken up to eat before the day starts to fast, but the afterword gives a bit more about the holiday and Eid that follows.

I love that the book is about a girl doing something because she can, I was afraid it was going to be like Hiba Masood’s Drummer Girl, but it takes a different turn in showing Samia having to be brave, showing team work and cooperation in getting the job done, and the village not even really caring who wakes them up, her being a girl doing a “man’s job” is never even mentioned again.

The book is fun with the sound effects and inclusion of everyone and the illustrations are incredibly well done.

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FLAGS:

The book is clean, the “scary part” is quick and while it adds a little tension, not enough to scare even sensitive little ones.  The dog stands his ground and becomes the Dog King of the Village.

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TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

I’m trying to see if I can do this as an online story time during Ramadan amid Covid 19.  It is a super quick read, and is a lot of fun, but the small (8×5) size might make the pictures hard to see.  I think all kg through 2nd grade classes should have this story.  It explains a cultural celebration of Ramadan in a universal way that will make Muslims feel proud and non Muslims excited to learn about something new.

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Yes No Maybe So by Becky Ablertalli and Aisha Saeed

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Yes No Maybe So by Becky Ablertalli and Aisha Saeed

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This new rom com in book form with a Muslim female character written by a Muslim author, sets itself apart by being co-written by a Jewish author and the other half of the love story being told by a Jewish boy’s point of view.  This YA book is very relevant as a special election in Georgia served as the catalyst of the two authors coming together and fictionalizing the effects of white supremacy, Islamaphobia, and antisemitism for the book, while real headlines were urging the two to canvas, get involved, and make a change against the increased showing of hate with the election of Trump.  The presentation of Islam is probably realistic, but definitely not ideal, and with the kissing, multiple LGBTQ+ supporting characters, the profanities, and 436 page length, the book is probably best for 15 year old readers and up.

SYNOPSIS:

Jamie Goldberg is 17 and is spending his summer helping his cousin work on a special election campaign for a Democratic candidate in an incredibly red district in Georgia.  A very nervous kid, who hates public speaking and talking to girls in general, he would rather be behind the scenes or hanging out at Target.  His little sister, Sophie’s bat mitzvah is coming and things at home are crazy with pre party planning.  His grandma, an Instagram sensation uses him for tech support and video filming, and his easy going demeanor means he spends a lot of time, being bossed around.

Maya is the 17 year old only child of a lawyer mom and physician dad and has just found out that they are separating.  With her one friend too busy with work and starting at the University of Georgia, US born, Pakistani-American Muslim Maya, is not having a very good Ramadan.  When an interfaith event reunites her with a childhood play-date friend, Jamie, her mom convinces her to help him canvas to keep busy and sweetens the deal by bribing her with a car.

Naturally the two spend a lot of time together vounteering for Jordan Rossum, stuffing envelopes, canvassing, and putting up signs.  Along their way they become good friends, and invested in the election as a House Bill banning head coverings, and antisemitic bumper stickers start getting plastered around town.  The end of Ramadan, the election, the hate the two encounter, and families changing, bring Jamie and Maya together.

Maya’s parents are pretty chill about boys, and only caution her about unnecessary complications by dating in high school, when Maya throws it back on them, that their relationship is pretty complicated, she seems to not find an Islamic reason not to make-out with Jamie.  The whole book is angsty and the two feign cluelessness, but based on the cover of the book alone you know where it is going.  The true climax is how much the relationship can be used for political gain, and if they can get their candidate elected.

WHY I LIKE IT:

I like the political setting, it is a different and very relevant slant.  It might be a little alienating to readers outside the United States, because the political process isn’t really detailed, but the characters involvement in their small slice is a major aspect of the book.  The book is definitely pro Democrat, but addresses the gas lighting, hate speech, and views of those on both sides.

I also like that two minority authors came together to share an OWN voice perspective of life today.  For the most part the story telling is smooth with the two characters getting alternating chapters to tell their story from their point of view.  A few times, I felt details were missing, for example what Maya wore for Eid, when space was given to detail that she didn’t wear ethnic clothes to an iftar, and her picking a dress for Sophie’s bat mitzvah.  Similarly, Maya’s parents seemed flat for their trial separation being a major part of Maya’s stress.  Jamie’s grandma was probably my favorite side character, and one of the most fleshed out.

I am fully aware that some Muslims pick and chose what to follow and that not everyone is strict about boy/girl relations, but I felt like for a book that is set in Ramadan, uses religion as a catalyst for civic action, Maya’s mom wearing hijab, and an opening scene being set at the masjid, there is really nothing Islam in the defining aspects of the characters or story.  It is so watered down and almost catering to non Muslims to feel comfortable, that it left me annoyed.  And I think non Muslims too will wonder why Maya’s mom covers and Maya doesn’t and how that works, or why Maya switches to having one reason for not dating and then a religious one.

The book sets out to do a lot in terms of humanizing the effects of laws and policy on average people, but I don’t know that most Muslims hoping to see a mirror to their experience will find that in Maya.  I can’t speak about Jamie, and the Jewish experience, but Maya is rather forgettable in my opinion.

FLAGS:

There is a lot of cursing, and the F word at that.  In the dialogue set in Ramadan, it becomes a joke to substitute it for something else, but once the month is over, the language resumes.  There is kissing, and making-out with the main characters.  There is talk of hooking up, but nothing explicit.  There are is a side character friend that is gay and he and his boyfriend are affectionate.  After the bat mitzvah Sophie comes out to Jamie.

TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

I don’t think that I could do this as a middle school selection, the rationale for Jamie and Maya dating, isn’t ok for an Islamic School message.  I really wish just once, a book like this would have the main character, being like, “nope, sorry.”  It is getting predictable and while I know it is countering the oppressed woman view, it is becoming equally one dimensional in its presentation of Muslim women.

 

Zainab is Different by Irfana Khan illustrated by Josh Wise

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This 24 page picture book for kindergarten children and up, is sweet in its handling of being labled “different,” without getting overly negative or caught up in the manifestation of discrimination.  Unfortunately, with so much emphasis on different religions: the places of worship, the holidays celebrated, the manner of dress, etc., faith becomes inadvertantly highlighted as the root cause for the division and discrimination.  Perhaps I am reading too much in to it, and the book just needs a few more examples to make the author’s point that we are all different and unique, but as it is, I didn’t love it, my kids all thought it was cute though, especially my daughter named Zainab.

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Zainab walks to school every morning with her mom.  She says hi to the neighbor and can’t wait to get to school to her best friend Melissa and her amazing teacher Mrs. Sperber.

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One day Melissa and Zainab want to play hide-and-seek and ask Matt if he wants to play too.  He responds, “Eww, I don’t want to play with Zainab! My dad said she’s weird and different from us.”

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Having never been called that, Zainab is bothered by the words and tells her teacher.  The teacher points out that they have different colored hair, but can see that Zainab is still hurt and tells her not to worry, she has an idea.

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At circle time the teacher starts of by highlighting differences with the kids identifying their favorite color, and her writting their names on the ones they like best.  She then asks about places of worship they visit: churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, and again writes their names on the ones they have been to or frequent.

IMG_0559 Next she moves on to holidays celebrated, and then special clothing, only hijab is mentioned though.  The teacher then discusses feelings and how things about us might be different but our feelings are the same.  We like it when we are all nice to each other, and are sad when someone is mean.

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Zainab sees her name with different people’s names on the pictures now hanging up and Matt comes and apologizes for being mean earlier. The teacher also mentions that maybe some haven’t visited any of the buildings discussed.

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The pictures appear to be done in colored pencil and are colorful and detailed with the pictures of the places of worship bein actual images.  The 8.5 by 11 pages are large and would work well at story time or bedtime.

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The fact that Matt’s words are assumed to be about religion seems presumptious to me.  Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t, I feel like there needed to be more there.  A few pages about things other than faith, in my opinion, would make the message of us all being different in some things and the same in other things a bit more powerful.   The pacing too is a bit off. It is a big jump from what is your favorite color to do you go to a church?  The resolution is really quick too, as it is tied into feelings, a little bit more of showing the reader, rather than just telling them, would amplify the process and the message.

 

Tried & Tested by Umm Juwayriyah

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Tried & Tested by Umm Juwayriyah

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In 337 pages I fell in love with the Johnson family and all their drama and hardships, while marveling at their resiliency, love of family, and determination to own their mistakes, right them, and move forward.  I don’t know that this Urban Islamic Fiction book is classified as YA (the author didn’t respond when I reached out), but I think high school juniors and up will appreciate either/both seeing themselves in it or/and reading an engaging story about indigenous American Muslims.

SYNOPSIS:

A naïve teen, Iman Johnson, ran away from home and her Islamic life to be with a boy offering her the world.  After twelve years of being away from home, she sees a window to escape the oppression and abuse of her husband and return to her family who she has had no contact with in Pittsburg, PA.  The story is linear as it follows Iman as she deals with the stresses she currently faces while dealing with the consequences of her actions and mistakes of her past. She must reconcile her family, deal with the passing of her father, the failing health of her mother, the tumultuous relationship her younger sister is in, the incarceration of her older brother, and the impending arrival of her little brother’s first child.  Ultimately she must also face her husband to get a divorce, keep safe from his mafia like family of drugs and violence and control, find a job, get her alcohol addiction in check, and forge ahead.  She also must reconnect with Allah swt, her community and find herself.

WHY I LIKE IT:

It has been over a week since I finished the book, and I can’t decide if the author failed to be consistent with a certain character, or if she made him fallible intentionally to show that there are no saviors and we all have our own weaknesses and humanity, or if I’m just really irate with a fictional character and his poor choices, ahem Jibril.  That being said the characters really stay with you, and I feel like I could chat about them as if they are real and I am ready to go start a gofund me campaign to help them out.

The characters at every single step are Muslim and the book feels like a labor of love from the author.  I don’t think this is a book that could be researched or written from outside, I’m guessing the author has loved this community and been loved by them in return.  For all the Islam in it, I think a non Muslim could read it and enjoy the story, but if you are Muslim you are in for a treat.  From the Eid morning bathroom schedule, to the annoyance of having a brother in law staying over and thus forcing you to cover when you run to the kitchen for a snack.  Yes, at times, there might be too much information, like how many times does it say she relieved her self and made wudu, but the consistency makes it all so worth it.

I’m being vague about some of the details and not telling too much about the characters, because you really have to immerse yourself in it, and thankfully the author does a great job in keeping it clear who all the characters are, how they are related and what life experiences they bring to the table.  Every single character has issues, no one is perfect, yet somehow the story is never sad or hopeless.  No one is looking to be saved or playing the victim card, they are all fighting the fight, and taking it one day at a time.  It is really impressive.

Sure, most of it is predictable and I wanted more of a showdown between Iman and her ex, Mateo, but yet somehow I was sad when the book ended and I had to leave the characters and their world. I absolutely love how the brothers take turns guarding Iman as if they do this all the time for their sisters.  Sure it may not be realistic that they can find someone free at all times, and whatnot, but I really want this to be true.  That people still look out for one another, and not perfect people who don’t have their own issues, but real people, family, just people who have made it a priority to care.

FLAGS:

There is lying, deceipt, affairs, drugs, drinking, violence, abuse, smoking.  But, nothing is glorified or detailed, it is mentioned to make a point and then the story moves on.   The book is about succeeding despite all the negative and finding your way to hold on to your deen, no matter what.

TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

I think this would be a great book club for like young college girls.  There is a tint of romance, a whole lot of pulling yourself up and moving forward, and conversation about what tempts us, and how to persevere.  I hope if you read it you’ll shoot me a message, I’d love to hear how much of it rings true for you, and what characters you cheer on and are most annoyed with as well.

 

Two Pigeons on a Pilgrimage: A Hajj Story by Rabia Bashir illustrated by Aisha Dean

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Two Pigeons on a Pilgrimage: A Hajj Story by Rabia Bashir illustrated by Aisha Dean

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An adorable 40 page paper back book about Hajj aimed at ages 3 and up and told from the perspective of two Pigeons performing Hajj with humans.

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A boy and girl pigeon say Bismillah and spread their wings as they head off to Hajj.  They see pilgrims at the airport wearing ihram before they start circling the Ka’ba like the humans below.  After seven rounds they go to Ibrahim’s Station before they are off to Safa and Marwa while pausing to sip on Zamzam.

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With Umrah complete they are off to Mina, then Arafat where duas are made.  They then go to sleep under the stars in Muzdalifah, before they slaughter an animal, cut their hair, shower, and throw stones at Shaitan.

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The concepts are simplified, but told in sequential order of how hajj is performed with very little commentary or embellishment.  The lines rhyme, so there is some creativity thrown in to keep the pattern and facts in line.  The font size, spacing and overall presentation of the book is good for reading at bed time or in small groups.

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The best part of the book, are the pictures.  They are sweet, colorful, and engaging and to find out at the end that they are done by a 12 year old girl is an extra added bonus.

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The book is factual in the steps for hajj, but because it doesn’t have a glossary, or give much information about why Muslim’s perform Hajj or details about the different acts of worship, it probably is better suited for Muslim kids that will hopefully know some of the answers, or have access to an adult who can answer and fill in the blanks.

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Overall, a good addition to books about Hajj to share with your little ones.  I just wish it would have come out a little bit earlier, as the Hajj starts in a few days and the book just came out.  If you can’t find it this year, inshaAllah get a head start for next year as I think the book has staying power and will be read more than once as both a learning tool, and fun book requested by kids.

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