This book is interfaith, and learning your own roots, and asking questions about your heritage and faith all rolled in to a cute little package for children. But despite it’s length, 28 pages, and cute little girls on the cover, the book is for more first grade/second grade and older children, rather than toddlers.
The message that we are more alike than different is a great message, even for the littlest of readers, but this book goes a little deeper, and the didactic approach will bore them a bit. Older kids for sure 2nd and up will benefit from the exchanges between Fatima and Fatima and learning both valuable religious lessons about their namesakes as well as respect and friendship for those with different beliefs.
Fatima is from the Democratic Republic of Congo and on her first day of school in a America she tries to remember her father’s advice, that meeting new people can be a challenge, but also an opportunity.
At lunch a little girl asks to sit with her, excited to meet someone with her same name. Fatima asks her why she wears a scarf, and listens to her explain it is because she is Muslim and the hijab is part of her religion.
At recess, Muslim Fatima tells non Muslim Fatima that she is named after Prophet Muhammad (saw)’s daughter and asks her who she is named after and if asks she is Muslim, too. The other Fatima says that she is Catholic and that she doesn’t know why her parents named her Fatima, but that she will find out and let her know.
That night Catholic Fatima learns that her mom had gone to Fatima, a city in Portugal, a famous city for all the miracles that have happened there and the apparition of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Fatima’s mom had gone there to pray for a baby and promised if she got pregnant that she would name the baby Fatima.
The next day Catholic Fatima tells Muslim Fatima and also asks her if she has heard of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Muslim Fatima says she has heard of her, but doesn’t know much and that she will ask her parents and let her know.
Muslim Fatima learns that Mary is one of the four virtuous women in Islam and that there is a chapter in the Quran named after her. When she tells Catholic Fatima the next day at school, the girls marvel at how much they have in common. They are BFFs despite their differences and beautiful ones at that.
I love that the book is framed in opposites to show similarities. I also love that it shows women in our respective faiths with similar values, similar names, and Mary’s role in both our traditions. So often, when we are building bridges we discuss how Yusuf is Joseph and Musa is Moses, Yahya is John and we go through the old Prophets, this was a nice change in perspective.
The illustrations are nothing to get excited by, but they do show smiling warm characters and family members. They serve as a distraction from the text heavy pages that do nothing to grasp the reader with their plan font and majority white backgrounds.
This book would work for Muslim children, Catholic children, really all children. It talks about faith, but as the characters view it, not in a one is better or more right than another. There is a second book in the series about Fatima inviting Fatima to an Iftar party that I look forward to checking out soon. I hope it is a little more rich in dialogue and character building instead of just a foil to disseminate the information between the two faiths, but even if it isn’t I still think the book has value and you should check it out.