Tag Archives: forgiveness

Hey, Presto! by Nadia Shireen

Hey, Presto! by Nadia Shireen


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Let it Go: Learning the Lesson of Forgiveness by Na’ima B. Robert and Mufti Menk illustrated by Samantha Chaffey

Let it Go: Learning the Lesson of Forgiveness by Na’ima B. Robert and Mufti Menk illustrated by Samantha Chaffey

let it go


This 32 page rhyming book follows a little boy around as he is weighed down by a lot of things not going his way.  He doesn’t want to forgive until he is the one that hurts someone else and realizes we all make mistakes, forgiveness is not a weakness, and we all feel angry at times.  The book breaks from the story to ask the reader to think about their emotions in various situations, and encourages the reader to talk about their feelings.  The framework is Islamic and the repenting to Allah swt is part of the message. I found it awkward to read independently, but I read it to a small group of my own kids and their cousins, seven in all, ages four to thirteen, and it worked very well to discuss what the boy was feeling and how they would react.  I think this book would be great in a classroom or as a book an adult reads to a child at bedtime to encourage conversation.  I had to point out to the little ones, that the knapsack was getting bigger with the little boys anger, and explain what it was, but as a tool to foster dialogue it was incredibly powerful.



The book starts out with a poem/du’a by Mufti Menk that sets the tone for the book.  It makes clear that we are all human and feel things and that this book is a tool to understand and emotionally grow from.  No one is going to get in trouble or be reprimanded.


The story stats with the little boy waking up happy and ready to have a wonderful day.  But then when he comes down for breakfast, his sister has eaten the last piece of toast.  The book asks the reader, “how do you feel when things don’t go your way?” and asks the little boy to let sorry make it better so that he can let it go.  But the little boy doesn’t want to let it go, he wants to hold on, and as a result it makes his heart feel heavy.


This pattern is followed throughout the book giving examples when the boy doesn’t get included in a game at school with his friends, when his friend kicks his football (soccer ball) in to the road and it gets popped by a passing car, and at dinner when his older brother laughs at him.


He then picks on his sister at bedtime, and doesn’t even know why he is doing it, and realizes that he too has made a mistake.  He learns that “it takes a strong person to let it go,” and that “forgiving is like taking off a heavy bag that I’ve been carrying all day long.”


The book ends with some verses and hadith about forgiveness.  Has some facial expressions with emotions to discuss, and space to write down things that make you feel angry, hurt, or sad as well as a place to share what makes you happy, grateful, and safe.  There is also a glossary of Islamic Arabic terms on the inside back cover.



Forgiveness by Isa Beaumont

Forgiveness by Isa Beaumont


This dual language book, is structured and feels like a leveled reader, but is more geared for fluent reading five to seven year olds.  It definitely has more complex diction and vocabulary than an emerging reader would be able to handle in English, I have no idea about the Arabic.  


The concept in 26 pages is how to forgive others and react calmly when we are upset.  The book is brightly illustrated on glossy sturdy softbound pages, and the characters are found in all of the company’s stories and plush figures at https://www.littlemaysoor.com/


Little Zakariyyah has been behaving well, and as a result his mom gets him a new red toy car, he loves it and plays with it in the garden everyday. His sister Ruqayyah wants to play with it, he agrees and when he hands it to her, she accidentally drops it and it breaks.  In anger Zakariyyah begins screaming for her to “Go away from me!” Mom comes out to see what is going on and calm everyone down, she takes Zakariyyah inside and pours him some milk.  When she hands it to him, his hand slips and he drops the glass breaking it and making a mess. Mom forgives him and obviously highlights the similarities to what just happened with his sister and the toy car.  Mom then gently guides him to acknowledge his poor behavior and asks him what he things he should do.  Zakaraiyyah knows he needs to ask Allah swt for forgiveness and then apologize (apologise) to Ruqayyah.  Once he does this, his sister shares some sweets with him and reminds him of a hadith, “The strong one isn’t he who can overpower others.  Instead, the strong one is he who can control himself when he becomes angry.”



Before the story begins there are six points you can implement before reading the story, and after the story, there are beginner and advanced concept questions and a place to write the answers provided.  The book has an agenda and it achieves its mark in showing a moral concept in an Islamic framework.

The book is written in British English which could make the spelling a bit confusing for new American readers, but manageable.  I honestly don’t know if the book was written in English then translated to Arabic or the other way around.  Some of the wording seems awkward so it could be attributed to it being translated from Arabic or it might just be the American/British difference.  For example Zakariyyah loves playing in “a small sand pit for children,” why not just say, sandbox? Again not terrible, but rationale for why I think children sounding out words might be a bit young for the target audience.  

I liked the story and how it lets the reader see the similarities to the events that unfold, just like I loved that the mom asked Zakariyyah what he should do, rather than dictate or scold him.  I was surprised when I read it, how smooth the ending was, because it really could have had Ruqayyah come across as a know-it-all and it didn’t.

The beginning of the book stumbled a bit with the set up trying to tell about Zakariyyah, why he got the toy and then staging the plot of the book.  If he had been playing with the car everyday, is it still a new car? Also the illustration before he drops the milk has him sitting at the table with a glass a milk in front of him.  Sure, maybe it was the second glass that he dropped, but it’s noticeable.






The book is obviously too short for a book club per se, but I think if you had a small group of readers, or are home schooling, you really could ask a child to read the book and then reflect back what they understood and what they learned and how they hope to put it in to practice.

Even with not reading the Arabic, the book is pretty solid in its approach and I plan to check out the other books in the series as I do a lot of story times with basic morals as themes.


Princess Siyana’s Pen by Zainab Merchant



It is hard to not compare a big, brightly colored Princess book to the golden standard of a Disney princess story, which obviously isn’t fair. But for as much as I wanted to love this strong Muslimah and her doe-y eyes as she saves herself and the kingdom, I felt the author let me down.  The plot feels overly familiar, it is like a mix of Rapunzel in Tangled (minus the tower and Mother Goethel), Anastasia (not Disney, but in the same genre), throw in Jafar and (a nice) Iago from Aladdin, sprinkle in Islamic wisdom and insights, and tada you have Princess Siyana.

Siyana is the daughter of King Tariq and Queen Fatimah, the wonderful rulers of Lusitania.  While still a baby, the evil Chief Advisor Shargor kidnaps the young princess and leaves her in the neighboring mountainous kingdom of Baetica.  As her kingdom searches for her, a traveler in Baetica finds her and gets her to Ms. Salma at El Sol Orphanage.  Her life is good growing up. She shares her knowledge of modesty and salat with the younger girls at the orphanage, and has a very close relationship with Ms. Salma.  Meanwhile, in Lusitania, Shargor has imprisoned the King and Queen and is ruling unjustly and ineffectively.  When Siyana is 16 years old Ms. Salma surprises Siyana with a trip to Baetica for an interview at Baetica Academy, Siyana’s dream school.  While there, a tornado tears the two apart, and Siyana is rescued by an elderly couple.  This couple is struck by her name and fill her in on the story of the missing princess.  Siyana boldly journeys to the castle, storms in, frees her parents, forgives Shargor and presumably they all live happily ever after.

The author puts not just Islamic values of forgiveness, and kindness to others in the story, but pushes the point of hijab and talking to Allah (swt) as well.  Siyana discusses how at the orphanage they don’t cover, but when they go out they do.  One of the younger girls even asks her, “why wear such a pretty dress if no one can see your hair?”  Hijab comes up a few times through the book and isn’t too awkward.  However, I felt the concept of writing letters to Allah (swt) a little forced and less smooth, especially considering it is the title action of the book.  Once a week the girls at the orphanage write letters to God with special pens Ms. Salma had given them. They then drop these letters in the lake.  A bit odd for the environment in my opinion, but I get it I’m cynical.  In her first letter she writes about wanting to help others and even remarks, “Oh my Lord, my Guide, my Everything, How I’ve missed you, even though I talked to you just an hour ago in my Salaah!” The author has Ms. Salma explain that you can always talk to Allah (swt) and that duaas and letters are good, but remembering Him in your heart is the best.  Siyana writes two letters in the book, and the letters aren’t long, but it seems like the lead up in to them and after them, explaining the connection to God through many different forms is good, and which are better, and which are required, etc., gets a bit wordy.  Again I do acknowledge my own unease with writing letters so formally to Allah (swt) in literature. I have now reviewed a few books were it presents itself, and in all cases I find it weird, and I don’t know why.  Interestingly the Author never uses the word Allah (swt), but she does use hijab and salaah.  And there is space at the back of the book to write your own letter to God.

I do like that the plan is for Princess Siyana to rule the kingdom and that she is traveling for educational reasons when the tornado strikes.  I also like that Ms. Salma seems to be a strong independent woman and that Siyana, doesn’t wait around for someone to save her parents, she takes control, trusts Allah, and saves the day.


The book is beautiful and big.  The illustrations are radiant and well done.  At 40 pages long, there is also a recipe for Macaroons and amaze at the end, the story is quite long in both the number of pages, and in the amount of text on each page.  I would place it on at least a 3rd or 4th grade level for reading, and possibly a KG or 1st grade level for story time.  The book isn’t dry, but it would definitely test a 3 or 4 year old’s attention span.  Obviously it is an Islamic alternative to the mainstream princess story, but at $19 and the way it is beautifully presented, I guess I wanted more than just Islamic morals infused into something so familiar.  I feel like the author could do more, it is definitely within her writing ability and the publisher, Sun Behind the Cloud, who it seems is responsible for the illustrations as well, definitely know what they are doing.

There is a youtube teaser: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qS_Jw2rp8Q

and an interview with the author https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCclUg9pUXI