This isn’t my favorite Hamza book, which is unfortunate, because it presents some really good information in a way different than all the other children’s Hajj books I’ve read. Hamza want’s to know if there is a swimming pool at Hajj or if big machines were used to build the Kabaa. All pretty accurate questions for how a 4 year old processes what is going on, but it takes Hamza and the reader forever to get any information. He hears about Hajj from his parents, then goes to ask his sister Aisha who tells him its one of the pillars, then goes to ask grandpa, then is glad he has learned so much about hajj, then eager to learn more…it seems like all the book does up until this point is have Hamza asking to learn, wanting to learn, and glad he has learned, but nothing he is learning is being shared with the reader!
Eventually we do learn that the Kabba is a house of worship built thousands of years ago, that it is the direction that we pray, and that Prophet Ibrahim (pbuh) and his son built it. About Hajj we learn that you have to wear white two-piece outfits, that millions of people go, and that you can only go during a special time of year. Not a lot of information, but at the same time, for little ones, that can be a good thing. Sometimes learning all the names of places and rituals is cumbersome and off-putting.
The amount of text on the pages is minimal, and the pictures, as always, are endearing, Hamza even imagines himself bald! I do question when the book claims, that going to Medina to visit Masjid al Nabawi is part of Hajj.
Hamza gets excited for Hajj and I think that is conveyed to the readers. Little kids will giggle and remember that the Kabba was built by people’s hands, and that it is far away. Not bad for 3 and 4 year olds, but not enough to engage older kids, or those with some understanding of Hajj.
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.
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.
This book is a great read for explaining the different parts of Hajj in a linear, easy to follow, fun way to children. The author gives facts in a fictionalized setting with Zaahir and his camel, Jamel getting ready for, and performing the hajj. The illustrations are also engaging and give plenty to talk about in both one-on-one reading scenarios and in larger groups. For story time the book works well to read a page then reflect upon and discuss what it is showing and telling us. By stopping on each page the rhyme scheme doesn’t get too forced as well, as some lines are forced and awkward, making the rhythm hard to maintain.
Overall the book is effective and enjoyable. The kids can see from the pictures and the simple words the importance of each step, and get an idea about how they are to be performed. The book is not an AR book, but there is a quiz at the end to see how much they retained.
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.