Tag Archives: islamic

Eliyas Explains Why Should I Pray My Salah? Bite Size Journal by Zanib Mian illustrated by Daniel Hills

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Eliyas Explains Why Should I Pray My Salah? Bite Size Journal by Zanib Mian illustrated by Daniel Hills

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I love the Eliyas Explains books, but was a little curious what a “Bite-Size Journal” version would be, and Alhumdulillah, the silly relatable voice is the same, there just isn’t as much fictional story weaving together as the Angels and Miracles books had.  Instead it has activities and guided prompts for the reader to engage with and space for them to write.  The first 15 pages or so are Eliyas explaining about salah and what he has learned and how he has improved, and some parables through his point of view.  Then the journal pages begin, and while the first few are truly “journalistic” as it progresses to the last of the 60 pages you realize along the way there was a lot of “story” included on the activity pages as well.  The book isn’t blank pages and bound together as a book, it has text, it has hadith, it has games, it has questions, and trackers, and a lot of information.  I love that it states that it has been checked and the Shaykh’s name is included, the positive child framing, and the reasonable price point.  For first through third graders learning about salah, wudu, athan, and inshaAllah becoming more mindful of their actions and behavior, this book will be relatable, funny, and informative.

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SYNOPSIS:

The book starts with Eliyas remembering when he was too lazy to make wudu and pray his salah, he then offers a story of an orphan and a muffin and a lady who makes the muffin to try and show readers that salah benefits and nourishes us and the maker of the muffin truly loves us.  It is a little random, but it somehow all works and kids will go along with the allegory, it isn’t drawn out.  He then moves to talking about how Allah swt loves him and what his parents told him that helped him to love praying.  There are hadith and Eliyas’s explanation attempts, drawings, and some really powerful points about angels and being accountable on the day of judgement to Allah swt.  The journal pages involve decoding, timing your prayers, writing down all the places you’ve prayed, latitude and longitude decoding and a lot more.  The book also discusses the athan and Surah Fatiha.

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WHY I LIKE IT:

I love the voice of Eliyas.  It isn’t fear driven, or punishment framed, it stays positive and motivates from a place of love, but the conscience and priorities are highlighted too.  It is such a crucial part of raising young Muslims, to lead with Allah’s love, but as kids get older you want to introduce consequences, and choices, and being accountable, and this book does it seamlessly with out it being overwhelming.

I honestly don’t know if I like the journal format or the other Eliya’s Explains books more, I do like the storytelling of Miracles and Angels and the way the facts are woven in, but I think for the topic of Salah this format works.  I am happy with mine, and you can purchase yours here from Crescent Moon Store.

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FLAGS:
None

TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

I don’t think the book would work for a book club, but in small groups at an Islamic School or Weekend School the teacher could very easily and affordably have a book for each student, or read aloud the story parts and engage the students in the activities without any difficulty at all.

Grounded: A Novel by Aisha Saeed, Huda Al-Marashi, Jamilah Thompkins Bigelow and S.K. Ali

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Grounded: A Novel by Aisha Saeed, Huda Al-Marashi, Jamilah Thompkins Bigelow and S.K. Ali

Over the years I’ve read to a lot of kids, with a lot of kids, discussed books in classrooms, and in book clubs, so when reviewing I often share what kids think or what I imagine kids will think, and I usually acknowledge when I’m being overly critical as a reviewer, but this book I will tell you, I did not read through the intended middle grade lens, I read it as a 42 year old seasoned reader.  I know this because I cried during the entire second half, and the book is not sad.  It is fast paced, joyful and adventure filled.  I cried at the ownership of identity, the pureness of friendship, the acceptance of the flaws and strengths of those closest to us, the love of family and that this book is written by four incredible Muslim women authors for Muslim kids to be seen and for non Muslims to see Muslim kids in action in a fantastic, non preachy, authentic, powerful engaging story.  In short I loved it.  I love that the voices are different, but polished and seamless in conveying a fictional story with universal themes through a variety of Muslim characters without talking down or over explaining anything. From the maps to the crossover character Hanna from S.K. Ali books, the poetry from they young lyricist to the representation and discussions of Muslims not being a monolith, and the sprinkling of a Hadith or Quranic ayat here and there (I wish there was more), the book tugged at my heart strings.  For kids third grade and up, some of those themes might resonate, or it might just be a book about a lost cat in an airport and a hodgepodge group of strangers, turning friends, stranded in an airport searching for her while dodging security and exasperated parents.

SYNOPSIS:

The end of the MONA  (Muslims of North America) Conference has lots of families at the fictional Zora Neale Hurston heading home.  Tired parents and restless kids lead Feek’s little sister Ruqi to go missing and Feek to blame.  As he searches for his little sister he meets Hanna, a girl looking for a lost cat, not her lost cat, just one she has heard about from her animal activist group that is missing at the airport.  As they search for Ruqi, Sami gets dragged along even though he’d rather be mentally keeping his anxiety in check as he prepares for the Karate competition he is heading to.  Luckily Nora, Congresswoman Najjar’s daughter, finds Ruqi and the five strangers are brought together.  When all flights are grounded because of weather, the group goes in search of the missing cat, Snickerdoodle, finding leads, security, secret corridors, self confidence, friendship, and skills along the way.

WHY I LIKE IT:

I knew the book would be good with the authors’ names on the cover and their ability to tell a good story, but I was still blown away by how real the characters were fleshed out and their “problems” articulated.  The emotional connection to each character facing their insecurities and supporting one another’s’ vulnerabilities was reflective and insightful. I love the diverse inclusion of showing Muslims that don’t speak Arabic or don’t know if they are Muslim enough, of Black Muslims and Black culture, of being an only children and struggling with siblings, understanding parental expectation and finding your voice to speak up to those you love.  The surface story is paced well and entertaining and sufficient, but the details and the story beneath the surface, really is powerful.

Again with the reviewer lens- I did wish in the middle there was a tiny bit more inclusion of a Bismillah when following a lead or an AstugfirAllah when breaking a rule or a quick prayer when running from authorities, the beginning and end was Islamically rooted, but as an Islamic School Librarian, I must admit I’d like a few more mentions during the “adventure” parts.

FLAGS:

The kids are dishonest, they break rules (possibly laws), they lie, and do some damage, they sneak and kind of talk back to their parents, nothing is normalized or accepted though and they are called to account.  There is a birthday that is celebrated with everyone singing, and possible triggers of talking about a deceased parent. The kids are 12/13 and younger, and brought together by circumstance, but by the end the girls and boys have developed close friendships.

TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

Even though the book is meant for middle grades, I think younger middle school readers would enjoy the book and find plenty to discuss as they see themselves and others in the characters, imagine what they would do in such a situation, and get swept up in the ride.

Huda F Are You? by Huda Fahmy

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Huda F Are You? by Huda Fahmy

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I think everyone has heard about this book by now and how fabulously fun, real, and relevant Huda’s life  is for so many.  I am happy to jump on the praising bandwagon, as this teen/YA 192 page graphic novel really is a great OWN voice unapologetically Islamic mainstream tale.  It does mention periods, relationships, hate crimes, and finding yourself, so probably 14 or 15 year olds and up.  My middle school boys read it, so it isn’t that it is inappropriate, just the target audience is more teen girl.  I know a lot of people, including Huda’s mom according to the inscription, have issues with the title, but I think it is brilliant.  She takes ownership of her name and it isn’t just for shock value, the book is about figuring out who you are, how you feel about Islam, establishing your friend circle, and growing and learning along the way.  My public library has it, as do major outlets, so what are you waiting for, go read, laugh, and feel seen.

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SYNOPSIS:

Huda has just moved to a new school and she is no longer the only hijabi.  She has moved to Dearborn, Michigan and there are A LOT of Muslims.  She is no longer defined by the cloth on her head, she has to figure out who she is.  Who she really is.  And sometimes the best way to do that, is to figure out who you are not.  

Huda tries different clubs, and different circles of friends, both at school and at the masjid.  Along the way she learns how much she craves approval and who is always in her corner.  When a kid at school is targeted for being Muslim, Huda will have to see how much internal hate she carries as well.  Her clothes change, her outlook changes, she tries new things, and she grows, all while the laughs help the story bounce from one serious topic to the next without coming across as arrogant or stereotypical.  This is Huda’s story and we are just along for the ride.

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WHY I LIKE IT:

I love that there is nothing to critique, it reads autobiographical even if parts are exaggerated or only based loosely in reality.  By being so real, and so well done, you are excited when you see yourself staring back, but you feel like you’re a friend learning about Huda even when you can’t relate exactly. Her comics online and her previous two books are all amazing, and I love that she is continually creating new material for us all to enjoy and benefit from.

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FLAGS:

She tells a boy she likes him that she doesn’t really like.  Periods are referenced and blood and a pad are shown, not graphic and gross, but the sentiment is there.  Discrimination is present, as is Islamophobia and stereotypes.

TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

Just keep the book out and around: it will be picked up, read, and mentioned, no tools needed.

David’s Dollar by Tariq Toure’ illustrated by Anika Sabree

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David’s Dollar by Tariq Toure’ illustrated by Anika Sabree

This early elementary 20 page story is an entertaining, yet informative look at community and economics on a kid’s level.  It features black Muslim characters, business owning women of color, commerce, charity, and relevance.  I loved the cadence of the book, the illustrations, and the simple text. Sure, maybe a dollar isn’t much and it is a transparent simplistic view, but it makes the point of how when you shop local everyone benefits, and how the path money takes impacts everyone it touches.

David is getting his dollar after doing his chores, and he is ready to head to the candy shop to see what to spend it on.  At Sammy’s sweets, he decides to get five peppermints, and just like that his hard earned money is gone.  He asks his dad where the money went and off they head to Mansa’s juice shop. When Sammy comes in and buys a drink, out comes David’s dollar and now it is in Mansa’s hands.

David and his Daddy follow the money and see it change hands at Layla’s Pizza Shop, and then Madame C’s Braids, before heading to Uncle Kareem’s hardware store where the dollar too has ended up.  It is time to pray so Uncle Kareem, Daddy, and David head to the mosque.

After Salah the Imam tells the crowd that a family’s house has burned down and they are collecting sadaqah.  David tells Uncle Kareem that that dollar should go to the family.  At night, David recalls all the places his dollar traveled and resolves to learn more math.

The book starts with a beautiful heartfelt gratitude message to Allah swt and the community of supporters.  The end of the book features a detailed bio of the book’s poet author and his successes and praises.

The story is rooted in an Islamic community, but is for all readers of all faiths.  There is no preaching or details about belief. many women have hijab on, there are Islamic names, they go to the mosque, they pray, and they give sadaqah.

My First Book About the Qur’an: Teachings for Toddlers and Young Children y Sara Khan illustrated by Ali Lodge

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My First Book About the Qur’an: Teachings for Toddlers and Young Children y Sara Khan illustrated by Ali Lodge

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I had planned to review the Ramadan book in Sara Khan’s My First Book about series, but needless-to-say all of the board books in the collection look remarkably similar and the one on my shelf, that I thought was the Ramadan one is this one, the one about the Qur’an.  Rather than find another Ramadan book, I figured to just go with it, Ramadan is the month of the Qur’an after all, and the book is both informative and engaging for little Muslims.  The soft detailed pictures and sturdy binding introduce toddlers and up to the belief in Allah, the pillars, care for all creation and being good to one another.

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The book starts out stating the the Qur’an tells us in the beginning there was only Allah, and that He created everything.  His creations are as big as the heavens and the Earth and as small as the creatures we cannot even see.  He created the trees and mountains and the angels and jinn, as well as the people, He made us all special.

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Allah wants us to follow His rules and sent books and Prophets to show us how to act.  He wants us to be good to one another, to be thankful, to look after our world, and everything in it.  Allah wants us to worship Him alone and pray five times a day, fast in Ramadan, give money to the poor, and go for Hajj.

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He also wants us to have families and to get married and raise our children to be good Muslims, so that when we die we will go to Paradise.  The book ends with facts about the Qur’an and questions and answers that can help further the conversation, increase understanding, and encourage love for the holy book.

My First Book About Allah: Teachings for Toddlers and Young Children by Sara Khan illustrated by Ali Lodge

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My First Book About Allah: Teachings for Toddlers and Young Children by Sara Khan illustrated by Ali Lodge

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This 26 page non fiction sturdy board book packs in a lot of information in a really simple way that will keep little one’s attention and hopefully encourage them to ask deeper questions as they grow.  The illustrations are soft and alternate between detailed familiar scenes and simple background style scenes that draw attention to the text on the page. It covers the Shahadah, who Allah (swt) is, it mentions that He has 99 names,  that He sent us the Quran and the final messenger is Prophet Muhammad (saw).  The book at times is wordy, and perhaps the vocabulary a bit above a toddlers level, but the flow is smooth and the tone is warm, inviting, and is requested often by my little ones. (It is reasonably priced by at small bookstores, and double the price on Amazon).

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The book starts off by stating that Muslims believe that there is only one God and His name is Allah.  It shows it in Arabic as well on a very muted background.  The next page is much more lively with illustrations showing someone pray, a picture of the ka’aba, a family eating, and a mother reading Quran and making dua.

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The family is then depicted gathered together with the little children asking “WHO is Allah?” and the book dedicating the next few pages to explaining that Allah swt, is the One who made everything and has power over all. He makes the sun rise and set and everything in the heavens and the earth belong to Him.

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The book explains that Allah even loves us more than our own parents before explaining that Allah has 99 names and Ar-Rahman and Ar-Rahim are the ones we hear the most.  The background has many of the names of Allah written in Arabic.

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The family prays knowing Allah is All Hearing and All Seeing.  An illustration of a cave with a bird and spiderweb accompany the page that tells us that He sent us the Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad (saw) to show us how to live. InshaAllah if we do as we are supposed to, we are promised paradise and Allah never breaks His promise.

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The book concludes with Facts about Allah and Questions about Allah (swt). The pages are glossy and 6 x 8 in size.

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Paradise is Oh So Nice (Islamic Edition) by Halimah Bashir illustrated by Laila Ramadhani Ritonga

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Paradise is Oh So Nice (Islamic Edition) by Halimah Bashir illustrated by Laila Ramadhani Ritonga

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This adorably illustrated 40 page rhyming book about jannah explores just how generous and amazing the ultimate goal of obtaining paradise can be, as seen from a child’s perspective.  Preschool and up will enjoy the illustrations and cadence the book tries to adhere to, as well as the silly manifestations of everything and anything the characters in the book can imagine.

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According to the publisher, Prolance, there are two versions of the book: “In the Islamic edition, we’ve included verbiage that relates to the Muslim audiences, added a fun Quran search activity & a song!”  Additionally, the word Allah is written in Arabic and there is an ayat from the Quran at the beginning of the book.

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There isn’t really a story it is more a glorified list of all the things you could have (inshaAllah) in paradise.   The set-up is a mom discussing it with her two small children at bedtime. The book doesn’t give too much information about what you have to do to get to heaven aside from mentioning being patient and being believers.

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The book surprisingly does a pretty good job of not getting too silly or carried away with it self.  It manages to include that there will be rivers made of milk and honey, that there are levels of jannah, that there will be castles and we will know which is ours, and that the greatest gift will be to see Allah swt.

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Naturally, it seems with every kids book about heaven, the majority anyway, focus a ton on food, this one does branch out a bit from the dreams of ice cream mountains  and curly fries for hair, to flowers growing shoes and dinosaurs for pets, but not a whole lot.

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The book is fun, but with most Prolance books it seems, the price is a bit steep.  The book is hardback, the inside pages are not glossy, but have a decent weight and feel to them.  The 8.5 x 8.5 pages make it work better for bedtime than a large group as the illustrations are the best part of the book and they are pretty detailed and small in places.

Love from A to Z by S.K. Ali

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Love from A to Z by S.K. Ali

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Now that there is legitimately a genre of YA Islamic Romance out there told in Own Voice, the expectations are high that a book is compelling, realistic, and unique somehow.  While the author’s first book, Saints and Misfits was pretty ground breaking, this 342 page was a great read, but not nearly as remarkable or memorable.  Granted it is not fair to compare the two books, and each day I do age out of the target demographic, but while the story reads authentic and true, albeit a bit serendipitous, it doesn’t have the teeth or grit I was kind of hoping for, and with a mother who suffers from multiple sclerosis my emotions were pretty invested.

SYNOPSIS:

Told from both Adam and Zayneb’s perspectives by way of their individual “Oddities and Marvels” journals, our two characters are presented by a narrator who keeps their story on track and interjects when their versions of an event differ. 

Zayneb is a high schooler and activist who has recently been expelled for threatening a teacher who consistently lets his Islamaphobic beliefs take over the days lessons.  In an environment filled with micro aggressions against Muslims, Zeynab’s parents are at a loss at how to keep their daughter from making waves, and thus allow her to leave her Indiana home a week before spring break to visit her aunt in Doha, Qatar.

Adam is at University in London where he has recently been diagnosed with MS and as a result has stopped going to classes, and is literally “making” the most of the time he has by making things.  As the term ends and he officially withdraws from school, he heads home to Doha to tell his dad and sister that he has the same disease that took his mother’s life years early.

The two characters meet at the airport briefly and then again on the plane and then at Adam’s house and the needless to say  their accidental meetings allow for friendship to grow, attraction to be built upon and a relationship to develop. Both characters have their own lives and own obstacles and own maturity that needs to occur in order for a happy ending to take place, and thus the book keeps you interested, invested and cheering them on.

WHY I LIKE IT:

I love the dynamic of how the book and characters are set up.  Both are practicing Muslims, both characters don’t cross a line, both characters have diverse mixed cultural backgrounds, and one is a convert and the other the daughter of a convert.  She is fiery and impulsive and emotional, he is pragmatic and calm and quiet.  While they have some background in common, their life experiences are rather different and it is very much a story about opposites attracting.  

I’ve been waiting for this book to come out, and so I knew my expectations would be too high.  That being said the book warns it is a love story and in some ways, that was what I kind of felt was lacking.  There was the physical attraction that was mentioned fairly often, but the deep connection of ideas or growing seemed a bit lacking.  

I really liked Adam, and his internal stresses and struggles and coming to grips with his disease seemed pretty developed.  Somehow though, and I’m probably in the minority, I didn’t love Zayneb.  She is impulsive and definitely learned and grew from the start of the book to the end, but I didn’t love her nuances with dealing with the Emmas and her friends back home and unraveling her teacher, it felt kind of forced and I can’t articulate why.  I’m glad she matured and she got answers about her grandmother, but maybe I should have felt so much in common with her and when I didn’t, I felt a little irritated.  Clearly I get too invested in fictional characters, I’ll admit that.

I like that Islam is presented in a non defensive way.  The parents aren’t evil, there is no rebelling, even the awful teacher spawns backlash and allies to Zayneb and her cause. There is no apologizing or overly explaining if the characters are pushing boundaries established by Islam or if they are establishing their own boundaries based on their understanding of Islam.  I like this, because it shows that Muslims are not a monolith, we are not one way good or bad.  Zayneb covers and prays and has friends that are boys and her family is kept in the loop of what she does, which alone breaks so many of the predominate stereotypes about Muslims.  Adam himself converted at age nine and plays the guitar and has friends that are girls, and is close to his sister, and likes dogs.  A side character is noted to be incredibly religious, but doesn’t cover.  The story takes place in an Islamic majority country, but attitudes at the swimming pool don’t allow Zayneb to dress modestly while she swims.  

Overall, the book is a delightful read that manages to keep the religious integrity in the characters and show their personalities as they come of age.  It may not be memorable years after reading, but what you do remember will be positive, and while you are reading it, you will have a hard time putting it down.

FLAGS:

There is angsty romance, and talk of sex.  The two main characters keep it pretty clean, but the side characters joke about hooking up, being horny, and sneaking off to hotel rooms.  The non Muslim aunt has a secret alcohol and cigarette stash that she gets called out on, but nothing more is mentioned about it. I think 9th or 10th grade and up will be perfectly ok to read.

TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:

There is a lot to unpack in this book and I think if one just listens, teens will naturally add their own opinions and perspectives on EVERYTHING the characters experience, feel, question, and cope with.  The book just came out, but I would imagine that over time discussion questions will appear.

Author’s website: https://skalibooks.com/books/

Interview with the author: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/teen/an-interview-with-s-k-ali-author-of-love-from-a-to-z/

 

The Jinni on the Roof: A Ramadan Story by Natasha Rafi illustrated by Abdul Malik Channa

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The Jinni on the Roof: A Ramadan Story by Natasha Rafi illustrated by Abdul Malik Channa

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This 37 page culturally Pakistani Ramadan story is super sweet and fun.  There is so much I feel like my critical self should not like about the story, but by about page 15 each time I read it, I find my self full on smiling and thoroughly enjoying little Raza’s antics and his endearing grandma’s method for dealing with him.

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Raza is too young to fast, but with a house full of relatives gathered for Ramadan, Raza awakens to the sound of his uncle snoring before the siren to signal the start of fasting and the azan calling the worshippers to pray echo through Lahore.  Before he can go back to sleep, however, he hears the cook heading up the stairs to wake up grandma and then the smell of the food hits him and he wants a paratha more than anything.

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Raza embarks on a mission that involves him sneaking up to the roof, pretending to be a jinni and scaring Amina the cook through the chimney to convince her to send up food and a blanket.  

Scared out of her wits, Amina gets the grandma, culturally wards off evil, and delivers the goods to the jinni on the roof.  But the joke is on Raza who is out-witted by his grandma and gets the punishment of washing dishes for the rest of Ramadan, and learning that fasting a whole day will take a lot of will power, if he couldn’t even wait a few hours to get his beloved parathas.

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The book informs the reader that the following year Raza is able to successfully fast, that he is rewarded with gifts and that all is well and forgiven.  There is a glossary, information about Ramadan and a recipe at the end of the story as well.

I love that the plan just happens, it isn’t premeditated or considered, so it takes the reader along for the ride as it is unfolding.  It isn’t a deep story, but there is room for discussion as to whether Raza was naughty, or just caught up in the moment.

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The book is illustrated well and with big 8.5 x 11 pages, the book is engaging for first and second grade readers and listeners, as there is a lot of text on the pages.  The book takes a bit to find its stride as the author tries to use Urdu words, show their Arabic counterparts and then describe them in English. 

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There is a lot of cultural stage setting with everyone in grandmas house, the traditions of the family, of Ramadan, etc.  I think Desi familiar kids will get the most out of the book, but theoretically Muslim kids and non Muslims too could learn and enjoy it too.  I wish jinn and jinni were explained just a bit in the text, not just in the glossary, along with why an 8 year old wouldn’t be fasting or be required to do so. 

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My own kids, aged 8, 9, and 12, struggled on the first two pages, but when I told them to keep reading they zoomed through the rest smiling and ended saying it was good while giggling and shaking their heads.  We are Pakistani American and I think they enjoyed seeing familiar words and phrases in the book and sympathizing with Raza as well, and his sneaky plan that almost nearly worked.