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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.