Tag Archives: salaam reads

The Together Tree by Aisha Saeed illustrated by LeUyen Pham

The Together Tree by Aisha Saeed illustrated by LeUyen Pham


Being the new kid, not having friends, and being teased are not new themes in literature (or life), so if you are going to write a book about them, take a lesson from Muslim author Aisha Saeed and make sure the story is heartfelt, emotional, and well-told.  There is no Islam in the book, no foreign culture, or teasing because of skin color, it is a boy named Rumi who has moved from San Francisco to the other side of America and his shoes, with their drawings and colorings, that cause the kids to stare and start bullying.  Rumi seeks solace under a willow tree and fellow classmate Han has to be brave to put a stop to the mistreatment by finding his voice and not simply staying silent.  The text and illustrations provide a lot of opportunities for children to see themselves in the story, in the various characters, and ruminate over the actions and feelings from different points of view.  The book is lyrical, it is not heavy handed or preachy, and the Author’s Note at the end is equally touching and hopeful.


Rumi is quiet, and on his first day in Ms. Garza’s class the kids stare at him as he stares out the window.  At recess he wanders off to sit beneath the willow tree when Asher, Ella and Han leave the swings to see what he is up to.  Asher and Ella start to make fun of Rumi, Han is uncomfortable, but stays quiet.

Rumi recalls coloring his shoes with his friends, and how different it was to where he is now, he picks up a twig to twirl as the hurt grows. In music class when the giggling starts, he tries not to cry.  At recess he retreats to his refuge under the tree.

When the bullying escalates, and tears fall, Han speaks up and breaks the cycle. Others follow and see the world Rumi has created with his twig and are drawn to it and to Rumi.  Forgiveness is asked for, and granted and the tree becomes a place of friendship and togetherness.


The Author’s Note shares the real life observations of the author about her son in kindergarten and how while heartbreaking, there was also hope in the concern shown by other kids that simply weren’t sure what to do.  I love that even though Rumi is being teased for his shoes and being different, he doesn’t stop wearing his shoes or try and clean the drawings off.


I think this book is a must read in classrooms and homes were kids can slowly peel back the pieces and see where they can relate, how they can plan to act, and what parts they identify with.  The book is deliberate and slow, and while a child could read it on their own and enjoy the story and illustrations at hand, the real power it has, is being a catalyst for discussion and empathy and speaking up.

Pre order/order here on Amazon



The Masjid Kamal Loves by Ashley Fraklin illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel

The Masjid Kamal Loves by Ashley Fraklin illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel


I don’t normally post about upcoming releases this far in advance (2.5 months), but I am hoping that if I share the link for preorders, I just might help in signaling to the traditional publishing world that books like this are so so so important and that we will support unapologetic, well written, Muslim centered, Muslim and Black joy featured books with our purchasing power.  This book is incredible for toddlers to early elementary in its “This is the House that Jack Built” format.  Muslim kids will giggle with excitement as they see themselves happy to see their friends at Jumu’ah, flinging shoes a little too hard before entering the musallah, splashing a bit when making wudu, playing while helping put out the prayer rugs, and getting a little wiggly or tired during the khutbah.  The happiness and love radiates off the pictures and through the text that even non Muslim readers will feel our connection to our Masjids and the prayers that occur within.  Muslim authored, Muslim illustrated, masjid not mosque, and a beautiful Author’s Note, makes this book a must have on every shelf where young children need books that mirror their experiences and provide windows into the beauty of Islam.


The book starts out describing Kamal’s smile and offering the reason for such joy as being Jumu’ah at the masjid. It then starts with describing the masjid and all that is contained with the lines adding on the refrain of “the masjid Kamal loves.”  The friends, the shoes, the feet, the rugs, etc.. Terms such as imam, ummah, salaam are in the text and the illustrations show wudu, salat, khutbah, conveying a Jumu’ah experience.


Each page is brightly illustrated across horizontal orientated scenes.  The expressions on the kids faces, are engaging and smile inducing and the lyrical text has a rhythm and strength that makes you feel proud to also have a masjid to love like Kamal.


I have an arc, but have preordered a copy for myself here and hope you will do the same. Please also request your public libraries to order it, and if they have already you can place the book on hold, inshaAllah little steps to show support.

We’re in this Together (Young Reader’s Edition of We Are Not Here to be Bystanders) by Linda Sarsour

We’re in this Together (Young Reader’s Edition of We Are Not Here to be Bystanders) by Linda Sarsour


I don’t have strong feelings one way or another about Linda Sarsour, so I read the book primarily to see what the messaging would be from a well-known Muslim activist to a mainstream audience, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised.  This YA adaptation of her adult book weaves together personal experiences with larger pushes for justice reform. It is not all memoir, there are historical blurbs, educational backstories, and centering of Palestinian occupation and Islamic tenants.  I feared that the book would be entirely self-promoting and it wasn’t, it shows her as a person, and her struggles, but the spotlight is bigger than her, as she talks about the efforts and accomplishments of others in promoting police reform, social change, elevating women’s voices, and working with Black Lives Matter.  The 229 page book is sourced and reads easily.  I think ages 13 and up will benefit from seeing the intersectionality of many current social struggles sprinkled in with historical landmarks that they have learned about in school, told through the lens of a personal, relatable Muslim, Palestinian, American voice.


The book starts with the Women’s March as the culmination of her status and then takes the reader back to show the pivotal moments that got her to that stage: the immigration of her parents to America, her childhood, her family’s bodega, trips to Palestine and finding her voice.  The book shows her in various stages of her life while showing what is currently happening regarding police brutality, national politics, and relatable historical movements.  It shares close relationships she has had professionally, as well as mentions her getting married, becoming a mother, and the loss of a close family member and mentor.


I was happy to see how much Islam and culture shaped her activism and identity, as both are generously sprinkled in, and are unapologetically presented.  The book is a memoir and many characters are introduced and shown to enhance her understanding or presenting her with opportunities,  yet I don’t feel I really got to “know” her or any of them.  The book is centered more on events and how she lent her voice in this arena or that.  I still don’t know that I have much of an opinion on her personally or on her work, or even felt motivated to take action because of her enthusiasm, but the book was an easy read, it was informative and reflective.


Racism, oppression, murder, police brutality, car accidents, hate crimes, death, assault, systemic racism, slurs, misogyny, occupation, hate.


I probably wouldn’t read this book in a book club setting, but I think it would be a good addition to a school or library shelf.  I think you could require it in a history or civics or current events class and readers would find it compelling and relatable and be able to add their own life experiences to any discussions that would follow. It shows that the struggle in history books for justice and equality is not over, it is still ongoing and still very very real with horrific consequences.