This 46 page comic strip compilation follows the intergenerational Somali-Canadian members of a family. With crossword puzzles, word searches, advice, and graphs sprinkled in-the book at times was laugh-out-loud funny, heartwarming, ironic, and honestly, there were things that I didn’t quite understand-and those perhaps were my favorite parts. The book features Muslims and immigrants and life in the west, and those I could relate to, but I am not Somali, and there aren’t a lot of Somali books available, so I loved the opportunity to see the culture and humor and themes that a book written authentically chose to highlight. The book is not a graphic novel, the characters and their situations are not a cohesive narrative, so if I didn’t understand a particular joke, it didn’t linger or carry over. By the time the book was done a sense of love, community, and joy left me waiting for the next installment and a desire to read more voices that are not easily found in Muslamic YA literature.
The humor is at times culture and experience specific, and I feel honored almost to witness a book for a particular group by a member of that group and thus don’t feel a need to “review” the book in my typical fashion. I simply wish to highlight that it exists, share some inside pictures, and hopefully send some support its way. You can purchase it on Amazon.
This bilingual (English and Somali) book tells the folktale of a wise leader challenging the men in his province with a riddle, and it being solved by a poor farmer’s eldest daughter. Based on a real Sultan from the mid 19th century, the book does not claim the story to be true, and leaves it up to the reader to form their own impression. The lesson however, is rich with culture, insight, charm, and perhaps surprise. There is no Islam present or hinted at, but the illustrator’s and translator’s names suggest that they are Muslim as the majority of Somali’s are, and the picture at the back of the book of members of the Somali Book Project show multiple females in hijab- so I’m sharing it on my platform to inshaAllah encourage often rarely seen, in western literature, cultures and traditions to be brought to more peoples’ attention.
The book starts with an author’s note explaining the tradition in East Africa of having a nickname and that Wiil Waal was the naanay of Garad Farah Garad Hirsi, a man who was a sultan for a brief time. He was known to be a great leader who was brave, and clever, and used riddles to unite people. Like all folktales though, this doesn’t claim to be a true story, but one filled with wisdom.
Long ago Wiil Waal set forth a riddle, “bring me part of one of your sheep. The sheep’s part should symbolize what can divide people or unite them as one.” The one who can do so will be honored as a wise man.
The men pick different parts to bring to the sultan with little success: a rib, a liver, a shoulder of meat. In a distant province a poor farmer who had few sheep and many children half heartedly prepared to slaughter his finest animal to present to Wiil Waal. His oldest daughter comes to help him, and he tells her the riddle. They work through it, and she thinks she is certain she knows the answer.
Trusting his daughter the farmer presents the sultan with what his daughter recommended. Quick to see that the farmer is not confident, he asks who solved the riddle and the story of the daughter’s intelligence is conveyed.
The book ends hinting that she is a future leader of Somalia. And no, I’m not going to tell you the answer. Go read the book!
This timeless 40 page tale of a young boy as he prepares for his right of passage into adulthood is rich with wisdom, culture, and tradition. So many gentle lessons can be found in the book, as it leaves deeper understanding and connection to be felt and explored long after the book has been closed and returned to the shelf. There are seemingly hijab wearing #muslimsintheillustrations, and the author’s name would suggest she is also a Muslim, but with the line, “Called on the spirit of Shabelle,” and talk of the “Spirit of the cheetah,” it is hard to know for sure if the main character is.
The story starts with Roblay running everywhere in preparation for an upcoming race where he hopes to place in the top three, and prove he is a man and no longer a boy. On the day of the race he races his fastest, but he does not come out at the top.
His grandfather, his Awoowo, tells him that to be successful he needs to capture the spirit of their people and leave his thumbprint on a cheetah’s coat. His grandfather then tells him about the cheetahs long ago and how the river is named after them. He explains that thumbprints on a cheetah’s fur honor those that have proven themselves.
Roblay trains and searches for many days. He wonders if it is enough to mark a cub. But his grandfather asks him if he wants to remain a cub. This motivates Roblay to work harder. When a year has passed and the race is about to take place again, he finally touches his cheetah.
He lines up for the race strong, proud and sleek, and he has the chance again to prove he is a man and make his family proud. Nope, not going to tell you how it ends.
The book starts with an Author’s notes from both authors and concludes with Notes on the Cheetah.
This 32 page lyrical 9 x 11 hardback book with playful illustrations is a celebration on the similarities of all Muslim weddings and the cultural distinctions that make them unique. Four countries are highlighted: Pakistan, Morocco, Somalia, and Great Britain, and I really wish there were more. The book is written on an early elementary level, but would make a great wedding present, or even a text to be shared at interfaith gatherings that focus on traditions and women’s rights. It is joyous and informative complete with a glossary and info blurb at the end.
The book starts out with verse 30:21, Chapter ar-Rum in the Holy Qur’an and then jumps in to jubilations of mabrook, congratulations. It establishes what countries will be explored and that Muslims get married sharing religious rites, but different celebrations.
In Pakistan there’s a henna party and the groom rides in on a horse. The brides are adorned with bangles of gold and guests enjoy biriyani and rasmalai.
In Morocco the entire neighborhood helps prepare couscous and roasted lamb with olives and pickled lemons. At the waleemah the bride is carried in on a chair, and changes outfits seven times.
In Somalia, buraanbur is danced and blessings are sung to the mother of the bride.
In England the ginger bearded imam marries the groom to his hijab wearing bride in white. There are people of all faiths and backgrounds there to celebrate and wish them well.
But before all of that, there are meetings with families, prayers, important conversations, agreement to the marriage contract, the woman is given a mahr and guidance is sought.
This 65 page early chapter book in the Sadiq Series does a great job of introducing Ramadan, giving a glimpse of Somali culture, and conveying a relatable and engaging story about friends with a lesson/reminder about the values of communication. A group of boys hosting a fundraising iftar to help a school in Somalia have to figure out the logistics, the marketing, the cooking, and the execution, as they become socially aware and active in helping meet the needs of their community, both locally and afar. This OWN voice tale doesn’t shy away from authentically drawing on religion and culture to make characters and a plot that all readers can enjoy. The book is not preachy, but the characters know who they are in their manners, dress, speech, and environment. A great book any time of year for first grade and up.
With Ramadan starting in a few days, Sadiq and his friends at the Dugsi are reviewing the importance and values of Ramadan. This year the masjid is raising money for a school in Somali and the students are encouraged to help, as sadaqah, or charity, is especially important during Ramadan. The boys decide to host a fundraising iftar at the masjid and with parental help to coordinate with the Imam, the kids have to figure out how to get enough food, get the word out, get set up to take donations and more. They make flyers, set up a website and shoot a small video. The once excited Zaza, however, is no longer very enthusiastic in the Money Makers Club and Sadiq can’t figure out why, but with so much to do and little time to get it done, more friends and family are brought in to help, and things continue on. When Zaza tries to tell Sadiq he wants to do his own fundraiser, Sadiq doesn’t want to listen. I’m not going to spoil if the two friends work it out and how they handle the two ideas, but it is a good lesson in friendship, communication, and charity, Alhumdulillah.
WHY I LIKE IT:
I love that the story starts with information about Somalia and words in Somali as well as a picture of the family. There are activities and questions at the end as well as a glossary of religious, cultural, and English vocabulary words. The book doesn’t assume that the reader knows anything about Islam or Somalia, nor does it assumer that the readers don’t. It strikes a balance of not talking down to the reader or getting too wordy. It simply provides the information needed if you are curious, but allows the story and the boys dilemma to take center stage. The whole series is remarkable in showing diversity and relatability with good quality story telling. I think this is the only book in the series that has a religious theme, I could be mistaken. The illustrations show the boys in kufis and the women in hijab.
TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:
Every elementary school library and every first through third grade classroom library should have this series. I know my public library has it, and the copies I get from there seem to be worn and loved. The age is too young for a book club, but would be great in small groups or for outside reading with the short chapters and engaging illustrations.
This graphic novel swept me off my feet and left me in tears, not because of the hard life and sadness that life in a refugee camp entails, I had braced myself for that, but because of the hope and humanity and beauty that is so powerfully expressed and conveyed in this 264 page book. Meant for 3rd graders and up, I think kids through middle school should be encouraged to read it. The illustrations and colors are incredibly well done and the story is based on a true story that needs to be told and shared. It is definitely in the top 10 books I’ve read this year and I keep catching my 11 year old re-reading this book repeatedly (like 5 or 6 times).
Omar Mohamed lives in Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. His father was killed in the Somali war and his mother has not been seen after she sent Omar and his younger brother Hassan to run with the neighbors to escape the violence. Hasan suffers from seizures and doesn’t speak, save one word, Hooyo, mother in Somali. The two boys have an adopted mom Fatuma, who looks after the boys in the camp as if they were her own. Unable to go to school, Omar spends his days looking after his brother, playing soccer with plastic bags, and waiting in lines for water, food, and news of a better opportunity.
When Omar gets the chance to go to school (5th grade) he has to make the difficult decision of pursuing his own opportunities, with the hope of helping Hassan later, or living day to day and taking care of his younger brother. He is finally convinced that education will help them both, and that if the girls can find a way to do their chores and attend class, he can too.
Each transition from primary, to middle to secondary school requires testing, and only the top get to continue. Determined to stay in school, Omar studies while dealing with life’s many challenges and the daily additional challenges of living with little food and resources.
When Omar and Hassan’s names finally appear on a UN interview lists for resettlement, hope seeps in, but the wait and the uncertainty prove to be yet another test. Along the way there are side characters from the United Nations that show compassion, other families that show how generous and loving humans can be, female classmates show him how to take advantage of his privilege and friendships that move friends to family.
WHY I LIKE IT:
The book is gripping and has heart. I don’t know what I expected, but I truly could not put it down. The character’s stresses are felt and emotions are conveyed so powerfully, that I don’t know that you can read the book and forget it. The most emotional part for me was his honesty in dealing with his brother, the strength of his friends, particularly female, and the bond to Fatuma. Truly their living arrangements and loss of family is gut wrenching, but it was the little things that touched me the most. The honesty of Omar having to decide if he was tempted to not go to school because he was scared. Was he using his brother as an excuse to stay with something he knew. The emotional tipping point of no return for me was when he realized Fatuma would not be able to go to the second interview with the UN and would not be a part of what came after. Of course I knew that, but by that point I was so connected to the character, that when Omar realized it, I broke for him. To feel that connection in a graphic novel was new for me, perhaps a first, and alhumdulillah I am better for it.
The characters are Muslim and behave traditionally with praying and Ramadan and Eid.
There is talk of khat, something the men chew on the side of the road to forget things. There is some violence, bullying, a young girl getting married before 6th grade and having a baby.
TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:
Yes! I am hoping if and when we resume school I am starting with this book inshaAllah, for my middle school book club. There is so much to talk about and understand and empathize with.
This new series featuring Sadiq, a Somali American living in Minnesota, is great for early chapter book readers looking for representation and diversity. There are four books about Sadiq, his family, and his friends and classmates in third grade, and all are either an AR 3.6 or AR 3.5. At 57 pages long, divided into five chapters and filled with bright and colorful illustrations students in grades 1st through fourth, depending on reading level and interest, will enjoy these simple plotted, yet relatable stories.
Sadiq’s friends are all getting ready to try out for football, but his parent’s say that he is too young for such a rough sport and has to wait until he is 12 like his older brother, Nuurali, did. Sadiq’s parents and family encourage him to try another sport, and with a new running club starting in a few days coached by a member of the national team, that’s what he opts to do. Begrudgingly he joins the team, but is hurt when his friends talk about how much fun football is and how much more tough and difficult it is compared to running. While this is going on, he is getting support from his brother to keep running, and from his teammates, but it is hard and he doesn’t enjoy it. Slowly, he starts to improve, however, and with the Fun Run the climax of the book he sails across the finish line in first place when he sees his friends have come to cheer him on!
WHY I LIKE IT:
I love that the book/series proudly features a Somali-American-Muslim family. There is information about Somali at the beginning as well as some Somali terms and a portrait with names for the members of Sadiq’s family. The mom and older sister wear hijab, “Salaam” is one of the defined words and the characters use it when they meet. I also love the diversity of skin tones in the illustrations and one of the girls on the track team wears a scarf as well. There are Muslim named kids and non Muslim named kids in the story, and while Islam isn’t mentioned outright, it is definitely represented through the characters words, names, and appearances.
The story is straightforward and perfect for the age group, the books in the series do not need to be read in any order, and you will get to see the different supporting casts featured more prominently in different books, thus getting to know Sadiq and his world. I like that he doesn’t get his way, and doesn’t get to do what all his friends are doing, but he makes it work. He is grumpy and upset, but he doesn’t get obnoxious or overly whiney. I think this subtly gives readers some tools and insights to model in their own disappointments. I also like that while he has to put in the work and fix his attitude, he doesn’t have to do it all alone. His family and coach are supportive, and eventually his friends apologize and support him too. For the simplicity of the book, you actually do get invested in his little trial and want to see the outcome.
None, it is clean.
TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:
This book is like a boy protagonist version of the Meet Yasmin books, they show a kid of culture in everyday experiences. The target audience wouldn’t make it work for a school wide book club, but I think early elementary teachers would benefit from having the series in their classrooms and letting kids in small groups discuss if they want. These books would be great for first graders that are way above reading level and parents are struggling to find appropriate books.
The end of the book has some resources as well: a glossary, discussion questions to talk about and some to write down, as well as a home workout guide and information about the author and illustrator.