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Reading for Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr

The Islamic month of Ramadan, a solemn holiday of fasting from sunrise to sunset, charity, and additional prayer, begins today. Ramadan ends with the joyous feasting of the Eid al-Fitr celebration. These books for young readers — all recommended by The Horn Book Magazine and Guide — can be a part of a child’s holiday observation or an introduction to new traditions.

Picture books

addasi_time to prayIn a bilingual English and Arabic text, the narrator of Maha Addasi’s Time to Pray describes her introduction to Muslim prayer rituals while visiting her grandmother in an unspecified Middle Eastern country. The information imparted about Islam will make this book valuable for many readerships. Ned Gannon’s rich-hued illustrations with patterned borders reflect the loving familial relationship. (Boyds Mills, 2010)

gilani-williams_nabeel's new pantsFor Eid (the Muslim celebration following Ramadan), shoemaker Nabeel buys new clothing for his family. He also buys fine-but-too-long-pants for himself. The shopkeeper doesn’t have time to shorten them; neither, at first, do his wife, daughter, or mother — so Nabeel takes matters into his own hands. Fawzia Gilani-Williams’s amusing tale Nabeel’s New Pants: An Eid Tale (an Indian import) is illustrated with bold gouache and India-ink paintings by Proiti Roy. (Cavendish, 2010)

katz_my first ramadanIn Karen Katz’s My First Ramadan, A young Muslim boy describes the ways his family celebrates the holy month of Ramadan, explaining some of the rituals and symbols of the holiday. Straightforward, easy-to-read text and bright, friendly collage and mixed-media illustrations make this a solid, approachable resource for Muslim and non-Muslim children alike. (Holt, 2007)

khan_night of the moonNight of the Moon: A Muslim Holiday Story by Hena Khan provides an accessible, informative introduction to Ramadan, focusing on one girl’s experiences of family, community, and tradition. A well-planned story arc, following the phases of the moon, gives shape to the tale. Julie Paschkis’s trademark deep-hued gouache illustrations with soft, flowing lines and decorated borders illuminate the thoughtfully designed pages. An author’s note gives more information about Ramadan. (Chronicle, 2008)



husain_wise foolAs explained in the informative introduction to Shahrukh Husain’s The Wise Fool: Fables from the Islamic World, stories about Mulla Nasruddin appear throughout the Islamic world. The twenty-two short tales presented here (in tiny font) always have a kernel of humanistic wisdom, whether the protagonist pronounces judgment upon the foolish behavior of others or even laughs at his own actions. Brightly patterned collages by Micha Archer accompany the tales. A pronunciation guide is appended. (Barefoot, 2011)

heiligman_celebrate ramadan and eid al-fitrIn Celebrate Ramadan & Eid Al-Fitr (a Holidays Around the World series entry) author Deborah Heiligman uses short, simple sentences and large, colorful, well-captioned photographs to explain each holiday’s customs and traditions. Written with a global perspective in mind, the text’s use of the “we” voice (rather than “they”) makes the information seem more authentic and respectful. Recipes and an explanatory note from consultant Dr. Neguin Yavari are provided. (National Geographic, 2006)

hoyt-goldsmith_celebrating ramadanCelebrating Ramadan uses the experience of fourth-grader Ibraheem to anchor its exploration of religious and cultural tradition as expressed in a major holiday. Author Diane Hoyt-Goldsmith and photographer Lawrence Migdale do an equable job of conveying Ramadan’s rituals, obligations, and joys. They provide general information about Islamic practices in the United States and some history of the faith. (Holiday, 2001)




Genius of Islam by Bryn BarnardWith The Genius of Islam: How Muslims Made the Modern World, Bryn Barnard surveys, via text and informative original paintings, the many technological and scientific advances made, refined, or dispersed during the “Islamic Golden Age.” The seventh through twelfth centuries saw progress in medicine, agriculture, optics, music, machinery, etc., to which Barnard devotes twelve topically divided double-page spreads. Tidily colored illustrations, accompanied by good captions, offer helpful amplification of the subtopics. (Knopf, 2011)

jeffrey_celebrate ramadan2Captioned photographs, maps, drawings, and sidebars combine with accessible text to present a thorough discussion of Ramadan in Laura S. Jeffrey’s Celebrate Ramadan, a Celebrate Holidays series entry. Jeffrey explains the origin of the holiday then describes traditional observances and modern-day celebrations, including some personal family stories and simple activities. (Enslow, 2007)




growing up muslimSumbul Ali-Karamali balances facts, personal experience, and thoughtful discussion in Growing Up Muslim: Understanding the Beliefs and Practices of Islam. This accessible introduction to Islam is written in an easygoing, occasionally humor-sparked style. Explanations of rules and practices lead naturally into good summations of Muhammad’s life, the religion’s spread, the plurality of Muslim expression, and distinctions between universals and varieties of interpretation; this will serve for both personal reading and research. (Delacorte, 2012)

aslan_no god but godIn No god but God: The Origins and Evolution of Islam, an abridgment of his 2005 adult book, Reza Aslan provides an admirable synthesis of Muslim history and religious belief, paying special attention to the life and times of the Prophet. The writing is clear and engaging, and the author makes links to current concerns (jihad, the hijab) in a way that is respectful to both believers and to young readers. (Delacorte, 2011)





Katie Bircher About Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, associate editor at The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons College. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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