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Recommended reading for Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr

The Islamic month of Ramadan, a solemn holiday of fasting, charity, and additional prayer, culminates in the joyous feasting of Eid al-Fitr — which begins tonight at sunset. Eid mubarak to those celebrating!

We’d like to call your attention to reading suggestions from our friends at KitaabWorld, who review and recommend children’s books with a focus on South Asian culture and identity. Some of their picks, old and new, were on our radar, so you can read their Horn Book reviews below — but do visit Kitaab World for additional titles and much more.

A timely new addition to Little Simon’s Celebrate the World board-book series is Ramadan by Hannah Eliot and illustrated by Rashin. Eliot’s accessible text gives a straightforward but warm overview of the significance of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr; traditions associated with each holiday; and the holidays’ important themes of gratitude and good works. Rashin’s textured, brightly hued acrylic and oil illustrations affectionately portray the celebrations of diverse Muslim families and communities. (Look for a review of Rashin’s semi-autobiographical picture book Saffron Ice Cream in the upcoming July/August 2018 Magazine.)

Additionally, Boston-based publisher Bharat Babies has two recent books on the topic: Amal’s Ramadan (2016) and Amal’s Eid (2015) both written by Amy Maranville and illustrated by Joshua Stevens, which star a little boy who excitedly describes the ways his warm observant Muslim family celebrates the holidays.

 

The following books can be a part of a child’s annual holiday observation or an engaging introduction to new traditions. All titles for primary readers and up were recommended by The Horn Book Magazine and The Horn Book Guide at the time of their publication; reviews are reprinted from The Horn Book Guide Online. Board book reviews are original hbook.com content.

Preschool

Katz, Karen  My First Ramadan
32 pp.     Holt     2007
Trade ISBN 978-0-8050-7894-7

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.

Khan, Hena  It’s Ramadan, Curious George
16 pp.    Houghton     2016
Trade IBSN 978-0-544-65226-2

Illustrated by Mary O’Keefe Young. George participates in his friend Kareem’s family’s Ramadan celebrations, from the beginning until its end with the festival of Eid al-Fitr. This year is a special one for Kareem, who is fasting during daylight hours for the first time. It’s not easy, but Kareem succeeds. Kareem and George attend mosque, do good deeds, break fast with a delicious meal and prayers, and admire the crescent moon in rhyming text and textured, softly colored H. A. Rey–style illustrations. George is respectful of his friend’s observance of the holy month but maintains his customary playfulness, e.g., entertaining children by juggling cans at the mosque’s food drive.

Primary

Addasi, Maha  Time to Pray
32 pp.     Boyds     2010
Trade ISBN 978-1-59078-611-6

Illustrated by Ned Gannon. Translated by Nuha Albitar. In a bilingual English and Arabic text, Addasi’s narrator 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. Rich-hued illustrations with patterned borders reflect the loving familial relationship.

Addasi, Maha  The White Nights of Ramadan
32 pp.     Boyds     2008
Trade ISBN 978-1-59078-523-2

Illustrated by Ned Gannon. Noor and her brothers join their parents and grandparents in candy making, prayer, charity work, and a traditional nighttime walk to celebrate Girgian, when the moon is full, to mark the middle of Ramadan. Though the text is overly explanatory, sensory details enhance the story. The glowing illustrations, accomplished in color and shading, can be stiff. Glos.

Bullard, Lisa  Rashad’s Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr
24 pp.     Millbrook     2012
Library binding ISBN 978-0-7613-5079-8
Paperback ISBN 978-0-7613-8842-5

Illustrated by Holli Conger. Cloverleaf Books: Holidays and Special Days series. Rashad and his Muslim family observe Ramadan: “a time to get closer to Allah,” a time for thinking about Allah and others. Rashad’s first-person narration and bright, cheerful illustrations combine for a simple and accessible introduction to Islamic holy month; text boxes provide additional information. Reading list, websites. Glos., ind.

Faruqi, Reem  Lailah’s Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story
32 pp.     Tilbury     2015
Trade ISBN 978-0-88448-431-8
Ebook ISBN 978-0-88448-432-5

Illustrated by Lea Lyon. When Lailah, a recent immigrant from Abu Dhabi, fasts for Ramadan for the first time, she’s embarrassed to tell people at her new Georgia school. An empathetic librarian helps Lailah overcome her fear, and she shares a Ramadan poem with her class. The autobiographical author’s note could have provided more substantive information, but the story should start conversation. Loose watercolors show a very contemporary Muslim girl.

Gilani-Williams, Fawzia  Nabeel’s New Pants: An Eid Tale
24 pp.     Cavendish (Marshall Cavendish Corp.)     2010
Trade ISBN 978-0-7614-5629-2

Illustrated by Proiti Roy. For 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. The amusing tale (an Indian import) is illustrated with bold gouache and India-ink paintings. Glos.

Heiligman, Deborah  Celebrate Ramadan & Eid Al-Fitr
32 pp.     National Geographic     2006
Trade ISBN 0-7922-5926-2
Library binding ISBN 0-7922-5927-0

Holidays around the World series. These books use 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. Reading list, websites. Glos.

Husain, Shahrukh  The Wise Fool: Fables from the Islamic World
64 pp.     Barefoot     2011
Trade ISBN 978-1-84686-226-7

Illustrated by Micha Archer. As explained in the informative introduction, 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 accompany the tales. A pronunciation guide is appended. Bib., glos.

J, Harris  Salam Alaikum: A Message of Peace
40 pp.     Simon/Salaam    2017
Trade ISBN 978-1-4814-8938-6
Ebook 978-1-4814-8939-3

Illustrated by Ward Jenkins. The Islamic greetings “Salam Alaikum” (informal) and “Assalamu Alaikum” (formal), meaning “peace be upon you,” provide the poetic refrain for this picture book comprised of lyrics to British Muslim singer Harris J’s international hit. The messages regarding love, peace, and community are augmented by (somewhat overly) cartoonish digital illustrations showing a diverse urban community of adults and children helping one another. Music not included.

Jalali, Reza  Moon Watchers: Shirin’s Ramadan Miracle
32 pp.     Tilbury     2010
Trade ISBN 978-0-88448-321-2

Illustrated by Anne Sibley O’Brien. Squabbling siblings Ali and Shirin come to an accord during the course of the month-long Muslim holiday. Though the story’s overly instructive tone can be irritating, libraries wanting to widen their picture book holdings about Muslim holidays may welcome this title. The illustrations show a multi-generational American family’s celebration of this important festival.

Khan, Hena  Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors
24 pp.     Chronicle     2012
Trade ISBN 978-0-8118-7905-7

Illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini. A child describes the religious and cultural artifacts that define Islam for her family. Her grandfather wears a white kufi; she and her dad face Mecca on a red prayer rug. The book’s strength is in the saturated colors of the stylized art and the brief introduction to Muslim culture. The rhyming text is unremarkable, but this child’s view of Islam should prove useful. Glos.

Khan, Hena  Night of the Moon: A Muslim Holiday Story
32 pp.     Chronicle     2008
Trade ISBN 978-0-8118-6062-8

Illustrated by Julie Paschkis. This picture book 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. 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. Glos.

Mobin-Uddin, Asma  A Party in Ramadan
32 pp.     Boyds     2009
Trade ISBN 978-1-59078-604-8

Illustrated by Laura Jacobsen. Leena is invited to a birthday party during Ramadan. Her mother is unsure, but Leena insists she’ll be able to refuse refreshments. There’s no real conflict in the wordy story, but it is informative. An appended author’s note explains that young children don’t have to fast but may choose to participate with their families. Pastel-pencil illustrations show a Muslim family in a contemporary suburb.

Whitman, Sylvia  Under the Ramadan Moon
24 pp.     Whitman     2008
Trade ISBN 978-0-8075-8304-3

Illustrated by Sue Williams. Filled with familial warmth and joy, this book describes, in lilting verse with a comforting refrain, Ramadan observances. Glowing, textured illustrations using gently rounded lines show a family engaged in holiday activities: spending time together, waiting for their day-long fast to end, preparing food, visiting relatives, attending services at a mosque. A worthy addition to any children’s library.

Intermediate

Genius of Islam by Bryn BarnardBarnard, Bryn  The Genius of Islam: How Muslims Made the Modern World
40 pp.     Knopf     2011
Trade ISBN 978-0-375-84072-2
Library binding ISBN 978-0-375-94072-9

This volume 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. Reading list.

Demi  Muhammad
48 pp.     McElderry     2003
Trade ISBN 0-689-85264-9

Demi tells the story of the prophet Muhammad, explaining the creation of Islam and the Koran. The illustrations are surprisingly lively given the restrictions placed on them (Islamic law states that Muhammad may not be depicted; Demi overcomes this by showing him as a gold silhouette). This timely book presents the origins of Islam with great respect, illuminating the subject for children and for adults. Bib.

Hoyt-Goldsmith, Diane  Celebrating Ramadan
32 pp.     Holiday     2001
Trade ISBN 0-8234-1581-3

Photographs by Lawrence Migdale. The experience of fourth-grader Ibraheem is used to focus a picture of religious and cultural tradition as expressed in a major holiday. The author and photographer 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. Glos., ind.

Jeffrey, Laura S.  Celebrate Ramadan
112 pp.     Enslow     2007
Library binding ISBN 978-0-7660-2774-9

Celebrate Holidays series. Captioned photographs, maps, drawings, and sidebars combine with accessible text to present a thorough discussion of Ramadan in this 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.

Khan, Hena  Amina’s Voice
197 pp.     Simon/Salaam    2017
Trade ISBN 978-1-4814-9206-5
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-9208-9

Since she started middle school, shy Amina struggles with self-consciousness about her Muslim Pakistani American identity. Meanwhile, her conservative uncle objects to her singing and piano playing, and the local Islamic Center is vandalized. A relatable portrayal of a tween who wants to fit in and who’s devoted to her faith even amid her confusion about her family’s varied approaches to it.

Khan, Rukhsana  Muslim Child: Understanding Islam through Stories and Poems
104 pp.     Whitman     2002
Trade ISBN 0-8075-5307-7

Illustrated by Patty Gallinger. Short stories, excerpts from the Koran, poems, and one-page topical features focus on the experience of Muslim children (mainly in Western nations). While the stories are fairly pedantic, the book provides a nonpolitical glimpse into the culture and offers Muslim children moral guidance. In addition to black-and-white drawings, repetitive sidebars explain Islamic concepts and Arabic words. A pronunciation guide is appended.

Matthews, Mary and Lewis, E. B.  Magid Fasts for Ramadan
48 pp.     Clarion     1996
Trade ISBN 0-395-66589-2

An informative chapter book for young readers tells the story of an eight-year-old Muslim boy who secretly joins the ritual fast for Ramadan. Matthews skillfully weaves details of the culture and religion through her strong, readable story, set in modern Cairo. Lewis’s handsome full-page watercolors give the viewer details about dress and customs while developing character and setting along with the text.

Tarnowska, Wafa’  The Arabian Nights
128 pp.     Barefoot     2010
Trade ISBN 978-1-84686-122-2

Illustrated by Carole Hénaff. This edition of the traditional tales will captivate older middle-grade audiences; murder and infidelity are common themes, woven together with stories of genies and magicians. The Scheherazade framework isn’t as engaging as the actual tales, and the font of those sections is difficult to read. The volume’s best feature is its lovely, detail-rich, color-saturated acrylic illustrations that incorporate traditional motifs. Glos.

Zia, Farhana  The Garden of My Imaan
230 pp.     Peachtree     2013
Trade ISBN 978-1-56145-698-7

Aliya, a Muslim, wends her way through the typical middle-school struggles until another Muslim girl moves to town and challenges Aliya’s assumptions about the importance of fitting in. The characters are sometimes a bit flat, but Zia’s exploration of Aliya’s faith, confidence, and social anxieties feels authentic and gives readers a comfortable place to develop their understanding of another culture. Glos.

Older

Ali-Karamali, Sumbul  Growing Up Muslim: Understanding the Beliefs and Practices of Islam
214 pp.     Delacorte     2012
Trade ISBN 978-0-385-74095-1
Library binding ISBN 978-0-375-98977-3

Ali-Karamali balances facts, personal experience, and thoughtful discussion in this accessible introduction to Islam, 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. Bib., ind.

Aslan, Reza  No god but God: The Origins and Evolution of Islam
167 pp.     Delacorte     2011
Trade ISBN 978-0-385-73975-7
Library binding ISBN 978-0-385-90805-4

In this abridgment of his 2005 adult book, Aslan here 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. Timeline. Bib., glos., ind.

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