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Ramadan 2019

The Islamic month of Ramadan is a solemn holiday of fasting, charity, and additional prayer, culminating in the joyous feasting of Eid al-Fitr. Ramadan began last night at sunset. Ramadan mubarak to those observing!

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. Additionally, Boston-based publisher Bharat Babies has two recent books on the topic: Amal’s Ramadan and Amal’s Eid, 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. Hijabi Librarians, too, is a good place to find reviews, blog posts, and interviews. And Simon & Schuster’s recently launched imprint Salaam Reads is publishing books for all ages focused on Muslim characters and experiences.

A timely 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. (See also Rashin’s semi-autobiographical picture book Saffron Ice Cream, about which we are still dreaming after her visit to Simmons last year).

Of additional interest may be our “Refugees welcome here: resources and booklist” compiled in response to rising Islamophobia; Julie Hakim Azzam’s Horn Book Magazine article “‘Mommy, Do I Have White Skin?’: Skin Color, Family, and Picture Books,” about seeking out and reading mirror books with her Arab American children; and this Family Reading post to celebrate Muslim Women’s Day.

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.

Gilani-Williams, Fawzia Yaffa and Fatima: Shalom, Salaam
24 pp. Kar-Ben 2017
Library binding ISBN 978-1-4677-8938-7
Paperback ISBN 978-1-4677-9423-7
Ebook ISBN 978-1-5124-2717-2

Illustrated by Chiara Fedele. Gilani-Williams adapts a traditionally male-centered folktale with both Jewish and Arab roots to focus on a Jewish woman (Yaffa) and a Muslim woman (Fatima), who are neighbors and friends. Both women’s daily lives reveal their similarities and their compassion, particularly during a poor harvest. Fedele’s evocative illustrations use texture and color (mainly red, blue, and brown) to introduce a distant land and distinct cultures.

Gonzales, Mark Yo Soy Muslim: A Father’s Letter to His Daughter
32 pp. Simon/Salaam 2017
Trade ISBN 978-1-4814-8936-2
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-8937-9

Illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini. Gonzales pens a loving exhortation to his daughter to embrace her cultural identity. In simple, lyrical verse, Gonzales tells his daughter that not everyone will like who she is. He advises her to identify herself by her faith, ethnicity, and language, as well as reminding her–and us all–that the Islamic faith spans many nationalities and cultures. Rich, color-saturated illustrations incorporate vibrant patterns and motifs.

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.

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.

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.

Thompkins-Bigelow, Jamilah Mommy’s Khimar
40 pp. Simon/Salaam 2018
Trade ISBN 978-1-5344-0059-7
Ebook ISBN 978-1-5344-0060-3

A young girl admires her mother and the bright khimars she uses to cover her head in observance of her Muslim faith. As she plays dress-up with her mother’s yellow khimar, cheerful illustrations show the girl’s imaginative play (“I am a superhero in a cape”) and love for her family. A sweet family story with an affirming depiction of a black Muslim family in a supportive multicultural community.

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, Ausma Zehenat Ramadan: The Holy Month of Fasting
87 pp. Orca Origins 2018
Trade ISBN 978-1-4598-1181-2
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4598-1183-6

This introduction to Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting and prayer, balances information with personal stories and uses a variety of visual storytelling techniques (sidebars, pull-out quotes, recipes). Mindfulness of cultural nuances (“there really is no such thing as a single ‘Muslim world'”); a chatty, down-to-earth narrative voice; and an attractive, photo-heavy design make the volume both informative and engaging. Reading list, websites. Glos., ind.

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.

Riazi, Karuna The Gauntlet
298 pp. Simon/Salaam 2017
Trade ISBN 978-1-4814-8696-5
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-8698-9

On her twelfth birthday, Muslim girl Farah receives a board game that sucks her, her younger brother, and her friends inside. There, they must solve timed puzzles or be trapped forever. The fast-paced adventure plot could easily dominate the novel (which is part Jumanji, part Bangladeshi fairy tale) but is instead balanced with Farah’s love for her brother and friends and her sense of compassion.

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

Ahmed, Samira Love, Hate & Other Filters
281 pp. Soho Teen 2018
Trade ISBN 978-1-61695-847-3
Ebook ISBN 978-1-61695-848-0

High-school senior Maya, daughter of a Muslim Indian-American family in suburban Chicago, longs to find her own romantic partner and attend NYU film school, in defiance of her parents. Her family problems are also affected by increasing hate crimes against Muslims after 9/11. Maya’s convincing first-person narrative touches on intercultural teen dating, school life, generational conflict, and current social issues.

Ali, S. K. Saints and Misfits
328 pp. Simon/Salaam 2017
Trade ISBN 978-1-4814-9924-8
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-9926-2

After hijab-wearing sophomore Janna Yusuf is assaulted by a “monster” who presents himself as a pillar of the Muslim community, she resigns herself to silence. But his continued harassment leads friends and family to join her attacker in expressing criticism, and Janna reaches her breaking point. Ali brings to life a nuanced intersection of culture, identity, and independence.

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.

Deracine, Anat Driving by Starlight
280 pp. Holt/Godwin 2018
Trade ISBN 978-1-250-13342-7

In post–Arab Spring Saudi Arabia, Leena and her best friend Mishail delight in small rebellions against their male-controlled, religiously strict society. But Leena’s flippancy soon falls away to reveal the precariousness of both girls’ lives. In a growing oeuvre centering on experiences of young Muslim women, Deracine’s debut stands out for its nuanced characterization and twisting plot. Arabic vocabulary and Saudi cultural concepts are explained for outsiders without bogging down the prose. Glos.

Farizan, Sara If You Could Be Mine
247 pp. Algonquin 2013
Trade ISBN 978-1-61620-251-4

Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend Nasrin for years. But the girls live in Iran, where their love is illegal. Farizan imbues characters and relationships with depth and complexity. First love is the heart of the matter here; even as readers learn about an unfamiliar culture, they will recognize the universal dynamics of a struggling relationship.

Karim, Sheba Mariam Sharma Hits the Road
310 pp. HarperTeen 2018
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-244573-5
Ebook ISBN 978-0-06-244575-9

After a scandalous modeling photo of Ghazala appears on a Times Square billboard, the NYU student and her friends Mariam and Umar go on a road trip to New Orleans to decompress. In this humorous and hard-hitting new-adult novel, the South Asian Muslim Americans confront Islamophobia in the Deep South and take on personal issues such as locating an absent parent and reconciling Islam with homosexuality.

Karim, Sheba That Thing We Call a Heart
279 pp. HarperTeen 2017
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-244570-4

Shabnam, a secularized Pakistani American girl excited to go off to college, lost her friendship with Farah when Farah started wearing the hijab. The two reconnect over the summer, but Shabnam’s romance with non-Muslim boy Jamie concerns Farah. Shabnam’s father’s love for Urdu poetry and Sufism adds further interest to this affecting coming-of-age story that realistically portrays the diversity of the U.S. Muslim community.

Sarn, Amélie I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister
153 pp. Delacorte 2014.
Trade ISBN 978-0-385-74376-1
Library binding ISBN 978-0-375-99128-8
Ebook ISBN 978-0-385-37020-2

Translated by Y. Maudet. A year after Djelila’s brutal murder, Sohane recalls her loving, difficult relationship with her beautiful younger sister. When a gang of boys from their French housing project accuses Djelila of shaming Islam, Sohane is fearful. Djelila laughs them off — then tragedy strikes. Based loosely on a true incident, Sarn’s poignant novel is a coming-of-age story about the uniquely powerful bond between sisters. Glos.

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Comments

  1. Please do not forget another wonderful book with illustrations by Mehrdokht Amini and text by Jane Breskin Zalben, A Moon for Moe and Mo:
    https://www.jewishbookcouncil.org/book/a-moon-for-moe-and-mo

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