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Slicing of Words


I am a word slicer.  I take words and slice them out of sentences. Sometimes I am a word adder, adding words here and there. Sometimes a word mixer. Plucking one word from this sentence and adding it there.

In the world of writing picture books, it is amazing how much time one can spend on one manuscript, on 1100 words. When word count is paid attention to, each word counts – literally.

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The writing part, when I have the idea, is easier. I love when a story flows from within and when it pours out manifesting itself in words scrawled on a page or words typed on a screen. It’s a beautiful feeling to see your story shining in hope.

You’re done! Or so you think…

The editing part is so much harder. So much more time consuming. So much more blah.

When I go to the library and pick up books that seem so effortlessly written, I need to remind myself that perhaps this author struggled too. Perhaps this author wrote many drafts to get this story just so.

Perhaps there is hope around the corner, light at the end of the tunnel, a story waiting to be made into a book.

Until then…

IMG_0428-2Z&A looking at our Shutterfly Photo Albums. If you have dozens of digitals on your comupter, I suggest Shutterfly for making quick and easy photobooks!IMG_0441Weekend Pancakes

Under the table mess…sigh.


Little fingers counting on!IMG_0459IMG_0462IMG_0468IMG_0471
when you get the problem right!


when you have a cold and have to drink warm tea…IMG_0503

a cool camera travel mug my brother got me!


Shell Souvenirs from Edisto Beach, SC that we picked up…IMG_0513IMG_0519IMG_0521

Sometimes the Cardinal will bring his wife for lunch!


The once a year apple pie attempt…


Z&A’s school lunch request!

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books for A, we love Little Bear!2017-03-08 (3)

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when 2 yolks come out of one egg! Bowl made by aunt!2017-03-08

when you take them to the library, but they can’t get enough of outside!


—-More later!

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Say, “If the sea were ink for [writing] the words of my Lord, the sea would be exhausted before the words of my Lord were exhausted, even if We brought the like of it as a supplement.” – Quran 18:109


“The Green Bicycle” Book Review!


Recently I got the chance to ride my bicycle again after quite some time, meaning many months. I used to bike all the time when I was younger. It’s something I really want to pick up again and not let it go again!

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The feeling of biking is exhilarating and freeing.

A Penguin representative reached out to me asking if I’d review a book The Green Bicycle. The story features a bold eleven year old, Wadjda, who lives in Saudi Arabia and her wish is to ride a bike. The issue is that girls don’t ride bikes where she lives. I couldn’t wait to read the story and glad I got the chance to read it and review it!


Amazon Summary: click here for look inside!

Spunky eleven-year-old Wadjda lives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia with her parents. She desperately wants a bicycle so that she can race her friend Abdullah, even though it is considered improper for girls to ride bikes. Wadjda earns money for her dream bike by selling homemade bracelets and mixtapes of banned music to her classmates. But after she’s caught, she’s forced to turn over a new leaf (sort of), or risk expulsion from school. Still, Wadjda keeps scheming, and with the bicycle so closely in her sights, she will stop at nothing to get what she wants.

Set against the shifting social attitudes of the Middle East, The Green Bicycle explores gender roles, conformity, and the importance of family, all with wit and irresistible heart.

I was curious to read this book as I grew up in Abu Dhabi and wanted to see how her experience in Saudi Arabia was different from mine. The book is fictional, but the experiences reflect he author Haifaa Al Mansour’s school experiences.

Wadjda deals with challenges from being in an overly strict school where the girls are forced to memorize chants and patriotic songs. Wadjda struggles with the meaningless and mundane activities. When a Quran competition’s first prize is a big amount of money that can pay for a bicycle, Wadjda decides that she will win the competition so that she can buy a green bicycle that she has set her eyes on. Her friend Abdullah secretly teaches her to ride his bicycle and the feeling Wadjda experiences racing on his bike is pure joy.

In Abu Dhabi, I leraned to ride a bike and would ride around my house in a small parking lot so was glad to have that opportunity – something I took for granted. I felt for Wadjda who felt limited.

Furthermore, Wadjda deals with some hard issues such as washing her father remarry another wife when he is still married to his mother. Her heart breaks when she witnesses her mother’s sorrow.  The mother and daughter’s connection is rekindled and although initially, her mother does not feel it is proper for Wadjda to ride a bike, at the end her mother supports her daughter and allows her ride it as she wishes. I don’t want to say too much about the exciting ending in case you get a chance to read it!

The author Haifaa Al Mansour wrote an author note that shed light on her experiences as a child.  She said the main character is based on a lot of girls she grew up with. She writes the story isn’t necessarily autobiographical but is based on the place she came from. She experienced a lot of the same frustrations that Wadjda did in public school. I thought it was fun that author Haifaa had a green bike as a child and when she tagged along with her father to buy bikes for her two brothers, she spotted a green bike and wanted it. The seller was upset that she wanted the bicycle, but her father insisted upon getting it. Haifaa rode her bike in circles around her backyard, not outside her home, but still found pleasure in biking. That story touched me!

My grandmother used to bike to university in a sari many years ago in India. I always loved knowing how independent she was. I am Muslim and feel comfort in my religion knowing I have the right to go places, the right to ride a bicycle. Unfortunately, there are a few cultures that look down upon letting girls ride a bicycle. That disappoints me and I hope each girl around the world has this right! I also hope each student gets blessed with wonderful teachers. Ms. Hussa (Wadjda’s teacher) reminded me of Ms. Trunchbull from Roald Dahl’s Matilda, an unsavory character!

One favorite quote from the story:

The next morning, Wadjda swung herself up onto her new green bicycle and set out through the neighborhood. Her feet moved forward. She pedaled at her own speed, on her own terms. For the first time in her life, Wadjda felt the freedom of pure, unchecked movement, and knew the sensation of using her own power to whisk herself through the city. The warm wind slipped under her loose veil and blew her hair back as she swerved down streets and alleys, bumped on and off sidewalks.

I’ll never let go of this feeling, she thought, and pedaled harder.

This book was based on the award-wining film Wadjda and I can’t wait to watch the film next!

Closing a Book


Read! In the Name of your Lord, Who has created (all that exists)…” (Quran 96:1).

I was reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron in which she talks about ways to boost creativity and to break through a tough bout of writers’ block. Julia Cameron wrote how artists have the best ideas doing random things such as taking a shower or driving on the freeway. It’s in these blank moments of repetition, great ideas can spark. An idea can bloom into a manuscript. The mind can actually breathe and start thinking on its own rather than listening to what’s going on.

I cannot always silence my surroundings, but I can allow my mind to start creating again by letting it wander if I give it some time and space to.

One thing, Cameron said that really surprised me was to take a break from reading, a week off. When I told my husband this, he responded incredulously, “You’re reading a book that’s telling you not to read?” Yes. Rather than read what other people have created, create your own.

That got me.

I love to read. But it is so much easier to hide behind the covers of a good book, tell myself I’m just seeing what’s out there in the publishing world, than cower behind a keyboard and actually attempt to create my own work.

What happens if you close your book and instead pick up a pencil, or open up a blank Microsoft Word document? What happens if you read a little less in order to make some tough edits on  a story? What happens if you silence your podcast or shorten a phone conversation to let in some silence?

I’ll let you know.



ALA’s Notable Children’s Books – 2016


I’m still learning the ways of the publishing world since I’m a first-time author. I always get a thrill of excitement when I learn that someone likes my book or if it’s on a book list for something good.

I got an email from the Tilbury House publisher saying that we were on the list of titles to discuss at the ALA (American Library Association) midwinter meeting in Boston last weekend which was exciting since the ALA is the official go-to site for librarians and educators. And then later today, Lea Lyon, my illustrator wrote this:

‘The official list of 2016 ALA Notable Books has been posted and “Lailah’s Lunchbox,” made the cut. It is listed under “Middle Readers” and we are very pleased and honored. (The previous list was the discussion list for the ALA MidWinter Conference. now it is official and real.) Thanks to all of you who congratulated me. Love you all.

And thank the wonderful publisher Tilbury House for continuing to publish such worthy, socially conscious books for children. When I was hired to illustrate my first book with them, “Say Something,” by Peggy Moss, which has sold over 70,000 copies, they said “We’re very small, only publish a few books per year, but they tend to win awards.” And the four books I have created with them certainly have.’ – Lea Lyon


The ALA site was under construction, but when I went back later on today, Lailah’s Lunchbox is there on the ALA Notable list for Middle Readers, ages 8-10 year olds. It is great for my story to be among such great other ones and I can’t wait to check out the list in more detail and to start placing the other notable books on hold. According to the site:


Each year a committee of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) identifies the best of the best in children’s books. According to the Notables Criteria, “notable” is defined as: Worthy of note or notice, important, distinguished, outstanding. As applied to children’s books, notable should be thought to include books of especially commendable quality, books that exhibit venturesome creativity, and books of fiction, information, poetry and pictures for all age levels (birth through age 14) that reflect and encourage children’s interests in exemplary ways.


And Tilbury House was excited too!

tilbury ala2I’m so glad the book is being enjoyed! It’s here and in the libraries and more! Another fun thing is the book’s supporting character is a librarian. The librarians tend to enjoy that part. I hope the librarians continue to spread the good word about the story to their fellow libraries and schools. Yay for being notable! Hoping for many more notable books!

Thank you to you all for your support!




Farah’s Birthday Photosession!


Last year, I had the opportunity to photograph Reema’s maternity session and this year I got to photograph Reema and Khalid with their baby Farah!





Review: Lailah’s Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story by Reem Faruqi with illustrations by Lea Lyon

Review: Lailah’s Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story by Reem Faruqi with illustrations by Lea Lyon

Thanks for this review!

The Book Wars


Hardcover, 32 pages
Published June 1st 2015 by Tilbury House Publishers
Source: Author

The review for this book could not come at a more relevant period as it is the month of Ramadan currently and Muslims all around the world are fasting. Fasting in this sense means abstaining from food and water from before sunup to after sundown.

These days being Muslim is difficult for reasons I’m not particularly keen to get into at the moment. Suffice it to say that Lailah’s Lunchbox is an extremely timely picturebook.

The picturebook focuses on the titular character, Lailah, who is going to fast for the first time during Ramadan. She had been too young the previous year so hadn’t been able to fast while all her friends had. Being able to fast is a distinction she has been waiting anxiously for. (Children are not obligated to fast until they are 10-12 years old.) This year…

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Guest Post: Inspiration on Writing Lailah’s Lunchbox by Reem Faruqi


Here’s my Guest Post on the Bookwars site! Thank you for the feature!

The Book Wars

Ramadan, a month of fasting observed by Muslims around the world, starts around June 18th this year and what better time than now to introduce you via this guest post to Lailah’s Lunchbox, a picturebook about Lailah, her lunchbox, and Ramadan. Here to talk about her book and the inspirations behind it is Reem Faruqi.


61x80imSllL._UX250_Reem Faruqi used to teach second grade and her favorite time was Read Aloud time. Now, as a stay-at-home-mom, her favorite time is still Read Aloud time. Of Pakistani origin, she moved from Abu Dhabi to Peachtree City, Georgia when she was 13 years old.

She based her first children’s book Lailah’s Lunchbox on her own experience as a young Muslim girl immigrating to the United States. Reem loves doodling, writing, and photography and photoblogs at Currently, she lives with her husband and two daughters in Atlanta.

Her picture book, Lailah’s Lunchbox

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