Tag Archives: children’s book reviews

2 New Books (!!) and 5 Fun Things…

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Today is Z’s last day of first grade. I can’t believe she will be a second grader, the grade I used to teach.

It doesn’t seem like yesterday in which I packed up my crayon-filled second grade classroom and had a newborn in the sweltering June summer. It seems ages ago. To be precise 7 years ago! For me, those newborn baby days were long and slow, tiring and tedious. But to have that slow time was a gift in which I could find pockets of peace.

Once Z transformed into a running toddler and child, that was when time caught up with Z and then A and started to run too.

Ramadan for Muslims starts this Saturday. It’s nice to see my book Lailah’s Lunchbox pop up on people’s radars again and to see it displayed proudly for Ramadan.

I love seeing how creative people get with their displays. If you do use my book in a Ramadan display, please send me a picture. Sometimes while I sit on a computer cranking out words on a plain old Microsoft Word document, it can be hard to see my words as a book.

Speaking of books, I am excited to say that I should have two picture books coming out in a couple of years I believe!

Amira’s Picture Day (Holiday House) for Spring 2019

Ramadan is over and Amira can’t wait to celebrate Eid. Spotting the new moon, she celebrates because Eid is tomorrow and she gets to miss school to go to the mosque for the Eid prayer and brunch.  But then she realizes that tomorrow is Picture Day at school. How will her class remember her if she’s not in the class picture? What will Amira do?

         2. Let Me Show You The Way (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers) TBD

The main character often happily volunteers to help a fellow classmate who needs a little extra assistance in school. It is only when she gets picked on by two popular students for helping him, she decides to distance herself from the fellow classmate to fit in more with her popular classmates. Later, she feels regret for her actions, but it is too late. Now, she decides to take matters into her own hands…

I will share more about these two projects soon. A big thank you to those who helped me thus far with these stories, editing, critiquing, printing, submitting! The publishing industry is quite a prooooooooooooooocesssssssss. And a long one at that! And an additional thank you to all of you who have read Lailah’s Lunchbox and supported me. I hope you all will like these two picture books as well.

I hope for all those of you who will be celebrating Ramadan that it is a beautiful and peaceful month full of growth, renewal, and that you find time to enjoy the slow moments. Meanwhile…

Five Fun Things:

  1. a heartwarming Middle Grade book I read recently by Lisa Graff with a strong, emotional male character’s voice:

“My dad’s face, you should’ve seen it. It went from normal to chili-pepper red in seconds. He was angry. [. . .] The fire, it was all the way to the tips of my fingernails. Digging down to the bottoms of my heels.”

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2. A teacher’s blog post I liked about my book.

“Lailah’s Lunchbox is a fantastic story based on Reem Faruqi’s own life experience moving to the United States and explaining what Ramadan is to classmates and friends in Peachtree City, Georgia. This story captures many different and important social issues, including moving somewhere new and different religions. This story emphasizes the humanity of the children and their experiences and promotes understanding and empathy of others.”

3. A beautiful Ramadan Read Drummer Girl   by Hiba Masood and illustrated by Najiyah Maxfield about a spunky female character Najma and the tender relationship she and her father share during Ramadan. I love how author Hiba Masood loosely based this story on a true one of a female drummer girl. The imagery, language, and pictures are gorgeous. I am a fan of Hiba (Drama Mama)’s words and this book showcases beautiful language. I have been saving this story for Z and A to read during Ramadan so I know they will savor it this Ramadan.

“Najma held her breath. Would he be angry? Would he say she was being foolish? No woman had ever been a musaharati in her neighborhood…”

4. A fun activity to do. Envelope decorating with nail polish. It kept Z and A busy for a while…

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5. the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta will be doing a Ramadan puppet show at the Children’s Museum on June 24th for your children. Check our newsletter here for more details. (scroll to bottom!)

Have a Blessed Ramadan and Beautiful Summer!

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PB Story Reviews: 14 Cows for America and more!

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I wrote this a while ago and realized I hadn’t hit ‘Publish!’ Here it is… I love reviewing children’s books! I reached out to Peachtree Publishers, a local company located close to me, and requested the following books to review as they looked like good reads, and they were! 14cowscover

Amazon Summary: 

In June of 2002, a very unusual ceremony begins in a far-flung village in western Kenya. An American diplomat is surrounded by hundreds of Maasai people. A gift is about to be bestowed on the American men, women, and children, and he is there to accept it. The gift is as unsought and unexpected as it is extraordinary. A mere nine months have passed since the September 11 attacks, and hearts are raw. Tears flow freely from American and Maasai as these legendary warriors offer their gift to a grieving people half a world away.  Word of the gift will travel news wires around the globe. Many will be profoundly touched, but for Americans, this selfless gesture will have deeper meaning still. For a heartsick nation, the gift of fourteen cows emerges from the choking dust and darkness as a soft light of hope and friendship.

My thoughts:

This book is a New York Times Bestseller so my interest was piqued! It’s nonfiction which I love and has some beautiful illustrations. Kimeli, a Masai, comes back from America to visit his village and share the story of 9/11. How they react with support and warmth for the American people, people they have never met is pretty astounding. For the Masai people, the cow is everything, and to give 14 cows for America is a powerful symbol indeed! If only we could learn from the Masai people’s generosity!

Favorite Quote:

“Because there is no nation so powerful it cannot be wounded, nor a people so small they cannot offer mighty comfort.”

LookInside! feature on Amazon here.

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Amazon Summary: Babba Zarrah lives in a tiny village in the snow-covered mountains. The children love to visit her. They settle down on her big, old story blanket and listen to her imaginative tales. One day Babba Zarrah notices that Nikolai needs new socks, but she has no yarn. Every question has an answer, Babba Zarrah tells herself, I just have to find it. After the children leave, she unravels part of her story blanket and knits him some nice warm socks.

Not long after that, the postman is surprised to find a scarf wrapped around his mailbag. The grocer mysteriously receives a shawl to keep her warm. On the woodpile outside the school is a pair of mittens for the schoolmaster. Meanwhile, the story blanket is getting smaller and smaller. When the villagers discover Babba Zarrah s secret, they decide to give her a surprise of her own.story-blanket-2

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My thoughts:

This book is a great read aloud story in which children will need to make inferences as Babba Zarrah unravels the story blanket in secret to knit warm items for the people of the village. Not until midway do children start figuring out that something seems v.fishy and that Baba Zarrah is unraveling the story blanket! As the blanket gets smaller and smaller, the children of the story decide they need to get Baba Zarrah a new blanket for more stories. A great story to show the spirit of giving and the magic of stories. The illustrations are also quirky and whimsical.

Favorite Quote:

“Every question has an answer,” said Babba Zarrah. “I just have to think of it.” She poured herself a glass of sweet tea to help her think. Before she had taken three sips, Babba Zarrah knew what to do.

“I will unravel a little of the story blanket and use the wool for Nikolai’s socks!” she said.

I love the way the author wrote, “before she had taken three sips…” V.child friendly language!

Saturdays and Teacakes

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by Lester Laminack (Author), Chris Soentpiet (Illustrator)

Amazon Summary: “When I was nine or ten years old I couldn’t wait for Saturdays. I got up early, dressed, and rolled my bicycle out of the garage.” So begins author Lester Laminack’s poetic memory of the adult who made him feel incredibly special-his grandmother. Every Saturday, the narrator, a young boy, rides his bicycle up and down country roads past farms, a graveyard, and a filling station, until he reaches his beloved Mammaw’s house. She is waiting for him. While she picks tomatoes, he pushes the lawnmower through the dew-wet grass. Afterwards, he always helps her make teacakes from scratch, breaking the eggs and stirring the batter. But the best part, he remembers, is eating the hot, sweet cakes fresh from the oven. Children will understand the special relationship of the narrator and his grandmother. Set in a small town in the Leave It to Beaver days of the mid-sixties, the story evokes a gentler and more innocent time and place. Young readers will almost hear the sounds of bicycle wheels on gravel and the criiick-craaack-criiick of a metal glider in Laminack’s richly detailed prose. Award-winning illustrator Chris Soentpiet’s images beautifully capture the relationship and the place, perfectly depicting the simplicity of an earlier time.

My thoughts:

This story is such a beautiful one. A great read for those who have a special grandmother! The illustrations are gorgeous water colors and the story relates an adventure of the little boy visiting his grandmother’s house. The setting of the story is around the mid-sixties so the illustrations are quaint and fun to see the different in times from then and now.  Today, a bicycle ride all alone to grandma’s house may be considered unsafe for some, but in this time and era, it was what was done, and done with such happiness and peace.

Favorite Amazon Review:

I thought this teacher review was a nice one.

Great to use with middle school students!

By A. Bagnall on December 22, 2009
I used this book as a “jumping off” activity with my 7th grade language arts class. I read the book aloud to them and we discussed what they liked about the book. Then they wrote their own memoirs. It was a huge success!

Favorite Quote:

Every Saturday Mammaw was there, sitting on her old metal glider and waving. She was waving to me. No one else. Just me.

I love how special this little boy feels!

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Ilyas and Duck Search For Allah children’s book review

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This story is creatively written by Omar Khawaja and vibrantly illustrated by Leo Antolini.

The story is about a curious little boy called Ilyas who searches for God’s location. Allah is simply the Arabic name for God so this book is universal for all faiths. The story is a  beautiful, heartwarming story. Z really enjoyed this story. As a parent who is often asked to read the same book over and over, I really enjoyed the illustrations that added a comical touch to the story, especially Duck’s antics.

The Backstory: I got in touch with Omar Khawaja to see his journey to publishing and what I liked about his journey is that he wanted a Muslim children’s book that was appealing and answered his children’s questions, so he went ahead and wrote his story and published it. So many times as authors we can sit and stew on an idea, but what I admire is that he followed his dream through and made it a reality.  You can read about it here. He owns a company called Little Big Kids so for him it made sense to make a product and self-publish it. 

Availability: This book has rave reviews and is available on Amazon here or Little Big Kids and is a heartwarming story. I liked the animals Omar Khawaja chose in this story: the hoopoe was mentioned in the Quran so it was educationally appealing.  As an elementary school teacher, I value stories that have educational aspects to it. As a Sunday School teacher, this story would be a great circle time read. As an aspiring writer, this story was professionally written and beautifully illustrated.

On a side note, when I read this story to Z, I feel the need to add more wording to clarify as I believe Allah is above the 7th heavens as listed here:

Do you feel secure that He, Who is over the heaven (Allah), will not cause the earth to sink with you, then behold it shakes (as in an earthquake)? (Quran 67:16).

But that I know Allah is closer to us than our jugular vein:

“And indeed, We have created man, and we know what (evil) temptation his innermost self may bring to him: And We are nearer to him than (his) jugular vein.”  (Quran 50:16).

Favorite Quote:
Ilyas looked through the binoculars but all he could see were a few puffy clouds and a plane flying by.
“You won’t see Allah with those binoculars,” said the Hoopoe sitting on the branch of a tree nearby.
“What do you mean?” asked Ilyas. But the Hoopoe didn’t answer. It just flew away.
 Preschooler Z’s thoughts and Toddler A’s thoughts:
Z loves this story, especially the rocket page where Ilyas blasts off to space to search for Allah! Baby A loves this story even more than Z, and is always grabbing and hugging this story when we read books. She also loves saying Ilyas’s name, and pointing to him, “Ilyaaas!”
I was looking at the upcoming story of Ilyas and Duck’s Fantastic Festival Eid-ul-Fitr on my computer and Z and A saw the cover of Ilyas and Duck and the cake on my screen, and Z started yelling, “Ilyas is baking!” and A started clapping her hands saying, “Ilyaaaas!” so the cool thing about this character Ilyas  is that he’s relatable. It’s refreshing to see children like a Muslim character, not just Dora!
Can’t wait to read even more books about this relatable character Ilyas from this author Omar Khawaja and illustrator Leo Antolini!

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Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns Book Review

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Remember the book I just reviewed by Hena Khan? She wrote Night of the Moon: a Muslim Holiday Story. Well here’s another story she wrote that is one of my favorites. So far my favorite Eid story is Under the Ramadan Moon by Sylvia Whitman, and one of my favorite general Muslim stories has got to be this one. The illustrations are gorgeous, almost like a 3D Pixar movie.

Pair that with Hena Khan’s rhyming words, and you have a great story. I like this story better than her Eid story.

Author: Hena Khan

Illustrator: Mehrdokht Amini

Availability: Amazon and My library (yes!)

How I Discovered it: Amazon search

My Favorite Quotes: 

All of the

colorful things we’ve seen

make up the world of my faith,

my deen.

I also liked the quote with Grandma and the illustration that went with it. I don’t have a photo of that page, so go buy or check out the book.

Green is the Quran

I read with pride.

Grandma explains

the lessons inside.

Z’s thoughts: Z really liked the Henna page so included that one below. She enjoyed the big pictures and the rhyming text.

The rest of the story has beautiful pages and for each color is a simple rhyme. The story has a Look Inside! feature on Amazon so just included a couple of my favorite pages below. I really enjoyed this simple story of A Muslim Book of Colors as I love colors, so this book made me feel good reading it.

Amazon’s thoughts: Magnificently capturing the colorful world of Islam for the youngest readers, this breathtaking and informative picture book celebrates Islam’s beauty and traditions. From a red prayer rug to a blue hijab, everyday colors are given special meaning as young readers learn about clothing, food, and other important elements of Islamic culture, with a young Muslim girl as a guide. Sure to inspire questions and observations about world religions and cultures, Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns is equally at home in a classroom reading circle as it is being read to a child on a parent’s lap.

Media: 

This book has great reviews on Amazon. Recently, though I read an article where a father in my local state of Georgia was upset his child found this book at a Book Fair and complained to the school saying,  “I don’t want this culture around my children, let’s get them educated first. Learn to read and write before we start teaching (about) the fanaticals.” You can read more: The Marietta Daily Journal – Father upset after child finds Muslim book at school fair .

Picture books are a way to educate people about a variety of issues, so I found his comment disconcerting to say the least.  I used to have a student who was a Jehova’s Witness who checked out 2 library books on Christmas and birthdays; Jehova’s Witnesses don’t celebrate holidays so her book selection was interesting. I hadn’t realized she had checked out these books and that it was an issue until my student’s mother sent in a polite note asking that her child not check out books like these on holidays. I admire the mom for the way she handled the matter and wrote about it here.. I wish this dad had handled it as well as she did. We have the right to good quality children’s books, and the right to choose whether we want to read them or not.

I posted the article from the Marietta Daily Journal to Facebook about the upset father and 2 of my teacher friends wrote that the book looked great and went ahead and purchased it online for their classroom libraries. So I guess that father didn’t know that his attention may actually be causing a deeper interest in the book rather than against the book. Yay for teachers open to multicultural books!

Pictures below! There are more gorgeous ones on Amazon under the Look Inside! feature so be sure to take a look there.

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The Apple Tree Review

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It’s been a cozy day what with rain pelting outdoors that has now transformed into softly falling rain.  Such days call for drive-thru Dunkin Donut breakfasts, stay-in-your-pajamas-ALL-day, and a cozy reading book.

 

I’ve been wanting to start reviewing some good Muslim books that I’ve come across so here is 1 below. Just wanted to clarify that this review is written on my own accord ~ I’m not endorsed by anyone!

 

The Apple Tree by Mariam Al-Kalby, illustrated by Yee Von Chan is one cozy read.  The book is great quality and even smells like a good book. The pages are thick and glossy, and the illustrations suck you in from the first page.

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The illustrations are gorgeous. They’re sort of animae like which is unique as I haven’t seen many Muslim story books in this style, or many story books for that matter.

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Favorite Quote from the book:  

Little Shaima woke up  at fajr and peered out her bedroom window. Baba was in the front yard digging a hole in the ground. Curious, she jumped off her bed, raced down the stairs, and swung the front door open.

This quote goes with the first page illustration above and I loved how the illustrator Yee Von Chan broke the picture into 2 segments as I love taking snippets of photos that tell a story.

How I discovered this book: My sister-in-law gave it to me as an Eid gift as she knows I want to have my stories published, so it was inspiring to read this story. She bought me this story because she said the About the Author sounds like me.

Book Published by: Prolance. I was in touch with Angie El-Shariff  from Prolance who says regarding publishing, they do a custom publishing route.  Basically traditional publishers  take your manuscript and make all decisions regarding publishing such as cover design, book size, where to sell, how to illustrate etc. They pay you  up front costs but retain a portion of your profits. With Prolance you pay upfront costs but keep all profits. Prolance works with you to make sure your book comes out exactly how you want it. They take care of the technicalities (copyright, ISBN reader). The quality of this book is beautiful and v.professional.  It has a gentle stationary like feel.

Book Availability: Not in the Atlanta Fulton Library system. You can buy it on Amazon . It has 17 five star reviews, 1 four star review simply because the font was tricky for an early reader. I personally loved the font as it was artsy, and gave the book a creative ‘crayonny’ feel. On Amazon it lacks the ‘look inside!’ feature so thought I’d include a few previews. I personally love the ‘Look Inside!’ feature on Amazon as when I see the inside of a good book, I get hooked.

Z’s thoughts: Z loved turning the pages and narrating the story on her own from Shaima waking up and her baba planting the tree. I like that the father in the book was referred to as Baba because Z calls her own father Baba too.  Z read this with her father and I think the 2 of them really enjoyed it . My husband said Z looked like the little girl in the picture, something my sister-in-law thought too when she bought the book.

Unique Points: The story gently teaches a lesson and has a whimsical feel to it. It’s a story about Shaima and her Baba planting an apple tree and Shaima learning how to share the apples from the tree; if you have a little child, you know that sharing doesn’t always come naturally! Z always looks really concerned for Shaima when Shaima gets mad that someone’s eating her apples.

The author Mariam blogs at http://www.apocketfulofnotes.com and I was in touch with her and have visited her blog a couple times.

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More book reviews to come soon! If you are an Author and want me to review your story, please let me know. I read children’s books regularly so reviewing them are fun for me.

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Why I Read Children’s Books

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The glossy pages and the rich pictures always always draw me in to the children’s book area of the library. As a teen, I would tentatively visit this area and check out children’s books. I’m sure the librarians probably thought I had a younger sibling I was checking out these books for. As a 2nd grade teacher, I felt more justified being in the children’s book section, and now as a mother, I finally feel like it’s cool again to be in this section and you are truly never too old to read a children’s book. The books I check out from this section are mostly for me, not Z. Z is just my liaison to this section, but how I love the children’s book section of libraries and bookstores. Here I find comfort and solace, and how I love the illustrations, the fresh tone of voice that children possess, and the scent that comes with a good book.

Since I read so many children’s books, I thought I would share my thoughts/review a few of my favorites.

 

beatriceThe above book Beatrice Spells Some Lulus and Learns to Write a Letter was in the New section of the Northside Library that I visit, and I subtly grabbed it! This picture book is a beautiful story of how Beatrice’s grandmother teaches her how to spell. My favorite line from the book is,

Dear Nanny Hannah, Some people get hazel eyes or chocolate chip brownies or orange sweaters from their grandmas. Thank you for giving me spelling.

Love sincerely,

Your Spelling Bea

My grandmothers have taught me so much – to appreciate nature, to study stones and leaves and trees and clouds, to read and speak Urdu. How nice it is to have grandmothers who teach. If you have a little one who is learning to spell, this is a great story, or if you have a class of students, this is a great read aloud story. I wish this book was there when I had taught 2nd grade. Since I really want to publish a children’s book, hopefully reviewing some of the excellent stories I come across will make me a better author.

I’m also going to start a section of my blog for Muslim book reviews as I scour the Muslim publishing market for children’s stories; it can be hard sometimes to find great Muslim stories.  Currently, I’m trying to put together a book for toddlers/preschoolers about Eid.

More later!