CRESCENT MOONS AND POINTED MINARETS:
A MUSLIM BOOK OF SHAPES
Written by Hena Khan
Illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini
(Chronicle Books; $17.99, Ages 3-5)
Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets: A Muslim Book of Shapes written by Hena Khan and illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini is a sequel to the duo’s highly praised 2012 book Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors.
Khan’s spare, rhyming text introduces readers to various shapes, but it’s much more than a book about shapes. Every spread spotlights a different aspect of Islam. For example, we learn that a minaret (with a cone-shaped roof) is the tower in a mosque from which the call to prayer is broadcast; a daff is a large circular drum; and the Ka’aba (a word which means “cube” in Arabic) is a holy temple in the city of Mecca. A glossary at the end of the book provides definitions and an author’s note explains the important connection between Islam, shapes, and geometry.
I savored every page of Amini’s exquisite mixed media illustrations. Vibrant colors and detailed patterns, including some incredible tilework, draw the eye in and keep it lingering long after Khan’s lilting, rhythmic text has been read. As an added bonus, every spread depicts a different country (though there’s no mention of it in the main text). In an interview with Deborah Kalb, Khan indicated that Turkey, Tanzania, and Malaysia are represented. I imagine that trying to guess where each scene is set could lead to some terrific conversations.
Usually, shape books are aimed at a very young audience, but Khan and Amini have added so many additional layers to the “shape” concept, that readers of all ages will surely be drawn to this beautiful book. And given that hate crimes against and harassment of Muslims have spiked in the past several years, a book that sheds light on their traditions and family life is especially important. After all, as Khan told School Library Journal in 2013, “Educating kids about different cultures is key to building tolerance and acceptance.”
While readers who practice Islam will enjoy seeing themselves on the pages of this gorgeously illustrated book, as a non-Muslim, I relished the opportunity to learn about some of the traditions, art, architecture, and culture surrounding the world’s second largest religion.
Author website: https://www.henakhan.com/
Illustrator website: https://www.myart2c.com/
Author Hena Khan is on tour with her new chapter book, Power Forward, the first in a series. Click here to see if she’s coming to your town!
POWER FORWARD: ZAYD SALEEM CHASING THE DREAM (BOOK ONE)
Written by Hena Khan
(Salaam Reads; $16.99, paperback $6.99, Ages 7-10)
I have to admit—I don’t read a lot of books about sports. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying the first book in Hena Khan’s new chapter book series one bit. I bought a copy of Power Forward (Zayd Saleem, Chasing the Dream) for my nephew at one of Khan’s book signings (the first on her tour) then, as soon as I got home, read the entire thing in one sitting.
Fourth grader Zayd Saleem eats, sleeps, and breathes basketball. He’s on the D team (for now) but with practice he knows he can make the Gold team. Tryouts are two weeks away and he needs all the help he can get. That’s why he bails on his early morning violin practice and plays basketball instead—and he’s actually improving. But when Zayd’s mom discovers he’s been skipping violin and lying about it, the punishment is harsh: no basketball for two whole weeks. And that means no tryouts.
Zayd narrates his tale with a good dose of humor, but the humor never comes at the expense of emotions. We feel deeply for our narrator as he tries to make space for his own dreams while meeting his parent’s expectations. But something’s got to give—and Zayd will need to stand up for himself if he wants to keep those dreams alive.
Family plays a big role in this story and Khan does a terrific job of crafting real characters that we want to spend time with. Zayd’s got an annoying older sister, a fun-loving uncle, an adoring grandmother, an understanding grandfather, and parents who really want what’s best for their son—readers may find themselves wishing for an invitation to dinner.
Sports fans might open Power Forward for the basketball, but they’ll keep reading for the humor, honesty, and cozy warm feeling of being part of the Saleem family. And luckily, they won’t have to wait too long to join the fun again. The next two books in the series hit the shelves soon. Look for On Point (Zayd Saleem, Chasing the Dream, Book 2) on May 29, 2018 and Bounce Back (Zayd Saleem, Chasing the Dream, Book 3) on October 2, 2018. Let’s hope there are many more to come!
• Both books reviewed by Colleen Paeff
I love to travel, in fact my whole family does, and I can’t think of a better bug to catch than the travel bug. So, when I read about Misti Kenison’s new board book series introducing shapes and colors through foreign destinations, I had to check them out. What a clever way to get the littlest members of your family thinking about faraway lands and all the delights in store when venturing abroad.
The Tiny Traveler: France, A Book of Colors includes the Moulin Rouge and a dancer in a red dress, a purple rose window of a cathedral, three slices of cheese inside a baguette, a white Arc de Triomphe, a black beret, an orange sunset outside the Louvre, a finely manicured green garden that could be the Tuileries, a brown gargoyle decorating Notre Dame, and last but not least, the Eiffel Tower. It’s gray during the day but turns a sparkling blue at night. As you can see from the cover, the illustrations are colorful yet unembellished. Youngsters are given clues with each page color to help them recognize the word which is always in upper case. The best part, you don’t even need to know the famous landmarks to be able to give your child a taste of France and the colorful scenery on offer.
The Tiny Traveler: Egypt, A Book of Shapes puts the famed Great Sphinx right into your toddler’s hands, but before that there are the pyramids. “The front of the pyramid is a TRIANGLE.” There’s an Egyptian mummy’s rectangular beard, a square on the camel’s rug which covers his hump, and of course, “The sphinx’s head is a HEXAGON.” Kenison’s found a jar to use for an oval shape, hieroglyphics indicating a cross (this example is a bit challenging), a star in a geometrically-patterned window, and a heart shape on the back of a beetle (scarab). Finishing up their shape tour of Egypt, children will see a spread with the sun, followed by the last spread of a crescent moon, both high above ancient minarets in magical looking day and nighttime settings. There is a bold geometric example of the shape on the text page opposite each monument or item described and it’s also outlined in the scene so finding it is easy.
The Tiny Traveler board books are a fun and different way to educate your toddlers about the basic concepts of colors and shapes all from the comforts of your favorite rocking chair. I have no doubt after sharing these books, parents will find their children looking for shapes and colors in all they encounter.
– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel
You Are (Not) Small
written by Anna Kang and illustrated by Christopher Weyant (Two Lions, $ 16.99, Ages 2-6).
A plump, purplish bear-like creature is merrily blowing dandelion seeds across the opening page of this clever, humorous picture book. Enter one large, fuzzy orange-brown foot, stage right. “You are small,” says the new critter to the weed-clutching little one.
This innocent observation kicks off a spirited dialogue between the two. “I am not small. You are big,” purple critter retorts. But the larger one gestures to his pals, noting that he is one of many, all alike. Then more purple ones appear to back up their buddy as well.
Tempers flare, and the dialogue becomes an argument. (Sound familiar, parents?) There are pointed fingers, angry frowns, even insistent shouting. The size debate escalates until BOOM! A huge hairy paw crashes down, followed by diminutive pink critters with yellow parachutes. Fear not, the last line will guarantee laughs from every reader.
You Are (Not) Small is a short, simple book with text that could work as an easy reader, and illustrations that are engaging enough for the youngest picture book set. Readers of all ages will absorb the meta-message about keeping things in perspective and learning to appreciate differences without necessarily comparing them.
This is a great picture book for those who feel small or tall due to their relative ages or statures. It will spark fun conversations about the way we see ourselves and one another. The thickly-outlined, expressive animals are appealing in a Muppet-like fashion. They all share tiny round ears and large oval noses that make them appear to be related despite their differences in size. At just 91 words, this is a short and funny bedtime book choice with (not) a little kid appeal!
Click here for a very cool downloadable growth chart.
– Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey
Where Obtained: I received a review copy from the publisher and received no compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.
Maisy’s Placemat Doodle Book by Lucy Cousins is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.
Maisy’s Placemat Doodle Book by Lucy Cousins, Candlewick Press, 2014.
My youngest daughter adores a certain mouse by Lucy Cousins, so Maisy’s Placemat Doodle Book (Candlewick Press, 2014; $11.99, Ages 3 and up) was a huge hit with her. With over 50 activities, it’s perfect for doodling, coloring, drawing, and, most importantly, using imagination. Each of the pages has a prompt and an illustration to inspire little hands to get busy with crayons, markers, or pencils. For example, your child can give these mugs some pretty patterns or can help draw some food that she [Tallulah] would like to eat. The prompts help children learn or reinforce colors, patterns, shapes and content knowledge.
As with all Maisy books, the illustrations are splendid in their simplicity, and Maisy’s friends are there to join the fun. Draw lots of teeth for Charley so he can crunch on this tasty carrot. Make his shirt striped. Panda has been eating tomato soup. Draw the TERRIBLE MESS he has made on his face and everywhere else!
The pages are 12.5” x 9”, so there is plenty of space to color. When we’ve been on our way to dine out, I’ve torn pages from the book and taken them with us. That way, my daughter has her placemat(s) at the diner, as well. In her words, “You could color it, look at it, and it’s fun.”
Check out this terrific My Friend Maisy/Maisy’s Fun Club site for kids.
Books Always Everywhere written by Jane Blatt and illustrated by Sarah Massini, (Random House Books for Young Readers, $16.99, Ages 2-6), is reviewed today by Cathy Ballou Mealey.
Books Always Everywhere is a celebration of books big and small, wide and tall! Geared to the youngest bibliophiles, this book is generously sized with sturdy pages for a lap read or storytime. The short, simple rhyming text is large enough to track with your finger as you read aloud to little listeners.
Books Always Everywhere by Jane Blatt with illustrations by Sarah Massini, Random House Books for Young Readers, 2014.
The illustrations feature tots and animals holding books, building with books, even climbing books! Books are featured on each page in all sorts of games and fantastic settings. For example, on the pages showing “Book build / Book mat / Book chair / Book hat” toddlers perch on piles of cleverly titled books (Sitting Pretty, 100 Best High Chairs). Lest your children mistake this for an instructional manual, it would be best to tell them that they shouldn’t really use books for anything other than reading!
The pictures subtly teach comparison of size and shape as well as types of books like scary and funny. The children are delightfully multicultural and sport cleverly textured and patterned clothing, hats and accessories. A sweet tiny mouse is featured on every page, a fun friend to follow from beginning to end.
Books Always Everywhere is a charming book to encourage little ones to appreciate books and reading!
– Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey
Where Obtained: I received a review copy from the publisher and received no other compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.