Ramadan by Hannah Eliot with illustrations by Rashin

Ramadan by Hannah Eliot with illustrations by Rashin

 

Ramadan book cover art

 

I’m happy to share Ramadan, the first book in a new board book series from Little Simon geared towards preschoolers called Celebrate The World. “The series aims to show readers how different cultures celebrate and cherish the holidays important to them.”

 

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Interior artwork from Ramadan written by Hannah Eliot and illustrated by Rashin Kheiriyeh, Little Simon ©2018.

 

Alluding to the lunar calendar, Ramadan takes places in the ninth month of the year “when the crescent moon first appears in the sky …” With its 24 pages of ebullient illustrations, Ramadan is a cheerful and easy-to-understand introduction to the Islamic holiday observed by over a billion Muslims across the globe. Little ones learn that during the monthlong fast of Ramadan, eating occurs “only when it is dark outside,” and involves prayer, introspection and spending time with family and friends. Other important aspects of this holy holiday include being “thankful” and helping others. When the month has ended, Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr, also known as the Sweet Festival, for three days during which time they “pray” and “give each other gifts.”

 

Ramandan int artwork 1

Interior artwork from Ramadan written by Hannah Eliot and illustrated by Rashin Kheiriyeh, Little Simon ©2018.

 

Eliot has included just the right amount of information to pique a preschooler’s curiosity. The simple language that is used works perfectly with Rashin’s festive and upbeat artwork conveying the impression that both author and illustrator thoroughly enjoyed working on this book. That said, I have no doubt that readers will agree. The depiction of the crescent moon, the men kneeling in the mosque, and all the fabulous food scenes are sure to please. I look forward to all the other books in this series if they’re as well crafted as Ramadan. They’ll be popular for parents and educators alike for being a positive way to help youngsters understand and welcome traditions from near and afar.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 

A Picture Book and A Chapter Book, Two New Books by Author Hena Khan

A Picture Book and A Chapter Book, Two New Books by Author Hena Khan

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)

 

cover illustration from Crescent Moons and Pointed MinaretsCrescent 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)

Cover photo from Power Forward by Hena KhanI 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

 

Dear Pope Francis, A Picture Book for Children

Dear Pope Francis, A Picture Book for Children

DEAR POPE FRANCIS:
The Pope Answers Letters from Children Around the World
By Pope Francis
(Loyola Press; $18.95, Ages 6-15)

 

Dear_Pope_Francis

 

Dear Pope Francis: The Pope Answers Letters from Children Around the World  is an inspiring new picture book for children and teens reviewed by Heather Banis, Ph.D

Imagine writing Pope Francis a letter to query him about what is most important to you and receiving a response. The chance to ask a question of someone we admire is something many, if not all of us, have likely imagined! For 30 children from around the world, that is in fact exactly what they were able to do. Selected from over 250 letters submitted, the question(s) most pressing in the minds of 30 children were presented to, and received a personal response from, Pope Francis. This correspondence constitutes the remarkable book published by Loyola Press, entitled Dear Pope Francis: The Pope Answers Letters from Children Around the World.

As a child clinical psychologist, I am often struck by the depth and perceptiveness of children’s questions. Dear Pope Francis honors the importance of, and wisdom contained within these children’s questions about God, the world in which they are living, and the faith by which they strive to live. Questions about miracles, angels, and the world’s future are presented in partnership with thoughtful and personally revealing letters of response from the Pope.

The letters included in the book come from children living in 26 different countries, living on six different continents, speaking 14 different languages. They speak directly to the pressing questions that arise in the day-to-day experiences of youth. The children’s illustrated letters are reproduced in their original format and language, and are accompanied by an English translation (where needed) and photo of each child. Each double-page spread is then completed by Pope Francis’s response as it appears on his letterhead and bearing his signature.

 

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Interior spread from Dear Pope Francis: The Pope Answers Letters From Children Around The World by Pope Francis, Loyola Press ©2016

 

Ten-year-old Joao from Portugal asks the Pope what it feels like when he is surrounded by children, and in response Pope Francis writes of his happiness and the hope he feels for the future of all humanity. Revealing his own humanity, Pope Francis also writes about Joao’s drawing in which the Pope appears to be driving his “Pope-mobile” and acknowledges that he doesn’t drive which leaves his hands free for waving and blowing kisses.

Eight-year-old Josephine from the United Kingdom discovers that Pope Francis’s favorite place to pray is “everywhere…even when (he goes) to the dentist.” Karla Marie, a 10-year-old girl from Nicaragua, asks if “bad people have a guardian angel, too” and learns that everyone has an angel who tries to help them think good thoughts, but … “of course, some people don’t always listen to their guardian angels.”

Questions encompassing concerns about a parent’s death, arguments and their resolution, dancing and playing soccer, sin, forgiveness, and finding God in one another are asked of the Pope, who in turn responds with inspiring words that both teach and console.

Perhaps my favorite letter of all comes from seven-year-old William from the USA – he asked Pope Francis what miracle the Pope would most want to perform, given the chance. The Pope wrote to William that he would want to heal children, revealing in his letter his struggle to understand why children suffer. This letter, like so many in Dear Pope Francis reveals the humanity of this church and world leader in a manner accessible to children of all ages.

Dear Pope Francis is also available in Spanish.

Click here to find out how your family can write a letter to Pope Francis, too!

Thank you to today’s guest reviewer, Heather Tweddle Banis, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychologist and Associate Professor of Psychology
Clinical Consultant to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles
Girl Scout Leader and Mentor for Girl Scout Religious Awards Program
Writer and Parent

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