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Book review – Islamic Children Books

For three and a half decades now, International Children’s Book Day has been celebrated globally on Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday (2nd April). Activities are held in schools and public libraries and include writing competitions, announcements of book awards and events with authors of children’s literature. The aim of this day is to encourage a love of reading in children. The day is sponsored by a different national branch of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY, a non-profit organisation dedicated to bringing children and books together by supporting the production of quality writing and translation of children’s literature and better distribution of books and media. IBBY Russia is the sponsor for International Children's Book Day 2017. This year islam today has again chosen a list of Islamic children’s books as possible reading options for Muslim families.

Up to 4 years of age

At The Masjid (Learning Series)

By Umm Tariq

Illustrated by Heather Greenwood

Compass Books (2010)

Despite the growth of good quality children’s Islamic books, there exists a gap for the very young. ‘At The Masjid’ seeks to fill that gap with their pack of 4 hardback books. These include: Colours at the Masjid, Opposites at the Masjid, Shapes at the Masjid and Numbers at the Masjid. Each teaches these concepts using colourful pictures of objects they seen at the masjid, such as 1 masjid, which has 2 doors, 3 pairs of shoes, and 4 taps for making wudhu. This book would be ideal for actually taking to the local masjid and helping the children find the objects in the books!

 

 

To Catch a Bug

By Nabeel Akbar

Illustrated by Anam Ahmed

Distributed by Kube Publishing (2007)

A good ‘Muslim’ children’s book does not have to be overt in teaching a principle, or be overly packed with Islamic concepts. It is for children to read books with our common phrases, and see pictures where the hijab is the norm… To Catch a Bug fits this bill perfectly. It is a beautifully simple and subtle book, about a girl who is fascinated with bugs (therefore breaking gender stereotypes also!). She innocently tries to catch bugs, respecting God’s creatures as she does, as a surprise for mummy… Needless to say, mummy is definitely surprised! Interspersed with phrases such as ‘Bismillah’ and ‘Alhamdulillah’, this short and sweet tale illustrated with vivid full colour pictures is sure to entertain young ones… and the ending will be sure to make them laugh!

 

 

 

3-8 years

Princess Aziza and the Purple Orchid

By Benny Rhamdani

Published by Ali Gator

This is one of a series of princess stories with a wonderful twist! Unlike your usual princess stories, which often result in them having to be rescued by the prince, these princesses are based on the attributes of God, the ‘Asma ul Husna’ (99 Names of Allah). princess Aziza is based on ‘The Mighty’, and she has a dilemma. She needs to find a purple orchid to help her sick mother, but is she strong enough to face the challenges she will come across? Will she be able to find it in time to help her mother? The added element of sacrifice really just adds to the lessons in this book, and is also beautifully illustrated, bringing the story to life.

 

 

My Dad’s Beard

By Zanib Mian

Illustrated by Laura Ewing

Sweet Apple Publishers (2014)

My Dad’s Beard’ is everything you would want from a picture book, and more. The illustrations are clear and strong, and will appeal to young ones straight away. The text on each page changes format – sometimes it is as if it has come straight from a computer screen, other times it is formed as like magnets on a fridge! The book focusses on the dad’s beard, and why it is so cool (because you can pretend a teeny cat can live in it of course!) But for me, the best part was the end, where dad says he is copying the greatest man that ever lived by having a beard. This subtle point is bound to have the children asking who that is, which can lead into a wonderful discussion about the Prophet Muhammad(s)! It is a great way to both teach, and entertain and I am sure this will be a bedtime favourite.

 

Ahmad has to go Potty

By Umm An-Nu’man

Darussalam

There are so many resources out there to help our children go through the dreaded potty training stage, but have you ever seen a children’s book geared towards Islamic potty training? Here it is! Ahmad is still in pull ups, but is old enough to know when he is wet and doesn’t like the feeling. His mum decides it’s time to get some big boy underwear, but while they’re in the store, Ahmad has to go potty! Children will learn a lot as they hear about his mother taking him through the steps of reciting the dua and washing him with a bottle of water, all the while relating to him as a child who is scared of falling in the toilet and is more concerned with the design of the big boy underwear he is going to get. A great addition to the potty training kit!

 

5-9 years

Princess Siyana’s Pen

By Zainab Merchant

Sun Behind The Cloud Publications (2015)

With beautiful colour-rich illustrations and a gripping storyline to boot, this picture book is sure to captivate young and old readers alike. The story follows the tried and tested formula of many fairy tales, and so in essence will be familiar to children – however, there are morals and values infused within every page, adding that oh-so-special Islamic essence. Princess Siyana is a captivating main character, who charms as well as leads through example and character; her bravery and courage make her a great role model for all our children, but our daughters in particular. Shargor is the typical evil villain, with a plot to gain power and riches, impoverishing others as he does. And I love the touch of the sidekick, Pepe the parrot, who adds light humour to it all! It is clear that Zainab has drawn on her own experiences to write this story, which makes it all the more personal and endearing. As the story progresses, several concepts are touched upon in a subtle way – talking to God through the heart as well as the pen, hijab and the importance of inner beauty, trusting in God, kindness, helping others and forgiveness, among others. All in all, with these concepts weaved into an adventure story with remarkable characters, Princess Siyana makes an ideal book for children’s bookshelves.

 

Lost and Found Cat – The True Story of Kunkush’s Incredible Journey

By Dough Kuntz and Amy Shrodes

Illustrated by Sue Cornelison

Random House Children’s Books (2017)

In this day and age, we face the dilemma of wanting to educate our children about the dire situation of refugees and encouraging them to care and help, without wanting to overwhelm or scare them. Books are a perfect way to do this. ‘Lost and Found Cat’ is one such book which shares an unforgettable true story of survival and hope. When life in Iraq becomes too hard for Kunkush the cat and his family, they risk everything to travel thousands of miles to find a safer home. Their journey takes them over mountains, through forests and across the sea but he gets lost in the chaos when their boat lands in Lesbos, Greece. Luckily, some volunteers rescue him and want to reunite him with his family – but will they be found? The soft and colourful pictures bring this tale of love and survival to life.

 

Snow White – An Islamic Tale

By Fawzia Gilani

Illustrated by Shireen Adams

The Islamic Foundation (2013)

The classical fairy tale is retold with a beautiful Islamic twist. It starts with a merchant’s wife reading the Qur’an and making a dua for a daughter who is as patient as Job, amongst other things, and a year later, giving birth to a baby girl. She is raised learning about Islam, science, language and more and is given the gift of a Qur’an. Snow White’s mother dies and her father remarries, and then he too dies, leaving Snow White with her vain and wicked stepmother. When her stepmother’s jinn reveals that Snow White is the ‘fairest of them all’, she starts plotting against her. The huntsman is ordered to take her to the forest and kill her, but a dua of Prophet Nuh’s softens the heart of the huntsman and she lives… the story continues with these precious little gems throughout, allowing young boys and girls to enjoy this time-old tale of flight, friendship and forgiveness and gain so much in the process also.

 

7-12 years

House of Ibn Kathir

By S. N. Jalali

Blackstone House Ltd (2013)

Boarding school stories grip young readers in a unique sort of way – with the majority of children not going to boarding schools, it provides an insight into a totally different world; indeed, some of the greatest series have been based in boarding schools; Harry Potter, The Worst Witch and Malory Towers to name a few. Alhamdulillah, now here is one based on a boarding school for boys… “It’s Yusif’s first time away from home. The Dar Al Ilm Academy seemed to be the ideal place for him to pursue his studies and achieve one of his lifelong ambitions – to memorise the Qur’an, or so his parents had decided… However, just when he thought he was settling in, Yusif finds himself with more on his hands than he had bargained for. When mysterious events start happening around the school, it begins to seem as if Dar Al Ilm has more in store for him than he had ever imagined.”  My 9 year-old loved this book and devoured it in a few hours – we look forward to the sequel.

 

12+ years

The Genius of Islam – How Muslims made the Modern World

By Bryn Barnard

Random House (2011)

While Islam is unfortunately negatively framed in today’s world, it is undeniably ‘one of the world’s great religions, one of history’s most important civilisations and one of the foundational cultures of the West’. So says Bryn Barnard, author of ‘The Genius of Islam’, and in his book, he shares some of the most important contributions Muslims have made to society. Among many, this includes a paper empire, new math, architecture, not to mention an agricultural revolution. This book, full of facts and dates, is a great way to equip our growing children with information to make them proud to be Muslim.

 

Our warm thanks to Sister Shaheen Merali from the Children’s Islamic Library in London

Shaheen Mirali, runs the Children’s Islamic Library in London. The aim is to familiarise children with Islamic concepts as well as develop a love for this amazing religion through the wide range of books, toys, videos, and DVDs. She is also the founder of Buzz Ideazz, a company that provides ideas and products to help raise a generation of enthusiastic and dedicated young Muslims.

For more info:  http://www.childrensislamiclibrary.com/whats_new.php

and

http://www.buzzideazz.com

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1 Comment on Book review – Islamic Children Books

  1. This is a very important lesson for us, parents, our children to integrate with our early-age beliefs and books that they interact with children through their fun, color illustrations that relate to children, and transfer stories and valuable lessons.

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