Picture Books: Islamic religion and culture
These books make me homesick for my years in Beirut, Lebanon, where my husband and I started our international teaching careers, thirteen years ago. The warmth of the people there, their friendliness, and devotion to education and family made for an unforgettable experience. These books highlight the depth of religious customs that accompany the Islamic faith.
Time to Pray, by Maha Addasi
A young girl visits her grandmother in her homeland, somewhere in the Middle East. During the visit, Grandmother teaches her the ways of Muslim prayer rituals: waking to the muezzin's call, proper dress, washing. These are embedded into other activities of daily life such as going to the market to select a soft prayer rug, eating upside-down rice with yogurt, and rolling dough for cinnamon rolls. Warm light suffuses the illustrations, creating a homey feel. This book makes a good introduction to Islamic culture as well as a comforting reminder of home to Muslims living outside the Middle East. Includes Arabic text and back matter with further explanation of Islamic prayer.
Nabeel's New Pants: An Eid Tale, by Fawzia Gilani-Williams
The spirit of the Eid holiday, which marks the end of the fasting days during Ramadan, comes through in this folk tale-style story. A father buys each woman in his family a gift and buys himself a pair of pants. Unfortunately the pants need to be hemmed and none of the women are free to do it; they're all busy preparing for the holiday. Their excuses reveal various traditions central to the Eid. When each woman decides to surprise him by hemming the pants after finishing her work, he ends up with a pair of shorts and all have a good laugh. Paintings in blues and browns complement the Islamic scenery.
Shirin is the youngest child in a modern day Muslim family. She desperately wants to be part of the holiday by fasting, as her older brother and the rest of the family are. Since her parents do not allow this, she shows her enjoyment of the other rituals surrounding the month-long celebration: prayers, family stories, henna painting, and special foods served at the evening iftar. When her mother asks her to consider performing good deeds rather than fretting about not fasting, Shirin takes on the task with much though and chooses to focus on improving her relationship with her older brother. The result of her efforts is her own personal Ramadan miracle; she not only understands him better but is able to understand the power of the reflective aspect of Ramadan that makes it such a special time of year. Watercolor illustrations depict the scenes, but the strength of the book is in the text.