Review—Jamal’s Bad-Time Tale by Absar Kazmi



Jamal’s Bad-Time Tale, written and illustrated by Absar Kazmi, is a cute early chapter book in the vein of Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day.

Jamal’s day gets off to a bad start, and it just keeps getting worse. He wakes up in a fright when the cat jumps on him and spills cereal on himself at breakfast—and that’s only the beginning. How much worse can Jamal’s day get before it gets better?

Here are some really cute things that I liked about this book:

  • Jamal is kind, enthusiastic, and persevering.
  • The cat is sort of a main character.
  • The dad has a fun relationship with samosas.

At the end of Jamal’s bad day, a talk with his mom and dad helps him to understand that “the bad times are Allah’s way of helping us to remember Him and to thank Him for the good times.” This message is a little simplistic, and Jamal seems to be convinced by it a little too easily for me. But there is a nice little twist when his friend comes to visit and is super impressed by his two black eyes, showing that “good” and “bad” is a matter of perception.


Cute illustrations!

This is a story that kids can easily relate to and will find a lot of fun. I kept waiting for my kids to comment on the illustrations (which are stick figures!), but they didn’t. They were busy guessing what bad thing would happen to Jamal next.

Jamal’s Bad-Time Tale is published by IIPH (2016) and you can get a copy here

Thank you to the author for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review—The New Muslim’s Field Guide by Theresa Corbin and Kaighla Um Dayo


Theresa Corbin and Kaighla Um Dayo have written the book they wish they had when they converted to Islam. Drawing on decades of experience and focusing on practical advice rather than information-dumping, The New Muslim’s Field Guide discusses the major issues a new convert to Islam will have to contend with in a fun and friendly way. Continue reading

Review—Zak and His Little Lies by J. Samia Mair and Illustrated by Omar Burgess


Zak is having a great day and can’t wait to go to the skate park with his dad and sister. He just has to do more chore and not tell any lies. Easy, right?

Zak and His Little Lies, written by J. Samia Mair and illustrated by Omar Burgess, is a fun and engaging picture book and the second in a series about Zak. Continue reading

Review—A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena


A Girl Like That, by Tanaz Bhathena, is not an easy story to read. The main character, Zarin Wadia, is a “girl like that,” an outcast with a reputation, to nearly everyone in the story except for her friend Porus. And Zarin and Porus are dead on the first page.

Yep, it’s that kind of book.

Zarin lives with her aunt and uncle because her mother and father (former dancer and gangster) are dead. Her home life is extremely difficult thanks to her aunt and in spite of her uncle. At school, she is ostracized by the girls and objectified by the boys, who are a disturbing example of the meaning of rape culture. Her friend Porus is everyone’s favorite character—kind, understanding, and fiercely loyal. The book opens at the end—she and Porus are dead, victims of a car crash and floating above their bodies. Continue reading

Review—No Ordinary Day by George Green


No Ordinary Day is the story of a group of five nine-year-old friends who are expecting a special guest at school. The kids are thrilled when they find out that the guest is a Muslim soccer star who is giving away tickets to a local game. To choose who gets the tickets, he asks the students to recite some Quran and explain why studying the Quran is important to each of them. And the story goes from there.

What this book has got going for it: a diverse cast a characters, fun illustrations, and a story that shows kids excited to learn Quran. Continue reading

Review—Escape from Aleppo by N.H. Senzai


Escape from Aleppo is a middle grade novel by N.H. Senzai about one girl’s escape from the Syrian city of Aleppo when fighting reaches the city.

The novel opens with Nadia being awoken in the early morning; her family are finally leaving the city for good. She hasn’t left her house since she was injured by shrapnel from a barmeela that exploded nearby while she was on line for bread. As Nadia hesitates before exiting the building, a bomb goes off, separating her from the rest of her family. They reluctantly move on, and she spends the rest of the novel trying to make her way through the city to the Turkish border where her father is waiting for her. Continue reading

Review—Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed


Why did I read a YA romance novel? Oh yeah, because I thought it was something else.

Love, Hate & Other Filters follows seventeen-year-old Maya. She comes from an Indian Muslim background and is at odds with her parents. They want her to go to school close to home, become a lawyer, and make a suitable match. She wants to go to NYU, study film, and chase after her high school non-Indian crush.

I am glad this book exists because it represents one of the many kinds of Muslims in the US. Maya’s family are a cultural kind of Muslim where they are VERY Indian and also Muslim. Unfortunately, the representation here has serious issues with it. One thing is that her parents’ portrayal could not have been any more stereotypical. There was zero nuance to it. (The one part of the parents’ portrayal that rang true to me was the ending.) Also, Maya doesn’t seem to be struggling with her Indian-ness or her Muslim-ness; she’s struggling with her parent’s Indian-ness and Muslim-ness. And while Maya expresses a respect for her parent’s culture, she doesn’t once grapple with her intentions as a Muslim. The fact that she’s Muslim never plays into a single one of motivations. In that sense, I found the way this novel was promoted frustrating. Maya’s crisis with her parents is one part of the story. Continue reading

Review—Sadia by Colleen Nelson


This YA novel is a heart-warming story about a group of female Muslim freshmen in a Canadian high school. Sadia, Nazreen, and Amira are busy figuring out how they fit into the world. The novel is told from Sadia’s point of view: she is strong, empathetic, and loves basketball. The rules for the tournament might mean she might not get to play in her hijab, and she doesn’t want to take it off. Nazreen is Sadia’s best friend and seems to be growing apart from her—hanging out with a new friend, constantly talking about boys, and de-jabbing at school. The new girl Amira, has just arrived as a refugee from Syria, and Sadia is trying to help her adjust. Sadia is about making friends and banding together to bring about social change. By the end of the story, all of the characters are working to change the world. Continue reading

Guest Review—Seven is Special by Shagufta Malik


I decided to get my 7-year-old’s opinion on this book, which she really liked.

Did you like the book? I loved the book, because it talks about how grownups are patient with their kids, and how kids can face difficulties.

What happens in the book? The little girl’s name was Maryam. Maryam was packing for umrah because she was going to get to go. But her mom was gonna get a baby. But then Maryam was screaming and kicking because she didn’t want the baby. So they didn’t go to umrah, and she was very mad and then her mom got really sick so they took her to the hospital. After four or five times of going to the hospital, Maryam’s mom got the baby.  

What was your favorite part? Maryam and her baby brother have the same birthday.

Do you think your friends should read this book? Yes, you can learn how to face difficulties, and learn Maryam’s lesson, and learn things you haven’t heard before, like that someone sick cannot go to umrah.

Which was your favorite picture?


Review—Seven is Special by Shagufta Malik


Seven is Special by Shagufta Malik is an early chapter book about 7-year-old Maryam. The book opens with Maryam really excited about a trip she’s taking with her mother and father to umrah. I won’t say any more than that to avoid spoilers, but I was a little disappointed with the direction this took. While a lot of themes are dealt with in this book—growing up/maturity, family, sickness, dealing with disappointment, umrah, fitting in—there is no real narrative arc to speak of. Lots of smaller events happen during the book, and Maryam reacts to them, but the lack of a single unifying plot line to bring everything together didn’t work for me. Continue reading