Bismillah Soup is one of my favorite picture books about a Muslim child. It is a delightful story about a boy who uses positivity and hard work to bring his community together and overcome adversity.
The Story. Hasan, a young Somali boy, knows his mom has a lot of problems. His dad is away for work, and they are down to the last few grains of rice in the bag. An electricity outage means a lot of their food has spoiled. Hasan, eager to help his mom, promises they will have a huge feast that night. She is perplexed, but Hasan runs off with his optimism in tow. He goes to the masjid and explains his problem to Shaykh Omar, who offers a pot and a bag of rice, and assures him, “Say Bismillah, and I’m sure you’ll think of something.”
This is the beginning of a beautiful tale about one boy’s perseverance and faith in Allah. Based on the classic story Stone Soup, it has a Somali flavor: his parents are his Aabo and Hooyo, and there are muufo bread, samboos, and bananas.
There is so much I love about this story. Hasan starts making Bismillah Soup because of his mom, and I love that he remembers her throughout, chuckling about how surprised she will be as he gathers ingredients. I love the positive imam figure, who believes in Hasan (“You’ll figure it out”) and helps him execute his creative plan. The narrative arc works because there is tension in the story (when the Imam invites the whole congregation to the feast), which is resolved through the blessings that come from sharing. Hasan is such a bright and loveable character; you can’t help but smile when he finally calls his mom to the feast.
Bismillah Soup is about scarcity as opportunity, community coming together, and saying Bismillah and getting on with it. I highly recommend this for everyone who enjoys picture books.
Bismillah Soup is published by Ruqaya’s Bookshelf, and you can get a copy here.