Yan’s Hajj by Fawzia Gilani and illustrated by Sophie Burrows

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Yan is a poor farmer who wants to go to hajj. But every time he saves up enough money and sets out, he meets someone in his path who needs his help.

He empties his money purse while on his journey three times, first to help repair a burned-down school, then to rescue a hurt and exploited boy, and finally, to build a mosque.  Each time, he simply goes back home and gets back to work to save more money. Eventually, he is old enough that he knows he won’t be able to save enough money again. But the good deeds he filled his life with have caught up with him, and the boy he rescued comes to take Yan to hajj. On this final journey, he sees the fruits of his labor: the school, the boy’s happy parents, and the mosque. View Post

Women in the Qur’an by Asma Lamrabet and translated by Myriam Francois-Cerrah

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In her effort to deconstruct a patriarchal reading of the Qur’an, Asma Lamrabet offers up a new reading, but one that is neither evidence-based nor convincing.  

This book was frustrating for me. I really wanted to like it; I was hoping it would be able to offer newer, more progressive views on gender to replace older, problematic ones. While Lamrabet does offer many new interpretations, they are unsubstantiated, and for a Muslim, an interpretation is only as valuable as its evidence. 

Women in the Qur’an is made up of two parts:

  1. ”When the Qur’an Speaks of Women,” which retells the stories of specific women in the Qur’an (like Balkis, Umm Musa, and Maryam) and
  2. “When the Qur’an Speaks to Women,” which examines Allah’s interactions with women in the time of the Prophet (s) through the text of the Qur’an.

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

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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. View Post

My Special Angels by Razana Noor and Illustrated by Omar Burgess

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I was so excited to see this book; I think that talking to children about the kiraman katibeen (the angels who write your deeds, good and bad) is a great way to broach the topic of accountability. Unfortunately, while the illustrations (by Omar Burgess) are absolutely stunning, the writing (by Razana Noor) didn’t work for me.

This 20-page picture book is written as a rhyming poem that is broad in subject, and the accompanying illustrations build on the poem to tell a specific story about a little boy. He tells us about the angels on his right and left who write down his good and bad deeds. They are always with him, and they will be for his entire life. We see him doing good and bad deeds. The first person narration is clever; we get a bit of the boy’s interiority as he struggles to do what he knows is right, and children can empathize with that. For example, “To stop the angel feeling blue, / There is still something I can do / Say, ‘I’m sorry,’ and try my best / To not do it again. That’s my test.” View Post