I immediately thought of Rachel Field's Prayer for a Child when I saw this. No wonder. The illustrator is the same. She creates very sweet/romanticizeI immediately thought of Rachel Field's Prayer for a Child when I saw this. No wonder. The illustrator is the same. She creates very sweet/romanticized pictures to go with well known and often loved verses from the Bible....more
I enjoyed the facts throughout the book. The problem though is that sometimes the text is too fact heavy and I don't think it would keep the attentionI enjoyed the facts throughout the book. The problem though is that sometimes the text is too fact heavy and I don't think it would keep the attention of children. It would work if an adult is reading portions aloud to a class or if a child skims and reads the parts that are of interest.
Interesting fact: Muslims had first hospitals. They were funded by the wealthy. Patients didn't get a bill at discharge, they got a stipend. ...more
There were many things I enjoyed about this book. First, the mix of formats kept things interesting. Zia provided a brief traditional story at the begThere were many things I enjoyed about this book. First, the mix of formats kept things interesting. Zia provided a brief traditional story at the beginning followed by narrative and then there were also letters sprinkled throughout the text. Following her great-grandmother's advice, Aliya chose to complete her Sunday School assignment through letters to Allah. Second, I loved seeing the intergenerational interactions of Aliya's family. I especially appreciated that Aliya went to her mother, father, grandmother and great-grandmother expecting advice. It showed a beautiful respect and trust. As a person who hasn't experienced living with extended family (at least not for long periods of time), seeing how it might work was definitely interesting. Zia showed that Aliya liked some things about that situation, but that sometimes it was annoying - like when her great-grandmother required her to practice Urdu three times a week in addition to her piles of homework. Third, learning more about Islam and the wide variety of ways it is practiced was fascinating. I read and enjoyed the non-fiction book Growing Up Muslim: Understanding the Beliefs and Practices of Islam earlier this year, but seeing those beliefs and practices through a fictional text made it even easier to see how it could look.
The glossary at the back was very helpful. There were two sections: one for the Arabic and one for the Urdu. There I found that imaan means belief. Aliya is struggling with her own beliefs. She doesn't know exactly what she believes and even if she does, she is not certain how to act on those beliefs. Aliya worries a lot about how other people see her. Regardless of culture, most middle grade students can relate to that concern. One of the reasons she worries is related to the bullying she sees. She doesn't want to stand out and give anyone another reason to pick on her. Marwa, the new girl, wears the hijab seemingly without concern. This gives Aliya a lot to think about. She wonders if other people are just braver.
Also, Aliya's mother explains what makes Aliya who she is - "A tasty concoction of American and Muslim and Indian and sugar and spice and everything that is very nice." This book celebrates the idea that we are more than our race, we are more than our languages and religions. Many things shape us and contribute to who we become. We see this through Aliya's friends with their differing backgrounds too.
Beliefs are obviously a central focus in this book, but bullying and getting along with others also plays a huge role. I loved that Aliya's father provides a "recipe for getting along." He says it's "A twist of good, a sprinkle of kind, and a dash of nice."
I would highly recommend this as a class read aloud. I think many students who enjoyed Wonder would also enjoy The Garden of My Imaan. It is a wonderful contemporary middle grade story about a girl trying to find her voice, and she will likely win your heart as you experience her story.
Deep in the Sahara is a beautiful book in more ways than one. The text is lyrical and almost sings. "Trees of red flowers blReview copy from Edelweiss
Deep in the Sahara is a beautiful book in more ways than one. The text is lyrical and almost sings. "Trees of red flowers bloom with heat. Acacia pods rattle, and fruit bats sleep." My fifteen year old picked it up and started reading silently, but then decided it needed to be read aloud. I loved that she read it to me. We agreed that it sounds like poetry even if it isn't labeled that way. The illustrations are fantastic too. The endpapers look like cloth and the rest of the book is filled with wonderful scenes created with collage. The colors are vibrant and the patterns are interesting, but not so busy that they are distracting. Each character in the story is unique and I loved seeing the individual women. The video below introduces the artist and shows a bit of her technique. (The video may be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1QAR...)
The story itself is also beautiful as we see a young girl yearning to be like the women around her with their lovely malafas. This is a coming of age story and it is a story of women. I loved that the entire book is showing how the women in the community support a young girl. Lalla is finding out about wearing the malafa from the many women in her life. In the author's note at the end, Cunnane explains that she lived in Mauritania for a time and the people there taught her about the Muslim faith and how they lived it. She wanted to write this book to share what she had learned especially since before she lived there, she had believed that the veil was repressive to women and after sharing in their lives, her opinion had changed.
Cunnane was writing as an outsider, but she has been traveling, teaching, and living among many cultures for years and writes carefully with much research and seems to have worked closely with the people she is representing. The book appears to be done very respectfully and in a spirit that celebrates the culture.
I am looking forward to sharing this with my students and will likely pair it with Time to Pray by Maha Addasi and/or The Swirling Hijab by Na'ima B. Robert, two books that also touch on the subject of Muslim prayer from a female perspective.