New Books and Interesting Weblinks: An Ummah Reads Roundup

It’s that time again for the Ummah Reads roundup of news, books and interesting websites. Here is what I’ve come across recently:

New Books

book cover image via bibipublishing.co.uk

The Zahra series is a collection of three books by British author Sufiya Ahmed. These books are aimed to children in the 9 to 12 age category. I haven’t had the opportunity to read any of them as yet but they look appealing to girls. Here are some excerpts from the publisher’s website:

Zahra’s Firt Term at Khadija Academy

Zahra has been sent to an Islamic boarding school and she is not happy. She is desperate to return home and will do whatever it takes to get her way.

Zahra’s Trip to Misr

It is the summer holidays and the Khadija Academy girls are visiting the land of pharaohs and pyramids on what promises to be a trip full of sun, fun and laughter. Trouble however, is not far away and the girls of Form Aleef soon find themselves in the middle of it.

There is a third book in the series as well titled Zahra’s Great Debate.

Press Here by Herve Tullet is not your typical picture book. I haven’t read this book as yet but it is getting lots of positive reviews. It’s a unique children’s book since it is what you can call an interactive book. And its interactive without any devices. All you need is the book and the reader. The simple directions on each page gets a child to sort of ‘create’ the progress of the book by pressing, tapping and shaking the dots that appear on the page. That’s all there is on each page, dots! Dots of red yellow and blue. Here is an excerpt of the first few pages:

Press here nad turn the page.

Great! NOw press the yellow dot.

Perfect. Now rub the dot on the left gently.

….

There, well done. Now tilt the page to the left…Just to see what happens.

And of course on the next page the dots have ‘fallen’ to one side of the page! This is a book you have to experience for the fun of it. See some sample pages here.

 

News

International Children’s Book Day was on APril 4th. It’s a day to promote reading, writing and books in general. Schools, libraries and community centres partake in various activities.

April is National Poetry Month in the United States and Canada. Many people, young and old, enjoy reading and writing poetry. Some ways to use poetry to teach reading can be found here.

Websites & Blogs

Just a few days ago, Kube Publishing began its blog called theKubekidsblog. Kube publishing is a publisher of Islamic books for children, teenagers and adults; fiction and non-fiction. This Muslim publishing company has made a wise choice in entering the blogging world. A blog is a great way to interact with readers and writers (especially new and upcoming writers). Getting the word out about new Islamic products and providing resources to readers and writers are essential in today’s world. Thank you Kube and I hope more Muslim publishers follow your lead. See the blog here.

Q & A with author Fawzia Gilani-Williams

I’m sure somewhere on your bookshelf at home or at school you can find at least one book, if not several, written by Fawzia Gilani-Williams. Many of her books are stories based on one of the two Eids Muslims celebrate; Eid Kareem Ameer Saab and The Lost Ring: An Eid Story  are good examples. The Adventures of Musab and Nabeel’s New Pants are some other books she has written. Her newest book is Cinderella: An Islamic Tale. She also has adaptations of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty in the process of being published.

Today I am excited to share with you my interview with Fawzia Gilani-Williams. Sit back and read about the moment when she knew she had to write stories for children. Her poignant words I am sure will not only touch hearts but make readers aware more than ever of  the need to have books about Muslims and by Muslims available on the shelves of bookstores and libraries. 
 
{And I am excited to tell you that Fawzia has very generously offered a copy of her book, Cinderella, for a giveaway! See details below.}

 

UmmahReads [UR]: Welcome Fawzia! It’s so wonderful of you to be here.

Fawzia Gilani-Williams [FGW]: Asalaamu alaikum. Thank you so much for the invitation.  It’s a pleasure to be here.                                                                              

UR: Please tell us a little about yourself.

FGW: I’m of Punjabi heritage. I was born in England. I currently live in Ohio with my husband and daughter. I became a teacher in 1993 and since that time have worked mostly in Islamic schools in the UK, USA and Canada. I also worked as a librarian for over 3 years.

UR: Did you always want to be a writer? How long have you been writing?

FGW: I didn’t know I was going to be a published writer. However, I do remember I liked to write as a child. My father always encouraged me to write but it was for higher education not children. My father didn’t live long enough to see my first book. But he was a very powerful, encouraging force in my life and a strong proponent of women’s rights. He is still my inspiration. In fact I wrote his childhood story last year; it includes how he lost his father in the Indo-Pak partition of the 40s. It’s called My Father’s Hand. It remains unpublished.

 UR: How do you come up with ideas for your stories? What inspires you?

FGW: I mostly write Eid stories. I do a lot of adaptations. I’m motivated as a teacher to give visibility to my students. Eid is a celebration that is generally shadowed – even Microsoft Word doesn’t recognize the word Eid. I like to think that my stories are useful resources for parents and teachers.

UR: Of all your books which of your books did you enjoy writing most?

FGW: It’s not quite like that. As a teacher, I find trying to get time to write is a challenge. I suppose I like Eid Kareem Ameer Saab and The Jilbab Maker’s Eid Gifts.

UR: Many of your books are centred on or around Eid, either Eid ul Fitr or Eid ul Adha. What makes you chose Eid as the focus for your stories?

FGW: I had cancer in 2002. The only place I would frequent twice a month was the children’s department of the public library. In December of that year, it was also Eid. The children’s area was filled with displays of Christmas and Hanukkah books and even Kwanzaa. But there was nothing on Eid. Not one book. It was very sad and embarrassing that my child’s religious celebration – the second largest in the world – was not acknowledged in any shape, way or form. It was at that moment that I made a silent prayer to address the gap.  When I was hired at the library I contacted all English-speaking national libraries (USA, Canada, England, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, Wales, Jamaica etc.) and provided them with a bibliography of Eid Stories so that they could improve their collection. At one workshop on storytelling for children’s librarians, I asked if anyone knew what Eid was. No one did. Yet these librarians had been in service for over 30 years. I believe that as educators and parents we need to follow the example of the Jews and make Eid as visible as Hanukkah is today.

UR: How important are stories and books with Islamic themes and Muslim characters?

FGW: Children need a sense of belonging and a sense of place. Mainstream publishers are only now including multicultural characters but from my recent experience I see that Muslim children in Islamic schools and public schools do not use Islamic names in their own creative writing. I recognize this as a flaw of the educational system because I also suffered from it in the 70s and 80s. Books need to give children visibility. If they are not visible they will always feel inferior and apologetic. It’s a sad point that over the past 40 years there has not been much progress.

UR: From your experience working in libraries do you think there are enough books available out there about Islam and Muslims?

FGW: No I don’t. And because of that there is a lot of wrong information or no information. I recall Dorling Kindersley publishing a book on world celebrations for younger grades. They included obscure festivals but omitting Eid. I wrote to ask them why they had seen fit to omit Islamic celebrations. I received no reply. Imagine a Muslim child reading through that book, how would the child feel seeing that his or her festival does not exist in the USA? I review books for the School Library Journal on Islam on a regular basis; I find books written by non-Muslim authors have mistakes, omissions and generalizations. Moreover public libraries tend to select books from websites controlled by select publishers. It’s important that Muslims have their own publishing companies and their own writers to respond to this problem.                            

UR: How can Muslim writers, illustrators and poets change this when getting into mainstream publishing is so difficult?

FGW: Yes there is gate keeping but this is why we need to develop our own publishers.  It’s an eyebrow raiser that Muslim countries source their books from British and American publishers.

UR: Are you working on a book right now? Any hints what it might be about?

FGW:  I’m not working on any writing project just now but I am visiting schools in Canada and the USA to share my stories. I’m also quite busy with my grade 4 students who participated in Studentreasures last term and so I’m getting their work ready. Studentreasures is a company that publishes children’s books. Lots of schools participate in it. 
 
In terms of my recent published work Cinderella – An Islamic Tale was released in November 2010. I have two titles – Salaam the Selfish Merchant and Little Red Kufi, which is a Ramadan story based on Little Red Riding Hood that were recently accepted for publication. I also have Eid Mubarak Meetah Sahib and Jihad Bin Taye and the Jar of Gold coming out later this year, insha’Allah. Last year, Nabeel’s New Pants was published by Marshall Cavendish. Islamic Book Service published A Grave Trial and Baba Salaam and the Bag of Gold

UR: Are there any last comments you would like to add?

FGW: I would like to encourage more Muslims to write. There’s a pool that needs to be filled with children’s Islamic stories. We need to encourage more people to write.

UR: Shukran (thank you) very much for generously sharing your experience and thoughts. It’s been wonderful!

FGW: Jazak Allahu khairan. It’s been a delight. Thank you!

For a more information about Fawzia Gilani-William’s newest book visit this page

 

Book Giveaway

You can have an opportunity to win Cinderella!

All you have to do is leave a comment about the interview OR comment about one of Fawzia’s books you’ve read (please state the title of the book) and why you liked it.

Only one entry per person please.

Please use your name or kunya (no anonymous comments).

Post comments using your email (so that I can contact you if you’re the winner).

This book giveaway ends on Tuesday 5 April 2011.

The winner will be announced the day after, insha Allah.

You are more than welcome to link this post to your blog so that your readers could participate in this giveaway.

This Book Giveaway Contest is now closed. Thank you to participants. Please see results in the comments below.

 

Picture Books that let a Child’s Imagination Grow (Book Review)

Some time ago I stumbled upon the website of the publisher Greenbird Books, a Muslim publisher in the United Kingdom. I was happy to find picture books that not only were imaginatively designed, but that would inspire the imaginations of young children. Picture books use a combination of pictures and words to tell a story; in many cases the pictures tell more of the story. Picture books appeal to young children and children up to ages seven (but even older children and adults find them interesting as well!).

 

 

image source: greenbirdbooks.com

On Monday they marched through a great green land, singing……

“Allah hu Akbar
 we’re going on a journey,
to catch my dua 
just wait and see !”

 

 

 

Let’s Go Dua Catching is a story that takes your child on a journey with a little boy named Eesa and his pet, Mr. Cat. They travel around the world; over seas, through hot deserts and up tall mountains as they search for his dua. All through the book we hear Eesa remember Allah and children will love to join in by repeating the refrain, “Allah hu Akbar.” But Eesa learn that His Creator Allah knows everything, including his dua. This book is a wonderful book for reading aloud. The watercolour illustrations are beautiful, with just enough detail to capture the child’s attention without crowding the page. Infact the pictures have a somewhat tender dreamy quality to them which ties in well with how the book ends.

 

 

Title: Let’s Go Dua Catching

Author: Anaya Nayeer

Publisher: Greenbird Books

Reading Level: 5-7 years (Read On Own)

Interest Level: 2-6 years (Read Aloud)  

 

image source:greenbirdbooks.com

Somewhere in the North Pole very deep and very far, a Polar Bear dances under a brightly lit star. He sings,

“I am the Polar Shape bear,  the Polar Shape bear, come follow me if you dare !”

 I’m on my way to find a SQUARE. In the middle of Square land a Masjid lay, it called to prayer so everybody came to pray “Oh thank you Allah for all things, come what may! And along came the Polar Shape bear that day ….

 

”Assalamu alaikum, I am the Polar Shape bear I have come from far to find a square, just like that green one you have right there!” …

In Polar Shape Bear we meet a lively polar bear who introduces children to shapes. He finds them in masjids in various places. By the end of the book Polar Shape bear uses the shapes he collected to spell out a word. This book will appeal to very young children with its clear, vibrant and simple illustrations. The book introduces the child to basic shapes (circle, square and triangle). Children will be captivated by the bear’s smile and will find themselves joining in and singing with him.   

Title: Polar Shape Bear

Author: Ayesha Daoud

Illustrator: Uthman Zafar

Publisher: Greenbird Books

Reading Level: 5-6 years (Read On Own)

Interest Level: 2-4 years (Read Aloud)

For more information about these and other forthcoming titles visit the Greenbird Books website.