The Perfect Gift (Book Review)

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“Sarah looked out of the window. She was very sad. It would soon be Eid, and she still did not have a gift for her mother.”

The Perfect Gift is nothing short of a perfect picture book. It is a heartwarming story of a young girl in search of a gift to give her mother for Eid. A walk in the snowy woods reveals an unexpected gift.

The author, J. Samia Mair, does a wonderful job in getting readers interested in the story from the start. Readers explore the outdoors with Sarah and just like her, feel the joy and happiness in finding something that makes a beautiful gift. Readers also delight in the other ‘perfect gifts’ that Sarah and her family find every time they walk through the woods.

Like a good picture book, the illustrator does a superb job of capturing the flow of the story through the use of soft watercolours. The illustrations in this book are a clear example of what good quality illustrations in children’s books should be like.

The Perfect Gift is a celebration of the beauty of Allah’s creation. A hadeeth of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), “Allah is beautiful and love beauty” is seamlessly integrated into the narration. The book is also about finding unexpected sources of delight and wonder in the simplest things that surround you.

A glossary at the end explains the Islamic terms used in the book.

Talking Points: The story is set at the time of Eid ul Adha, tough nothing pertaining to the religious aspects of the event is given. It’s also set in early Spring. Depending on where you live, you can talk about the winter/spring seasons and what happens to animals and plants during this time. Take your children of students on a walk through a natural setting outdoors and talk about what kinds of “perfect gifts” you see. Let children draw pictures and even write stories about what they find. Talk about Allah as Al Khaliq who created all the beautiful things around us. Ask children how they can enjoy nature without destroying it.

 Title: The Perfect Gift

Author: J. Samia Mair

Illustrator: Craigh Howarth

Publishers: The Islamic Foundation (UK)

ISBN: 9780860374381

Reading Level: 5 – 7 years

Interest Level: 4 – 8 years


Also by J. Samia Mair, Amira’s Totally Chocolate World (see review on the blog here)

Amira’s Totally Chocolate World (Book Review)

Amira's Totally Chocolate World Book CoverOne day while Amira was sitting in her garden and eating a chocolate candy bar she had an idea – a great idea!
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the whole world were made of chocolate? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it were a totally chocolate world!

Amira wishes to live in a world made of chocolate. She dreams about how wonderful it would be to live in a world where everything tasted like chocolate from the flowers to the ocean and the rain. The night before Eid she goes to bed full of anticipation for the next day. But she awakes to find her dream has come true. Everything has turned to chocolate and Amira spends the day enjoying her totally chocolate world until she remembers that it is Eid and decides to return home. On the way back she realizes that she misses the beautiful colours and scents of the garden and nature. Could the world as Allah made it be better than a world made of chocolate?  

We fall in love with Amira from the beginning of the book. Like many children, she wishes for something without thinking of what it means and what would happen if the world really was made of chocolate. This book provides an opportunity to reflect on all the things in our lives that we should appreciate.  

The text is appropriate for the intended age group. However, at times it is difficult to read because it is not clearly separated from the full-page illustrations. While the illustrations representing the chocolate world were well done, the colours used for Amira’s real world could have been more vibrant.  

Amira’s Totally Chocolate World is an advanced picture book recommended for ages 5 – 7, but even children a bit younger and a bit older would appreciate this book.  

Talking Points: After reading the book have children/students use their imaginations to think, discuss and write about what kind of world they would like to live in. As a follow –up activity make a list with your children/students of all the things in their life that they appreciate and would not change.   

Title: Amira’s Totally Chocolate World
Author: J. Samia Mair
Illustrator: Craigh Howarth
Publisher: The Islamic Foundation
Date: 2009