Don’t forget to say Bismillah! (Book Review)

Today, I take a look at an interactive book Don’t forget to say Bismillah! by Farzana Rahman. It’s a book that demonstrates how basic dua is incorporated into the daily life of a Muslim family using a combination of text and sound. I don’t think I’ve come across any Islamic children’s book like this to date. I’m excited about this book because not only is it an engaging story that seamlessly incorporates aspects of Muslim manners, but it is, from the illustrations to the design, a product that is professionally produced.

It’s Safiyya’s first day at nursery today,” says Mum.

“And I have a spelling test today,” says Sara.

“And I have a big football match today,” says Ali

“Everything will go well, Insha’Allah,” reassures Mum, “but don’t forget to say Bismillah before beginning anything you do.”

“I’m done, Al-Hamdulillah,” says Ali. “Your pancakes are the best Mum!”

Jazakallahu Khairan,” says Mum.

Don’t forget to say Bismillah! has a battery operated panel located on the side that allows the reader to press a button to listen to the sound of keywords that appear in the story (such as the coloured words in the excerpt you see above). The slider at the top of the sound panel makes it easy for the reader to move from the Arabic pronunciation of a word to its meaning in English and vice versa. This provides English-speaking children with the opportunity to know the meaning of the Arabic phrases they say, something which is not always the case as the Arabic is learnt and repeated by custom.

The story is simple; a look at a day in the life of a Muslim family from morning as they set off to work and school to the evening as they sit together for dinner. The youngest member of the family, Safiyya, is off to her first day of nursery. Just as she is nervous about it, Mom is nervous about returning to workplace after being away for a long time. Through the entire book Islamic duas are said by members of the household as they eat, talk of plans for the day, are at school or the park.

Young children will delight in seeing Safiyya attempt to say the duas. She wants to say the duas just as her big brother and sister do. So Safiyya says “Hum Lala” when she hears her brother Ali say “Al-Hamdulillah” after eating breakfast or “Yah-Lala” when her mother and sister respond to Ali’s “Al-Hamdulillah” when he sneezes.

I really enjoyed the illustrations in this book as they were realistic. The details make the characters seem like they’re from a Muslim family you know. The book is larger than the average book, but its size is suitable for a child to hold in his lap or place on the table or on the ground in front of him. The sturdy covers protect the glossy pages. Text on the page is clearly printed in a font that is easy to read and does not crowd the page.

A glossary at the back of the book provides the meaning of the basic dua and briefly explains when they are used. A simple match game ends the book as readers are invited to match the dua to the context which it should be said. This activity is good for slightly older readers.

Don’t forget to say Bismillah! is a book that a child three years to six years can read with an adult or on his/her own. It provides an entertaining way of learning duas for the first-time learner or of reinforcing those duas that a child may already be learning at home or at school. I think children heading off to school for the first time would enjoy reading this book as well.  

Title: Don’t forget to say Bismillah!

Author: Farzana Rahman

Publisher: Desi Doll Company

ISBN: 9780956586001

Reading Level: 3 – 7 years

Specifications: Interactive Sound book

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Umar and the Bully (Book Review)

 “Umar stopped and looked back at the school gates. The late afternoon sun shone upon two older boys talking in low voices, huddled beside the wall. A heavily-built boy handed something to the other in a clenched fist…”
 


So begins Umar and the Bully, a short novel that tackles the problem of bullying among children in schools. Umar is a kind-hearted, caring boy of approximately eleven years who witnesses an older boy bullying a timid seven-year old student, Asad. Umar is angry and uncomfortable with what he sees but has no idea what he can do to help the victim.

A voice made itself heard inside him, asking: “Are you scared too?
Should you be scared?” This voice was familiar to Umar.
It was the voice that always came from a mysterious place inside
him whenever a problem nagged him.

Before making any rash decisions Umar speaks to the older brother and sister of a close friend. During the discussion, they tell him of Umar the second caliph of Islam. He stood up for justice and felt responsible for those under his leadership. Compelled by the fact that he is named after such a great man, the Umar prays and makes dua to Allah for courage and strength to face up to the bully. But Umar and his friend are sensible youths. They enlist the help of their teacher, the trusting Mr. Fudayl and in the end resolve the situation.

The writer does not hesitate to describe the effect of bullying on its victims. The ill effects of bullying are shown from the injuries inflicted by the bully to the deceit it causes its victims to get involved in. So while this book can be read by a six or seven-year old who is a confident reader, such a child may not be emotionally ready for this book. However, a parent or teacher may choose to read this book with them and explain the issues.

Talking points: This book presents a perfect opportunity for parents and teachers to read and discuss what bullying is, why it is wrong and how to go about dealing with it. Another theme worth discussing is the way in which Umar turns to Allah for help each step of the way. This coupled with his common sense results in a resolution to the bullying problem.

Author: Shabana Mir

Illustrator: Asiya Clarke

Publisher: The Islamic Foundation

Date: 1998

ISBN: 0860372960

Age Group: 8 – 12 years