The Perfect Gift (Book Review)

image source: islamicedfoundation.com

“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)

What We’re Reading

  

Allah bless us with spring image

Designed by Easel & Ink

In certain parts of the world its spring and while my son has never witness the transformation that happens at such a time of year we talk about it. And of course, we read about it. That is the beauty of books. It can take you anywhere and describe to you what is happening there. 

So our journey into the spring season came to us courtesy of these two books: 

To Catch a Bug by Nabeel Akbar, illustrated by Anam Ahmed. Kids Will Be Kids/Kube Publishing, 2007. Fiction. 16 pages. ISBN 9780980938210. 

To Catch a Bug

photo source kidswillbekids.org

 

It’s not the pretty flowers that catch my eye.
I’m looking for spiders, bugs and maybe a butterfly.

InshaAllah, I think I’ll try and catch one today.
Then I’ll show mom, I wonder what she’ll say.
 

Of course I’ll be careful when catching the insect.
It’s important to show all off Allah’s creatures respect.
 

Young children will enjoy following the little girl as she explores the garden and collects insects of all shapes and sizes. What child is not fascinated by things that crawl, creep and fly? But how many parents will indulge a child and let them bring such creatures into the house? Mummy’s surprise at finding the bug collection will bring smiles to parents and their little loved ones. All seems to end well when there is an agreement to bring no more bugs in the house until the little girl finds something else to collect. 

We liked the book because of the short rhyming sentences and the bright illustrations. We admired the plants in the garden, talked about the places where each bug was found and who created them all. This picture book is just simply a delightful read. Good for reading aloud to three to four old children. Children 5 to 6 years should be able to read it on their own. 

The small, small seed by Judith Nicholls 

A Small, Small Seed by Judith Nicholls. Ladybird Books, 2004. Non Fiction. 14 pages. ISBN 978-1844224227. 

The repetition and the textures of this short book interest the child’s senses as he learns how a seed grows into a beautiful sunflower. The book incorporates textures into the illustrations providing an interactive reading experience. Readers can touch and feel the seed, the roots, the shoots, the leaves all the while witnessing the transformation of the seed and the growth of a new plant. The last page folds out to reveal a tall sunflower. 

We liked this simple book because there was a lot to see and touch. Use this book as part of your lesson plans relating to the life cycle of a plant and the growth needs of a plant. We had fun making our own tall sunflowers to decorate the room by simply cutting out petals, stems and leaves from card stock paper and decorating the centre with sunflower seeds! 

And there is a whole range of other books about spring just waiting for you at your local library. Why don’t you check one out today?

What We’re Reading

As my child grows, I notice his interest in non fiction is increasing which is good as it helps develop his curiosity while at the same time it helps him find answers to the many questions he has about the world around him. We still read a lot of fiction of course, especially at bedtime. This month, we have been reading lots of poems rhymes as well. In addition we have been reading a lot of stories from the lives of the Prophets. Last month we read about Prophet Nuh (Noah). This month we are reading about Prophet Musa (Moses).  

So here a few of the books we have been reading: 

book cover for tell me about musa

photo sourced from Goodword Books

Tell Me About the Prophet Musa by Saniyasnain Khan. Goodword Books, 2003. 56 pages. ISBN 8187570482  

This book is a fascinating look at the life of Prophet Musa using photos, maps, pictures of relics and captivating narration. It is great for Islamic studies lesson or just for general reading and discussion. A list of ayat of Quranic references is included at the end.  

Other titles in the series are Tell Me about Prophet Yusuf, Tell me About Prophet Muhammad, Tell Me About the Hajj, and Tell Me about the Creation.  

book cover of "Magic School bus Plants Seeds"

photo sourced from amazon

 The Magic School Bus Plants Seeds.  Scholastic, 1995. ISBN 0590222961 

Part of the Magic School Bus series, The Magic School Bus Plants Seeds is a book about how living things, especially plants, grow. My son likes the cheerful faces of the inquiring children in the pictures as they learn from their teacher all about what plants need to grow. Readers also learn about the parts of a flower (anther, stamen etc.) as they shrink and go on a journey into a flower. This book is a fun and informative read. 

  book cover for "Read Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young"  

Read-Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young selected by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Marc Brown. Alfred A. Knopf, 1986. 98 pages. ISBN 0394872185  

This is a collection of over 200 short poems and rhymes by both known and anonymous English and American poets and authors. My child enjoys the poems about nature, animals and food. Some are silly rhymes while others make the child think. While these poems are not expressly Islamic we have managed to discuss how they relate to a Muslim’s life and Islam. Please note that there are just a handful of poems in this collection which refer to unIslamic practices such as Halloween, Christmas and Hanukkah which you can either chose not to read to your child or to read it and explain to your child that this describes the practice of people who are not Muslim. My child learned how to use an Index of first lines, a feature which could be found at the end of most poetry collections. 

  

What we’re Reading

My sincere apologies for not posting any reviews (I have several drafted and almost ready for posting, insha’Allah) and articles over the past week. Things have been a bit hectic around here and I have been preparing for the poetry celebrations starting in April (look out for some great poetry).

Today I introduce a new feature here on the blog. In the “What we’re Reading” posts, I will mention the interesting books my son is enjoying. Some he reads on his own and others we read together.

The Ark of Nuh by Saniyasnain Khan. (2006). Goodword Books. Nonfiction. 24 pages. Paperback. ISBN 8187570873.

The Ark of Nuh has been of particular interest to my child. He loves seeing the animals marching toward to Ark. The illustrations are lively and attractive for young children. We take time to talk about the variety of animal species created by Allah describing how Allah is Al Khaliq (the Creator). We don’t dwell on the drowning of people but instead focus on the beautiful world Allah created and how wonderful it felt for the people on the Ark and the animals to leave it and start life again.

The Heinle Picture Dictionary for Children by Jill Korey O’Sullivan. (2008). Heinle. Nonfiction. 160 pages. Paperback. ISBN 978-1-4130-2256-8.

The Heinle Picture Dictionary for Children introduces children from ages 4 – 8 to a wide range of vocabulary. It is a wonderful resource book to have around the home and in the classroom. A vast vocabulary is presented to children in an easy-to-read and fun way. Each two page spread introduces a theme (such as seasons, school, animals, time etc.) and the pictures on the pages are clearly labelled clearly. My son enjoys the ‘Rhyme time’, ‘Fun Facts’ or ‘Story’ which are featured at the top of every page.

Seeds Grow into Plants by Mario Lucca. (2001; 2006 Arabic Edition). National Geographic Society/Arab Scientific Publishers. Nonfiction. Paperback. 12 pages English; 12 pages Arabic. ISBN 9953291772.

Seeds Grow into Plants is a dual language book that introduces a child to the world of seeds and plants in Arabic and English. Readers are shown four different sets of seeds (pumpkin, wheat, apple and bean) and asked “What will grow from these seeds?”  The following eight pages depict the type of plant the seed will grown into and the produce that comes from that plant. Photos of actual seeds and plants that used are stunning and vivid. My son enjoys comparing the various types of plants and how they are shaped differently. For example, pumpkins grow on vines (never on trees!); wheat in stalks like grass and apples on trees. The Arabic is simple enough for child to understand. The letters are vowelled and spaced well on the page making reading the Arabic easier (for those first language is not Arabic). I read to my child in Arabic and English when I can (he reads it in English on his own) helping to reinforce the Arabic words he is learning by listening to my voice.