Just as Rose began to drift back towards dreamland, the words Saturday and Grandma’s visitor shook her wide-awake! Before her feet hit the carpet, she was already mentally running through the questions that had been building up since she first learned a police officer from a foreign country was coming today. What would he look like? What kind of food did he eat? How am I going to talk to him if he doesn’t speak English?
The Visitors by Linda D. Delgado is the first book in the Islamic Rose series. In this novel we meet the delightful Rose, an eager, quick thinking, and rapidly maturing nine-year-old girl and her down-to-earth, open-minded grandmother. Rose is being brought up by her father (her mother disappeared when she was a baby) but has the benefit of the support and company of her grandparents who live next door in.
Set in Arizona, U.S.A., the book opens with Rose who is excited to meet her grandmother’s guest, a police officer from Saudi Arabia. Her father isn’t very keen on Rose’s involvement in the preparations her grandmother is making or in getting to know the newcomer. One of the themes of the book is cultural appreciation. Throughout the book we see the contrast in Rose’s openness to learn about the Arab and Muslim culture of the visitor and her father’s reluctance to make acquaintance with them.
But Rose is not deterred by her father’s negativity and proceeds to help her grandmother teach the visitor English. The visitor, Abdul, in turn patiently answers the questions Rose and her grandmother ask about his family, Islam and life as a Muslim. They are impressed by his manners and pleasant disposition. Soon another police officer comes to stay with Rose’s grandmother. Rose along with her grandmother continues to help the officers learn English.
Throughout the book, Rose’s entries in her journal are shared with readers. She writes about what she learning about Islam as well as about her relationship with her father. Rose finds her father spending less time with her and resisting all attempts to get to know the guests in his mother’s house. We sense Rose’s confusion as she plots and plans to get her father to know the police officers but to no avail. That is until she comes up with a unique plan that works and brings the book to a very touching end.
Since Rose and her family are not Muslim we get a view of Islam from the outside looking in. We hear and see what tolerance and respect for others means through the interactions between Rose and her grandmother with Abdul and his friend Fahad. From the new words and their meanings Rose enters into her journal (which is supplemented by a glossary at the end of the book) to the reference to the good mannerisms of the Muslim men to information about halal foods and the significance of salah, The Visitors explains elements of Islam in a way that Muslims and non-Muslims can relate to.
“There is nothing, and I repeat, nothing wrong with learning about other religions, cultures and seeking the truth abut God. There is nothing wrong with having friends who have a different color of skin than yours or who might dress differently or speak a different language. There is nothing wrong with having friends who are rich or poor. When you become an adult, God will hold you accountable for the good things you do and the bad things you do. You just be sure, Rose Allen, that you do plenty of good things in this life.”
Talking points: This book is an excellent resource for reading and discussion in the classroom or at home because it introduces Islam and Muslims in a beautiful way. It presents opportunity for discussion of how Islam is portrayed in the media, what Muslims practice and what Islam is. More than this it shows how one should be open-minded and willing to learn about new cultures. Children will be encouraged to keep a journal like Rose does in the book.
The narrative is based in part on the author’s own experiences. The story of Rose and her grandmother continues in the Islamic Rose series with Hijab-Ez Friends, Stories and Saying Goodbye.
The Visitors comes with a study guide for use in the classroom or at home. It includes sample lesson plans and a wide range of cross-curricular activities for grades 5 to 8 (ages 10 to 13). Recently the books have become available in Arabic. At the author’s website, readers have the opportunity to learn more about Rose and her friends (including a humorous comic strip), explore interesting facts connected with the book, and do activities (crafts and recipes).
Title: The Visitors (Book One in the Islamic Rose Books series)
Author: Linda D. Delgado
Publisher: Muslim Writers Publishing
Age Group: 9 – 15 years