Children’s Books

The Spottywish

Author: Saajida Rhemtulla

Publisher: Young Lights Books

Assigned Reading Age: 6+

Subjects: Not all you wish for will benefit you. Critical thinking in selecting the right wish

Today was Samiha’s lucky day. She met a special frog at the park who made wishes come true. She is amazed and wishes for candies and cookies. She finds her wish manifest with lots of candies, cookies, chocolates and sweets in her pocket! Samiha couldn’t believe it. She started eating until she was full. They were delicious!

Slowly but surely, she got tired of eating sweets that made her loose her appetite.

Her never ending pile of treats made her think about her silly wish.  She talks to her parents, who teach her that a small prayer always helps. She then prayed to God for guidance and got an idea to ask the Spottywish if she could wish for something else instead. But what? Maybe toys, she thought. She could share them with her friends; however, realizing that her small room would fill up pretty quickly. She thinks about being very pretty -but she’s already mum’s pretty little princess. Also, it won’t really guarantee she would have lots of friends as a result.

Maybe to be very clever so she wouldn’t need to go to school anymore. But she would get bored and wouldn’t be able to play with her friends. After some deep thought, she got a brilliant idea! She rushed to the park to find the Spottywish and asked if she could wish for one more thing: to be very thoughtful! She explained to the Spottywish, being thoughtful with schoolwork will help her do better at school, being thoughtful at home will entice her parents to buy her nice presents and being thoughtful about others will make people like her. Spottywish thought it was a very good wish! Samiha’s wish came true and they finally said goodbye to each other.

Every little girl will love this vibrant story where wishes are granted, and candies are in plentiful supply. But do we always wish for the right thing? This book helps kids understand how important it is to be thoughtful in every matter. If you are thinking about being more thoughtful – like Samiha – you’re already on your way! “The Spottywish” is an initiative to make children realize that thoughtfulness will help forge meaningful relationships, thus setting the stage for a better place live in.

Down The Hill We Go!

Author: Nabeel Akbar

Publisher: Kids Will Be Kids

Assigned Reading Age: 6+

Subjects: Enjoying activities Winter has to offer with integrated Islamic vocabulary.

On a cold winter’s day, Jibraeel wakes up with the news of “no school today”! He is very excited and decides to go sledding. But his mother urges him to finish all his chores first. After having his breakfast, he cleans his room, finishes all his work, and then prepares to head out and enjoy the snow.  He wants his sister Amenah to sled with him but she would rather play in the park.While sledding Jibraeel runs into his best friend Yaasin. Yaasin decides to join in the fun with Jibraeel. Watching the fun that her brother and his friend were having, Amenah decides to give it a try and yes, oh how enjoyable it was to sled down the hill!

After a break for hot chocolate, the kids are back outside and put on quite a show. 3,2,1 down the hill they go!

“Down The Hill We Go!” is a great read for children. It incorporates Islamic words like “Assalaam Alaykum”, “Wa Alaykum Salaam”, “Alhamdulillah”, “InshaAllah”, “Subhanallah” and “Bismillah”. It brings about an appreciation for cold winter days fun activities that go along with it, but more so to be grateful to God for the enjoyment and happiness we feel.

Baahis The Explorer

Author: Fatemazahra Merali

Publisher: Awaiting Angels

Assigned Reading Age: 7-9

Baahis the explorer goes on a safari to Serengeti National Park in Africa.  He discovers about animals such as giraffes and their extraordinary long necks that allow them to survive.Elephants with long trunks which they use to pick food from the ground and bring it to their mouth. He sees monkeys that resemble mankind but cannot reason like humans. He further discovers Fish, Flamingos, Zebras, Lions, Ants, Spiders and Owls.

He learns from his parents about their unique abilities given by Allah (s.w.a) to survive. Baahis is curious to know where his parents learnt about the unique features of the animals. That’s when his mom shares with him the beautiful Hadith of the 6th Imam, “Hadith-e- Mufaddal”, where Imam teaches us about the animal kingdom, nature, mountains, and a lot more!

This book gives a chance to young readers to learn about animals. Why Allah created them the way he did, the secret behind their appearance, and the origin of Hadith-e-Mufaddal and its content.

Bismillah Soup

Author: Asmaa Hussein

Publisher: Ruqaya’s Bookshelf

Assigned Reading Age: 7-9

Hasan, a young Boy from Somalia, promises his mom a big feast for dinner. To fulfill his promise, he seeks advice from Sheikh Omar who suggests to him to think of ideas starting with “Bismillah”. With the help of “Bismillah” a clever idea comes into his mind. He decides to make a Bismillah Soup.

While Sheikh Omar helps in preparing and cooking the soup, Hasan goes around the market, shops and farms to invite everyone to the feast. Everyone who is invited wants to contribute something or the other for the soup. The vendor in the market contributes potatoes and onions while the spice shop keeper gives his special spice mix. The farmer provides fresh corn from his farm.

After the afternoon prayers, Sheikh Omar makes an announcement to invite everyone to the feast. The word spreads in the village and people started coming to drop off their contributions for the feast. The masjid’s kitchen was full of yummy fruits, bread and Samboos!

At the end Hasan was able to fulfill the promise he had made to his mom and the whole community benefitted from it too. A delicious meal was waiting for all of them after Maghrib prayers.

Hasan learns that when you put your trust in Allah (S.W.A) and start with “Bismillah”, you can make an impossible task possible. This book teaches young readers about the importance of starting with “Bismillah” and putting your complete trust in Allah (S.W.A). It further teaches them the importance of team work and generosity.

What Makes Me Unique

Author: Fadek Taki

Publisher:

Assigned Reading Age: 7-9

This book talks about the uniqueness of every human being, how we all are of different shapes and sizes. We all have different hair and different coloured eyes. We are born on different days and we come from different places. We speak different languages and celebrate different holidays. Even though we have differences, we are all the same and each one of us is special no matter how we look or what we wear.

This book also talks about a little girl who proudly wears her hijab.  She articulates how it does not make her different from others. She stands out from the crowd because she covers her hair, but she is not different from any other kid. Like others, she goes to school, she goes grocery shopping and goes to the park too. She likes to play soccer, hopscotch and loves to draw.

She is happy to answer any questions people have about her hijab and is happy to be living in Canada where she is free to be herself – to practice her religion without any worries.

This book encourages young Muslim girls to proudly wear their hijab and how to tackle miss conceptions associated with wearing the hijab. It encourages them to show the outside world that they are just as normal as normal can be.

Love your Parents

Author: Saniyasnain Khan

Publisher: Goodword Books

Assigned Reading Age: 5+

Subjects: Kindness, care, love, help, respect to parents and its rewards with Allah (swt).

In various passages of the Holy Quran, Allah urges us to fulfill our first ever duty which is towards our parents. Showing kindness to our parents, taking care of them in their older age, respect them, obey them at all times, show love to them in many ways, and praying for them are basic moral teachings of the Quran and represent the true characteristics of a Muslim. “Love your parents” contains numerous Quranic verses, and beautiful Hadiths and stories of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) which helps us understand the status of parents in the eyes of Allah and further encourages us to act kind towards them. It further enumerates the merits of kindness towards the mother under who’s feet Paradise lies, and obedience towards one father under who’s pleasure lies Allah’s pleasure.

This book could be the very first step for children to understand at a young age the importance of parents in their lives and the rewards that await them for their obedience and kindness towards them.

Imam Al-Mahdi - Why was He named Al-Mahdi?

Author: Al-Kisa Foundation

Publisher: Kisa Kids Publications

Assigned Reading Age: 7+

Subjects: The immense knowledge of Imam al-Baqir at the very young age, getting to know Jabbir – companion of the Prophet, the meaning of “Al-Mahdi”, the establishment of Al-Mahdi’s rule on earth.

During a hot summer, in the city of Madina, a strange man was wondering where he could find Jabbir the famous and knowledgable companion of the Holy Prophet- so that he could get answers to his questions. When he finally found Jabbir, the latter happily answered many of his questions except one to which he didn’t know the answer! “Why is the last Imam named Al-Mahdi (AJ)?” asked the man. Both were wondering about this question when they saw the young Imam al-Baqir and thought he would be the best person to ask to. Upon asking, Imam al-Baqir explained: al- Mahdi means the one who guides, He will guide people from all religions, fill the earth with peace and justice and put an end to all evil. Upon hearing this, the man’s heart filled with love for Imam Mahdi and asked Imam Baqir to tell him more about Him. At the end Jabbir and the man were amazed of the knowledge the Imam thought them. Jabbir thought how lucky are those people who will live in the time of Imam al-Mahdi!

This book helps us understand why the Imam was named after “AL-MAHDI” and how the world will look like when he appears. After reading this, children will gain knowledge about the meaning of Al-Mahdi, why the imam was called so and how He will rule the world. This book will make children realize how lucky they are to be born during the time of Imam al-Mahdi!

WONDER

Author: Raquel Jaramillo Palacio

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Assigned Reading Age: 10+

Subjects: Coming of age, Acceptance

The novel Wonder, by R.J Palacio, takes the reader on a rollercoaster of emotions, from the perspective of a 10-year-old boy named August Pullman. Auggie was born with a medical mystery that resulted in many surgeries, which ultimately reformed his face. Since he was homeschooled until 5th grade, the time constantly surrounded by his family made it a lot easier to deal with his differences. However, everything changed when he started school for the first time. Not only did August have to deal with his classmate’s negative reactions towards his appearance, but he also had to face it alone. As the book progresses, so does August’s perspective of others change. He slowly starts to rebuild his confidence and shows everyone else that being different is okay and is, in fact, better than being just like everyone else.

Wonder was on the New York Times Best Seller list for a reason. I genuinely enjoyed the dynamic characters of the story and the multiple perspectives that it gave. The readers definitely see some sort of resemblance with Auggie, as he faces issues that most of us have been through at one point in our lives. The connection that is built between the reader and the novel evolves until the last page, leaving everyone satisfied.

While reading this page-turner, readers fall in love with August’s innocent nature. His hardships make it easy for anyone to sympathize with his character. Also, his troubles portrayed many social issues such as prejudice, bullying, and segregation. On his journey of overcoming all of those obstacles, he shows that kindness and compassion can go a long way.

BLACKOUT

Author: Sumayyah Hussein

Publisher: Ruqaya’s Bookshelf

Assigned Reading Age: 8+

Subjects: Refugee/ war/ neighbors/ community

Yusuf anxiously awaits the arrival of his cousin Ahmed, from Syria. Ahmed has lost his father to the sea when their makeshift boat capsized and is greatly disturbed. He is grateful to their Canadian family for inviting them into their homes and for the chance to have a new life.

Ahmed’s arrival to Canada coincides with a complete blackout. Yusuf is agitated as his plans of entertaining Ahmed have been affected by the lack of power. Through the experience he learns patience, consideration and how to be a good neighbor.

This short book takes the reader on a journey of compassion, patience and of building empathy. We are introduced to a child who has experienced the horrors of war but approaches his new life with grace. He responds to the tough Canadian winter and blackout with curiosity and humbleness.

The book is a great reminder of the many blessings we take for granted and how with, tenderness obstacles, can be viewed positively. As Ahmed says: ” look for something positive in all your misery.”

ZAID AND THE GIGANTIC CLOUD

Author: Helal Musleh

Publisher: Ruqaya’s Bookshelf

Assigned Reading Age: 4+

Zaid is super excited because the weekend coming up is one that he has been looking forward to for many days. He will be going on his annual camping trip with his uncle and cousin Ahmed. His state of bliss is interrupted when his mom breaks the news to him that the camping trip is cancelled as Ahmed has come down with chicken pox.

Zaid’s mood changes in an instant from happiness to gloom. He is upset and grumpy. He notices a grey cloud hovering over his head. Everything seems to go wrong and the more disappointed he gets, the bigger the cloud grows. When he finds a bird who is in trouble and helps set him free he does not feel so gloomy anymore. Slowly the cloud over his head starts shrinking.

We all feel disappointments and frustrations in our daily life. Kids feel it too – which is manifested really well in this book. It teaches them that it is ok to feel down sometimes, and even though you feel like things are just getting worse and you will not be able to cope, there is always something that can bring about change for the better.

Reading this book with your child and discussing with him/her about their emotions and frustrations would really be beneficial. In-fact this book has a set of questions on the last page that you could use to guide your discussions.

What Do You Do With A Problem?

Author: Kobi Yamada

Publisher: Compendium Inc

Assigned Reading Age: 3-9

Subjects: Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance

Loving illustrations of a young boy who starts out with a teeny tiny – but persistent – problem that just grows bigger and bigger. The “problem” is illustrated as a small black cloud above his head but the more he ignores it or tries to hide away from it the bigger it gets all the while playing with his moods and emotions. In the end he discovers that the only way around this problem really is to face it and tackle it. When he eventually does this, he realizes that the problem is actually not as bad as his mind had made it out to be and from then on decides to tackle problems assertively. He learns that problems can be beautiful and can be an opportunity to learn and grow.

What we can learn from this book is that nothing is achieved by turning our back on problems or issues we are constantly faced with. Rather we should muster up our courage to face them and then they might even turn out to be something totally different from what we expected it to be. We may end up learning something along the way. As the author says, problems have a way of challenging and changing us in unexpected ways.

What Do You Do With An Idea?

Author: Kobi Yamada

Publisher: Compendium Inc

Assigned Reading Age: 3-9

Subjects: Self-Esteem, Self-Reliance & Self-Confidence

The story is about an idea (cutely illustrated as an egg with a crown) that the main character gets. At first he tries to ignore it but to no avail. It keeps on following him until slowly but surely he starts to accept it. The idea is “fed” by this acceptance and appreciation of it. The boy tries to share it with others who scoff or belittle him but he does not let it bother him as now he has come to love the idea. The idea gets bigger until eventually the idea has reached it maximum size, takes wing and flies off.

The theme behind this book is a good one. How many times have we had ideas but not paid heed to them. How many times have others taken ideas and changed the world with them. What if they, too, had not paid heed to their idea? Where would we be today if we all ignored our ideas.

The OK Book

Author: Amy Krouse Rosenthal &Tom Lichtenheld

Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers

Assigned Reading Age: 3-6

Subjects: Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance

A simple book about a stick person (wittily illustrated by the letters O and K) trying out different things and not being too good – or bad – at them; just being mediocre. The lesson to learn from this person is that it is okay to not be good at everything we do, as long as we have fun while doing it, that it is OK to be OK. The authors celebrate the real skills and talents children possess, encouraging and empowering them to discover their own individual strengths and personalities but making sure they enjoy the process. Many times we adults also need to learn this important lesson.

The Shepherd's Granddaughter

Author: Anne Laurel Carter

Publisher: Groundwood Books, 2008

Assigned Reading Age: Youth/Young Adult

Subjects: Family, Political

The Shepherd’s Granddaughter is the story of a Palestinian family and their suffering under the occupation. Amani lives with her extended family outside a Palestinian village on land that has belonged to her ancestors for over a thousand years. She is only six years old when she decides she wants to follow in the footsteps of her grandfather and become a shepherd. Although her family has had generations of male shepherds, her grandfather realizes her potential and hands over his shepherd’s crook to her. She fulfills his expectations and becomes a great shepherd. Amani’s life changes when Jewish settlers intrude into their lives and take over their land, their olive orchards and their sheep. The building of Jewish settlements and construction of a new highway through their land destroys the family’s peaceful and pleasant way of life forever.

A well developed and realistic novel, the story of Amani and her family is poignant and sad. It shows the effect of occupation on everyday life. The misery that it creates is heartbreaking at times. The resistance and bravery of the Palestinians is admirable and many of the dilemmas they face are thought provoking. It shows the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a perspective that is not often shown in the media. The book also has many themes that would generate interesting discussions such as multigenerational families, relationships, resilience, importance of education, the struggle to hold on to culture, etc.

The Shepherd’s Granddaughter has won many awards including the Canadian Library Association Book of the Year for Children award. It was nominated by the Ontario Library Association as part of its Forest of Reading Program for Grades 7 and 8. Controversy arose when the Toronto School Board received complaints from a parent and Jewish advocacy groups who condemned the book as ‘vehemently anti-Israel’. The board reviewed the book and maintained its earlier decision based on the educational and social benefit of the book. However it is presently reviewing the matter again. The author has defended her book and says it shows the reality of Palestinian life. She has based her story on a family she met near Hebron, whom she visited many times. Her full interview about thebook can be found at http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/education/article/800159–author-defends-the-shepherd-s-granddaughter: Many insightful reviews and blogs about the book can also be found online.

What You Can Do: Read the book, publicize it, buy it, donate it to a school or mosque library, discuss it with others, encourage your friends and family to read it, introduce it in your children’s school, Madrasah, home reading program, etc. Do you part in spreading awareness of the the plight of the Palestinian people.