We are coming up to Ramadan, which falls during the actual school year for the first time in awhile, and I'm hoping that means there will lots of amazing conversations happening with your students about the world's second largest religion, its history, and the people who follow it.
"Night of the Moon" by Hena Khan is a lovely story that follows a young girl celebrating Ramadan, covering how the Islamic calendar is lunar and the celebration follows the phases of the moon. The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous, and are styled along the lines of Islamic tile art. The book is a joy to read and a lovely introduction to the holiday.
"The Amazing Travels of Ibn Battuta" by Fatima Sharafeddine is a lovely, longer picture book that follows the adventures of one of the most famed travellers in history- a Muslim Berber from Tangier who explored much of Africa, the Middle East and Asia during the 14th century. It's a gorgeously illustrated and detailed introduction to an explorer who isn't given enough attention in our history books.
"The Conference of the Birds" by Alexis York Lumbard is one of the most gorgeously illustrated children's books I've seen in a long time. A lavish, gilded retelling of a masterpiece by celebrated Persian Muslim poet Attar of Nishapur, the book brings classical Islamic literature to life for modern children. The poem tells the story of a pilgramage undertaken by birds to visit King Simorgh the Wise, who lives atop a mountain. Along the way, the birds overcome spiritual obstacles on the way to meet their king. The poem is lovely, the illustrations even more so, and every child I've read it to so far has been enchanted by it.
"The Camel In The Sun" by Griffin Ondaatje is a beautiful, quiet retelling of a traditional hadith (an account of the words of the Prophet). The story follows a camel who has a cruel owner who pushes him to exhaustion regularly, and does not take care of nor shows respect for the creature. One day, they arrive in Medina, where the Prophet lives, and the camel is tied up in the hot sun once again. The Prophet recognizes the animal's suffering and leads the cruel owner to empathize with the camel and change his ways. The illustrations are beautiful and respectfully do not depict the Prophet Muhammad, as per Islamic traditions. It is a lovely and peaceful story that would be a wonderful addition to any library.
"Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors" by Hena Khan is one I've spoken of before on my Instagram, but it is worth repeating. This book is a tried and true favourite in my classroom, and has been since I introduced it when it was first published. The lush illustrations follow a girl throughout her day as she introduces colors to her audience- blue for the hijab her mother wears; brown for the dates she eats to break the Ramadan fast; red for the mat her father kneels on to pray; and so on. It's beautiful, simple, and sweet, and is one of my favourite color books (and I have a bit of an obsession with color books).
"Deep in the Sahara" by Kelly Cunnane is a beautiful book that follows a young girl in the African country of Mauritania as she asks her female relatives when she gets to wear a malafa (the covering women of age wear for modesty in the country) as they do. The author wrote it after living in the country for a year- she explains in a charming note at the end that spending time in the country and getting to know the people and the religion made her realize that wearing the veil isn't an inherently repressive act. I love that the story was inspired by this- imagine what change we could see in the world if we all took the time to talk, learn and change our minds once in a while? This book is bright, happy, and an introduction to Muslims outside of the Middle East, which is another bonus. I absolutely recommend it.
So, those are the books I have on hand that I love. There are a few others not currently accessible (in a box in my storage), but some gems include "Lailah's Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story" by Reem Faruqi; "Rashad's Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr" by Lisa Bullard; "My First Ramadan" by Karen Katz; and "Cinderella: An Islamic Tale" by Fawzia Gilani. (The retelling of Cinderella is a personal favourite).
There are so many beautiful books out there now to introduce children to the diversity and beauty of the Islamic world, and I hope that you find some books on this list to share with your students for Ramadan (which starts May 26th this year!)
What are your favourite books featuring Muslim characters in your classroom or home?
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