The Muslim period of prayer, fasting, and charity, known as Ramadan, began on July 20th, 2012 and continues until the evening of August 19th. The Islamic Holy Month, this holiday is celebrated around the world by an estimated 1 billion Muslims.

The Islamic Lunar calendar decides what dates on which the month-long Ramadan falls-this calendar is 29-30 days, whereas the commonly used Gregorian calendar (which uses the sun, not the moon, as its guide) is 30-31 days. While that may not sound like a significant difference, it adds up over the years, which explains why Ramadan is not associated with a single season.

For kids, the most notable thing about Ramadan may be fasting. From sunrise to sunset, each day during the month, Muslims do not eat or drink anything. Children are not required to fast, and for many teenagers, choosing to begin fasting is an important milestone.

Eid ul-Fitr, is the Muslim holiday that comes at the end of Ramadan. A celebration of God, unity, and family, it is a time to give thanks for successfully completing the month of abstinence.

Contributor: Emily Griffin


Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
Retold by Matthew K. Manning
Illustrated by Ricardo Osnaya

Ali Baba is a poor woodcutter who discovers forty thieves entering a cave full of their stolen treasure. He takes some of this treasure home, where his wealthy brother Kassim decides he wants some of the treasure for himself. Kassim is caught by the thieves and killed. The thieves are after Ali Baba too, but his servant girl has other plans. She outsmarts the thieves and saves Ali Baba. In the end, only Ali Baba knows the secret password to enter the cave full of treasures. This book is part of the Stone Arch Readers “Arabian Nights Tales” series, which introduces kids to the “One Thousand and One Nights” Middle Eastern and South Asian folktales told for hundreds of years. Manning retells this story with lots of entertaining dialogue. Osnaya’s graphic illustrations are vivid and emotional. A glossary is provided for some of the more advanced terms. A list of discussion questions and reading prompts encourage comprehension and writing skills. Readers will enjoy reading these ancient tales with a modern twist. 2011, Stone Arch Books/Capstone Press, Ages 10 to 12, $22.65. Reviewer: Patricia Wooster (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781434219886

Bestest Ramadan Ever
Medeia Sharif

After cheating last year and paying the price (her strict grandfather’s disapproval), Almira is determined to make it through this year’s Ramadan, fasting from sunrise to sunset. Her friends are not supportive, however, and someone keeps leaving chocolates on her chair at school. To make matters worse, she is completely distracted by her crush on Peter, a guy whom she’s always secretly liked, but who has suddenly gotten hot enough to attract the attention of her best friend, Lisa, who has claimed him for her own. He’s sending mixed signals, though, as one minute he’s cozying up to Lisa while the next he’s superfriendly to Almira. Then there’s the new girl, Shakira, the only other Muslim in school, who just happens to be gorgeous, artistic, and outspoken to the point of meanness. Almira frets her way through the month, offering comic accounts of her family’s breaking fast at sunset, her disastrous driving lessons with her reckless grandfather, who calls every non-Muslim either an infidel or a prostitute, and her tortured obsession with getting Peter to notice her as something more than a friend, even though her parents would never let her date him. Almira’s worries are like her religious devotion, however, in that they’re are only an inch deep; she’s happy to have lost weight during Ramadan and gotten her first kiss, but while she does pull back from Peter at first to salvage her friendship with Lisa, she never poses serious questions about her faith or her ethics. When she and Shakira finally bond, their most heartfelt discussions concern how to hide their boyfriends, among other things, from their parents, making this very mild book something Almira’s real-life analogues might have to read in a plain brown wrapper unless such deceptions are an open secret in their communities. Readers who are looking for American works that explore similar themes to Abdel Fattah’s Does My Head Look Big in This?, however, may appreciate this story of a girl negotiating traditional values in nontraditional settings. 2011, Flux, Grades 7-10, $9.95. Reviewer: Karen Coats (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, November 2011 (Vol. 65, No. 3)).

ISBN: 9780738723235

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors
Hena Khan
Illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini

Simple rhymed couplets describe colors involved in Muslim traditions and customs, including some vocabulary. A young girl kneels with her father on a red rug as he prays five times a day. Her mother wears a blue hijab, or scarf. They admire the gold dome of the mosque. Her grandpa wears a white kufi, or traditional hat. She uses black ink to draw the letters that spell Allah. We see the brown dates, her favorite Ramadan treat, and the orange henna that decorates her hands. On Eid she receives a purple-wrapped gift, and puts money in a yellow box “for those in need.” She reads a green Quran and admires a silver lantern. All these things are part of her deen, or faith. Double-page scenes depict the traditional objects and their setting. Each has the young girl, sometimes with others, in a typical activity. The environment is rendered naturalistically; the humans stylized and somewhat doll-like, with large eyes and smooth features. The colors are used to emphasize but not overplay the characteristics. The end pages are a riot of colors in a design suggestive of Middle Eastern mosaics. There is a useful glossary. 2012, Chronicle Books, Ages 4 to 7, $17.99. Reviewers: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780811879057

Growing Up Muslim: Understanding Islamic Beliefs and Practices
Sumbul Ali-Karamali

Sumbul Ali-Karamali was one of few Muslims in her Southern California neighborhood. She was isolated from a large Muslim community and often had to explain her religious practices and beliefs to others. In the post 9-11 world, there are a lot of misunderstandings and prejudices against Muslim Americans. This book explains the beliefs of Muslims in a very friendly and warm fashion, with an emphasis on tolerance and understanding. Commonalities amongst Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are emphasized. Ali-Karamali details the problems all developing countries face and explains how religion is not always the reason for injustice. She also explains how culture and tradition play a central role in gender bias and that it is unfair to solely blame religion for the unequal treatment of women. The book is easy to read and understand and includes some tough questions teens may have about Islam. The author puts a very positive spin on Islam and tries to help the reader separate the fanatical behavior of some individuals from the main tenets. She explains how terrorism and murder are not part of Islam and that the Koran does not justify the cruelty and discrimination that is common in many parts of the world. Recommend this book to students with questions about Islam looking for some quick answers. It also may help the Islamic student who is looking for a way to navigate the questions he/she gets from his peers. 2012, Delacorte/Random House, Ages 11 to Adult, $16.99. Reviewer: Ellen Frank (VOYA, June 2012 (Vol. 35, No. 2)).

ISBN: 9780385740951

Moon Watchers: Shirin’s Ramadan Miracle
Reza Jalali
Illustrated by Anne Sibley O’Brien

Moon Watchers is a welcome addition to holiday picture book collections in its portrayal of a Muslim holiday in an American context. Told from the point of view of a young Iranian-American girl named Shirin, the family includes a traditionally veiled grandmother and Shirin’s mother who covers herself only while praying. Traditions from the “old country” are maintained: special foods are prepared while father and daughter watch the stars to search for the new moon, which signals the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Shirin’s older brother, however, is absorbed in video games and Shirin prays for things familiar to girls everywhere: straighter hair and better grades. The soft watercolor illustrations show a sensitive and meaningful mix of American and Iranian details: the American house, the Iranian tea set, the American bookbag, and Iranian prayer rugs. Shirin takes some teasing from her brother Ali when she is told she is too young to fast during Ramadan, yet when she sees “Ali stuffing something in his mouth, I almost yell that he is cheating, but I stop. He might have forgotten he is fasting.” She catches him again but still keeps his secret, dramatically reducing sibling tensions. This is the Ramadan miracle; it is just unfortunate that keeping secrets is presented in such a positive light. The book concludes with a short note explaining the importance and meaning of Ramadan. 2010, Tilbury House, Ages 5 to 8, $16.95. Reviewer: Karen Leggett (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780884483212

Ramadán y el Eid al-Fitr
Nancy Dickman
Illustrated by Jennifer Bell

This book in the “Fiestas” series describes the holy month of Ramadan and the subsequent Eid al-Fitr that is celebrated by Muslims throughout the world. Young readers learn about the importance of prayer and self-control, as demonstrated through fasting, in the lives of Muslims during their most sacred month. Readers gain an understanding of the celebrations that take place at the end of the month while also being reminded that charity for the poor and getting along with family and friends are actions to be remembered even after Ramadan has ended. Color photographs of Muslim families around the world, a table of contents, a glossary, and an index add to this book. Notes for parents and teachers offer suggestions for helping students to understand some of the virtues inherent in the celebration of Ramadan. This book would make a good selection for school and public libraries as well as elementary school classrooms. 2011, Heinemann Library/Capstone, Ages 4 to 7, $21.50. Reviewer: Ramirose I. Attebury (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781432953980

Time to Pray: Awqaat al-òsalaah
Maha Addasi
Illustrated by Ned B. Gannon
Arabic translation by Nuha Albitar

While visiting her grandmother in the Middle East our narrator, young Yasmin, hears the nighttime call to prayer from the minaret of the nearby mosque. Her grandmother washes and prepares for prayer, but Yasmin is too tired. The next day, she wonders how she will be able to rise and pray like her grandmother when there is no mosque near her home. Her grandmother reassures her that she will fix everything. She has Yasmin choose fabric to make special clothes for prayer. Then she picks out a special prayer rug. They go home in time for the afternoon prayer. Her grandmother shows her how she prays. The grandmother sews Yasmin’s skirt and headpiece. Then they are ready to go to the mosque. Yasmin practices the prayers until it is time for her to fly home. Her parting gift from her grandmother is a prayer clock, so she can keep up her prayers, at least most of the time. Gannon’s oil paintings provide detailed depictions of the settings, the objects, and the characters, dominated by the decorative patterns associated with the region. Readers learn about the rituals along with Yasmin. There is a detailed description of the prayer times for Muslims. The story is told in Arabic below the English. 2010, Boyds Mills Press, Ages 7 to 9, $17.95. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781590786116

Updated 8/1/12

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