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Ayat Jamilah: Beautiful Signs by Conover and Crane

  • September 18, 2010 5:46 pm

Click on image to buy book

Click on image to buy book

I came across this wonderful book of Islamic folk tales somewhat by accident. To tell you the truth, I had never read any Islamic folk tales before, although our family loves folk tales! The authors, Sarah Conover and Freda Crane, put together this collection because “there was, and is still, a lack of compelling material introducing Islam to children and young adults.”

The 39 stories in this book are retellings of tales collected from all over the world: from China to Africa to Indonesia — anywhere Muslims live. Many stories feature the folk character Joha (also known as Mulla Nasruddin Hodja, and Affanti), whose predicaments and funny responses teach the reader through humor.

Several stories feature important women in the Islamic tradition. Rabia Al Adawiya of Basra was a famous Sufi saint. In one story, Rabia stresses the importance of gratitude, and in another, she reforms a thief by teaching him how to pray. Khadija, Muhammed’s first wife, was a wealthy businesswoman and the first follower of Islam.

Women and girl characters are featured in other stories too. A clever girl in China named Sailimai outsmarted the emperor and saved her father-in-law. Fatimah, a clever, hard-working Turkish girl, found herself in China after many misadventures, and was able to fulfill a legend by building a magnificent tent for the emperor.

Because Islam is closely related to Judaism and Christianity, the three religions share some stories. Included in this collection is a story about Abraham; a story about Hagar (Abraham’s second wife, and the mother of the Arab people); and a story about the birth of Jesus.

The stories stress generosity, honesty, cooperation, simplicity, fairness, hard work, equanimity, humility, and the importance of education. Each story is introduced by a quote from Islamic literature. Twelve full-color illustrations by Valerie Wahl add to the beauty and charm of this book.

Background information on Islam is included in the introductory material. Source notes for each story and quote are included at the back of the book.

This is truly a valuable collection, and highly recommended. I am including this on both my girls list and my boys list.

Maggie and the Chocolate War, by Michelle Mulder

  • September 5, 2010 1:59 pm
Maggie and the Chocolate War

Click on image to buy book

This is a fictionalized version of a true protest led by children: a Canadian children’s boycott of chocolate bars in 1947, when the price went up in from 5 cents to 8 cents.

Maggie, a 9-year-old girl living in Victoria, British Columbia, wants to buy a chocolate bar for her friend’s birthday. She’s saving money from her job as a delivery girl for her dad’s grocery store. World War II is over, and food rationing is a thing of the past, but now the price of food is going up.  Maggie doesn’t pay much attention to the price of butter and bread, but when the price of chocolate goes up, she worries that she won’t have enough money saved in time for Josephine’s birthday.

Then she and her friends find out about strikes being held by kids in other parts of the country. They make signs and begin protesting outside of stores. Although Maggie feels bad that her actions are decreasing customers to her father’s store, she is encouraged by her mother, who has joined with other women to protest the price of food.

Finally, the kids’ actions convince several local shopkeepers to lower the price to 5 cents again.

The book is illustrated with photos of the real protests, and pictures of actual newspaper clippings covering the marches and protests. I found it fascinating to look at the photos and read about the real history behind this novel. Readers will also be immersed in the details of daily life from 1947.

This 90-page novel is part of the Kids’ Power series. I have included this book on my girls list.