Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Book Review: Jannah Jewels: The Case in China

Jannah Jewels Book 2: The Chase in ChinaJannah Jewels Book 2: The Chase in China by Umm Nura
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the second book of the Jannah Jewels, Hidayah, Iman, Jaide and Sara travel in time to ancient China where they meet the famous Muslim Chinese Admiral, Zheng He. The race is on to find the second artifact but the girls are chased down by pirates working for Jaffar, who is desperate to catch the girls and get to the artifact since his last run in with the girls left him empty handed and embarrassed in front of his father.

I enjoyed The Chase in China. There were times when I got lost in the writing but it was an overall fun read with lots of excitement and adventure. These girls certainly know how to get around! I loved getting to know a little bit more about Hidayah as well as the Jannah Jewels' arch enemy, Jaffar. He is a complicated character not entirely evil to the core but evil nonetheless. I am curious to see how he turns out if and when he realizes who the Jannah Jewels' work for.

View all my reviews

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Recommended Picture Book: Kitchen Dance

Title: Kitchen Dance

Author: Maurie J. Manning

Illustrator: Maurie J. Manning

Publisher: Clarion Books; October 6, 2008

Suitable for: 3 and up

Themes/Topics: Family life, Culture & Peoples: Afro-Latino Americans, Bedtime, Dance & Movement

 Scrape! Splash! Clunk! Clang!
I wake up and listen.
Through the walls and floor,
I hear kitchen sounds.

Book Summary: 
Two sleepy children wake up to mysterious and inviting noises from the kitchen. They sneak out to watch as their parents break into a dance while washing the dishes. Soon, the whole family is swept up into a magical and unexpected family gathering of singing, dancing, swaying and love.
Links to resources:
Put on some samba music and encourage children to dance. Learn about sound words, onomatopoeia
Examples of onomatopoeia words. Find all of the onomatopoeia in Kitchen Dance and try to create those sounds with objects in your home or classroom.
Why I like this book:
Who knew the kitchen was NOT just for COOKING? I love this book! The joy and love it shows between parents and children are just so heartwarming. It’s upbeat feel and fun illustrations make you want to dance right along with them. 

Find a comprehensive list of picture books with resources at Susanna Hill's blog

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Recommended Picture Book: Hope

Title: Hope

Author: Isabell Monk

Illustrator: Janice Lee Porter

Publisher: Carolrhoda Books, Inc, October 2004

Suitable for: 4 and up

Themes/Topics: Acceptance, Tolerance, Bi-racial identity, Bi-racial culture and heritage


Every summer I spend at least one weekend in the country with my mama’s aunt Poogee. The instant I step out of our car, Aunt Poogee scoops me up in her arms and says, “Mmmm, I could just eat you up.” I think aunt Poogee holds all the love in the world inside her and lets it out bit by bit through the twinkle in her eyes.

Book Summary:

During a visit to her great-aunt’s in the country, Hope learns the story behind her name and learns to feel proud of her biracial heritage.


Lesson plan for Cultural Identity. Suggested activities:

Create a family tree

Research family member

Interview the eldest member of your family

Research the meaning and origin of your name and other family members names

Why I like this book:

Identity is a big issue for children of bi-racial heritage and Isabell Monk does a wonderful job showing through Hope’s story that every child is special and should be proud of their mixed heritage. I was a child of mixed heritage, African American and Ethiopian and both are rich and beautiful. Growing up my mom made sure I loved and respected both. I believe every child of mixed cultures can relate to Hope and probably have gone through some of the problems that society creates for people of mixed cultures and heritage. This is the perfect book for children to learn they are wonderful, they are beautiful and they have every right to be proud of who they are! And in a way, children of non-mixed races learn a great deal of understanding, tolerance and an appreciation of children of mixed races.

Find a comprehensive list of picture books with resources at Susanna L Hill's blog.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Good Deed Friday: Give a Flower

Brighten up someone's day by giving a simple gift of a freshly picked flower from your yard or with permission from your neighbor's garden. If you ask nicely and explain your intention, many neighbors with flower gardens will be happy to share their flowers with you especially if you ask first. Gift giving is important to building loving and lasting friendships. It also makes the giver of the gift happy as well as the receiver. Gifts do not have to be expensive but they must come from the heart.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Recommended Picture Book: The Beautiful Names

Title: The Beautiful Names

Author: Saaleha Bhamjee

Illustrator: Shirley Gavin

Publisher: Muslim Writers Publishing; February 14, 2008

Ages: 4 and up

Topics/Themes: Poetry, Attributes of Allah, Faith


Allah's names are many,
as beautiful as is He
a being greater than any
could ever hope to be

Book Summary:

The Beautiful Names - A fun way of acquiring Ma'rifat - recognition of Allah. A collection of highly entertaining, sometimes funny poems that demonstrate the qualities of Allah using every day examples. Learn why eagles don't need flight lessons, or how to chase the monster out of your cupboard. Learn about Abraha and his army, and how they were destroyed, or about how mankind began to worship idols after the death of Adam AS. Beautifully illustrated in full color, The Beautiful Names is bound to acquire a place of honour on every child's bookshelf.

Links to Resources:

Find a list of all the 99 attributes of Allah here. Coloring pages can be found at Easel and Ink.  Listen to the 99 Names of Allah. Brush up with this simple quiz or this one. Or, you can make some of your own. You can create word searches using the 99 names as well as create crossword puzzles to help with learning the meaning of each attribute. This blog has more classroom ideas for studying the 99 names of Allah. 

Why I like this book:

This book is a great read aloud book. It introduces 20 attributes of Allah that are easy to explain to children. The illustrations are beautiful and will appeal to children. They also allow for greater discussion between parent and child as to what they see and feel and how they relate it to the words/story on the paper. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Recommended Picture Book: Kele's Secret

Title: Kele's Secret

Author: Tololwa M. Mollel

Illustrator: Catherine Stock

Publisher: Lodestar Books; June 1, 1997

Ages: 3-7

Topic/theme: Overcoming fear, Places & Cultures: Tanzania, Chickens


Grandmother Koko's hens laid their eggs in the strangest places.

Book Summary:

A young Tanzanian boy named Yoanes must overcome his fear of a spooky shed, the scariest place on his grandparents' farm, to follow Kele to find out where she lays her egg. Of all his grandmother Koko’s chickens, Kele is the cleverest hider of her eggs. The reward for Yoanes if he can find Kele’s hidden eggs to fill the egg bowl is to accompany Koko to the market. There Koko will sell the eggs and give him a precious ten cent coin, with which Yoanes can buy any snack he wishes.


The author includes a glossary at the end of the book. Some discussion points can include: how they help their family. What they do to overcome their fears? Differences between life on a farm and life in the city. Then have children learn more about Tanzania. For some fun in the kitchen, try out this simple Mandasi recipe.Mandasi is a deep-fried bun that is a treat when eaten fresh and lightly powdered with sugar.  :) The book covers a lot of Tanzanian agriculture, have your children make a list of the different plants, shrubs, trees and vegetation mentioned in the book.

Why I like this book:

This was a really cute story. From the beginning I am drawn into the mystery of the strange and secretive Kele. I also want to know where she keeps her eggs hidden. I love how we are taken on a tour through Yoanes's homeland as he trails the clucky hen. We learn about Tanzanian folklore along the way and watch him face his fears in the process. The illustrations are simply wonderful and engaging. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Good Deed Friday: Don't Spread Germs

Sharing is caring but sharing germs makes everyone sick! The best way not to share germs is to cover your sneezes and coughs and to WASH YOUR HANDS constantly. Remind your friends and younger siblings that clean hands keep everyone healthy and happy!

Recommended Picture Book: Silly Chicken by Rukhsana Khan

Title: Silly Chicken

Author: Ruhksana Khan

Illustrator: Yunmee Kyong

Publisher: Viking; 2005

Ages: 4 and up

Theme/Topics: Sibling rivilry, Jealousy, Pets, Chickens, Mother & Daughter relationships, Places: Pakistan


Ami loves her hen better than me.  She calls her Bibi. I call her silly.

Summary: It is no fun when your brother or sister gets all the attention! Anyone with a sibling knows that. But what happens when the center of attention is a pet chicken?
Rani thinks her mother loves Bibi the hen more than her. Rani doesn't understand how her mother could love the hen so much until one Bibi goes missing and Rani and her mother gets a bit surprise!


Silly Chicken Teachers Guide for 1-3 grade.

Why I like this book:

Author Rukhsana Khan does a wonderful job of getting to the heart of a child's emotional distress when it comes to vying for a parent's attention and love. Rani is such a cute character and I totally understand her feelings toward that chicken. LOL! But children also learn that things are not always as bad as they seem :) The illustrations are fun, whimsical and cute.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Recommended Picture Books: A Party in Ramadan

Title: A Party in Ramadan

Author: Asma Mobin-Uddin

Illustrator: Laura Jacobsen

Publisher: Boyds Mills Press; April 1, 2009

Ages: 7 - 9

Topics/Themes: Ramadan, birthday party, religious holidays, Muslim culture, choices, tolerance, friendship

Leena twirled around in front of the kitchen table, breathless and excited as her mother pulled out an invitation from the large envelope. "Mom, Julia is going to have a pony at the party, and we get to ride it!" 

Book Summary:
Ramadan is coming and Leena is excited. Although she is too young to fast each day during the Muslim holy month, she decides to fast on a Friday that her aunt will be visiting. Now Leena has a dilemma. She receives an invitation to a party which happens to fall on that same Friday. Leena doesn’t want to miss the party, but she doesn’t want to miss fasting either.

Lots of activities and lessons about Ramadan. DLTK has an arts and craft section. See if you can complete the Ramadan Scavenger Hunt.

What I like about the book:

This is another wonderful introduction to Muslim practices and holidays. Leena, like most Muslim children, wants to fast but is conflicted when the day she chooses to fast falls on the same day as a long awaited birthday party. Leena is given the option to fast if she wants or just pick another day. For children who are not required it is so important for parents to be understanding and to allow them to make some choices on their own and respect their choices. Children often learn by example and experience. Her mother could have told her no, that it would be impolite to go to the party and not eat especially since the neighbors did not know anything about fasting or Ramadan. She could have told her that she would be much too hungry and thirsty due to all the running and playing she'd do at the party. But she allowed Leena the chance to experience it all for herself. Leena was even rewarded with a very thoughtful gesture on her friend's part. I loved how Leena's friend offers to stay back with her when it is time to eat cake. Sometimes, children show more kindness and tolerance  than we actually give them credit for. At the end of the book there is an explanation about Ramadan and it's importance to Muslims and the Muslim women's headdress, the Hijab. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Recommended Picture Book: One Hen

Title: One Hen

Author: Katie Smith Milway

Illustrator: Eugenie Fernandes

Publisher: Kids Can Press: February 1, 2008

Suitable for: 8 and up

Themes/Topics: africa, microfinancing, community building,

Kojo tugs the knot tight and hoists a bundle of firewood onto his head. Since his father died, he has had to quit school and help his mother collect wood to sell at the market.

Book Summary:
Inspired by true events, One Hen tells the story of Kojo, a boy from Ghana who turns a small loan into a thriving farm and a livelihood for many. After his father died, Kojo had to quit school to help his mother collect firewood to sell at the market. When his mother receives a loan from some village families, she gives a little money to her son. With this tiny loan, Kojo buys a hen. A year later, Kojo has built up a flock of 25 hens. With his earnings Kojo is able to return to school. Soon Kojo's farm grows to become the largest in the region.

Links to resources:
EconEdlink is an excellent site with lots of activities. 
Visit One Hen Microfinance for Kids for more information about the organization, the book and lots of activities and lesson plans (click on the Teachers and Librarians tab).

Why I like this book:
Books based on true stories, lives and events always touch my heart. This one is no different. There is so much we can learn from the lives of others. From the beginning I just fell in love with the character Kojo. One Hen shows what happens when a little help makes a big difference. Children are introduced to the concept of microloans and finances, a lending system for people in developing countries who have no collateral and no access to conventional banking. Microloans have begun to receive more media attention in recent years. In 2006 Muhammad Yunus, a Bangledeshi economist who pioneered microloan banking, won the Nobel Peace Prize.The final pages of One Hen explain the microloan system and include a list of relevant organizations for children to explore.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Good Deed Friday: Read to someone

Read to someone who can not read. We all love a good story, share a great story with your younger sibling, a tired parent or a sick friend. Read the Qur'an for your family and friends. Reading is a wonderful way to exercise your brain, learn new vocabulary and flex your imagination. When you read the Qur'an, you also become closer to Allah. :)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Recommended Picture Book: No Mirrors in My Nana's House

Title: No Mirrors in My Nana’s House

Author: Ysaye M. Barnwell

Illustrator: Synthia Saint James

Publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt April 12005

Suitable for: 4 - 7

Themes/Topics: Self-perception, Grandmothers, African-Americans, Cultural and Socio-Economical heritage

There were no mirrors in my Nana’s house
No mirrors in my Nana’s house.
So the beauty that I saw in everything was in her eyes……

Book Summary:
A little girl discovers the beauty in herself—and the beauty of the world around her—not by looking in the mirror but by looking in her Nana's eyes.

Links to resources: 
Most of the resource I found were actually documents and powerpoint presentations that downloaded directly to my computer but I did find a few really good ones that encourage lots of discussion on cultural diversity and identity. Art and Discussiontopics. Lesson on cultural differences.
Listen to the story online with Tia and Tamara and find more activities.

Why I like this book:
What a wonderfully written book! I love the story of a child who lives and learns about the beauty of life and the appreciation of the life she has through the love and compassion of her Nana. Despite growing up in an unprivileged environment, she learns that there is beauty in everything around her, all through the eyes of her Nana. She did not grow up to judge her self based on what others looked like or had. The illustrations are done in acrylic paints on canvas and they are amazing! I love the concept of no facial features in the illustrations. I was still able to feel the emotions of each word even though their faces did not show it. This book would be suitable for Muslim families who do not approve of illustrations of human or living beings.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A-Z Challenge: M is for My Mother's Garden

Title: My Mother’s Garden

Author: Emila Yusof

Illustrator: Emila Yusof

Publisher: One Red Flower Press; March 30, 2010

Suitable for: 3 and up

Themes/Topics: Tropical Flowers, Insects, Gardens, 

Opening: I love playing in my mother’s garden.

Book Summary:

Follow a young girl as she explores her mother's garden with her furry friend. My Mother's Garden, is a wonderful book filled with flowers, bees, dragonflies and butterflies. Children are introduced to the names of some Malaysian tropical flowers and plants which are listed in their scientific and English common names at the back of the book. An ideal book for reading aloud and for playing 'I spy' in the outdoors as the child learns to recognize plants featured in the book!

Links to resources:

Check out the world fact book for information about Malaysia here. This link has information about ginger plants. Find more native flowers of Malaysiahere. Here are some coloring pages for a fun quiet activity. Hibiscus coloring page here and here. Have a try at these fun trivia questions here.

Why I like this book:

I loved playing in my grandmother’s garden as a little, little girl and later in my mom’s when I got a bit older. My grandmother loved to plant flowers especially roses while my mom had a vegetable garden. In “My Mother’s Garden” we follow a young Malaysian girl as she explores her mother’s exotic garden with her pet cat. You wont find your average garden variety in this garden! Much more exotic plants await to delight young children like hibiscus, ginger, frangipani and ixora. Also at the end of the book children get to learn more about the plants that are featured in the story that includes their scientific, common and Malay names.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A-Z Challenge: L is for The Librarian of Basra

Title: The Librarian of Basra

Author: Jeanette Winter

Illustrator: Jeanette Winter

Publisher: Harcourt Children’s Books; January 1, 2005

Suitable for: 4 and up

Themes/Topics: Middle East/ Iraq, Library, Bravery, Non-fiction,

“In the Koran, the first thing God said to Muhammad was ‘Read.’”

Book Summary:
Alia Muhammad Baker is a librarian in Basra, Iraq. For fourteen years, her library has been a meeting place for those who love books. Until now. Now war has come, and Alia fears that the library--along with the thirty thousand books within it--will be destroyed forever.

In a war-stricken country where civilians--especially women--have little power, this true story about a librarian's struggle to save her community's priceless collection of books reminds us all how, throughout the world, the love of literature and the respect for knowledge know no boundaries.

Links to resources:
Find a study guide at teachable moments. 4th grade lesson plan. Learning to Give has another great lesson plan with cross curricular activities. 

Why I like this book:
I love books that show true bravery and fore sight of present day women. This is a wonderful book for girls (and boys) to read and feel inspired to stand up and act for what they believe is right and for the good the community even if their action is something small. The fact that this is a true story makes it even more touching. The author does not use a bunch of words to describe what is going on. She does a great job relaying the facts about what is happening with out making it too scary or gory (as war can be very gory) We see the what and why the librarian is worried and why and how she rescues her books. The illustrations are simple but relay the message of the story perfectly. Anyone who loves and respects books will love reading this story about a brave woman who courageously protected 30,000 books, some irreplaceable, from a war’s destructive grip.