Thursday, June 28, 2012

Recommended Picture Book: Allah To Z

Title: Allah to Z

Author: Sam'n Iqbal

Illustrator: Lina Safar

Publisher: Broyhill Publication LLC; June 1, 2012

Theme: Islam, Muslim, Alphabets

Age: 3 and up

A is for Allah, the Most Gracious One.
Allah made the earth, the moon and the sun.
The birds and the bees, the wind in the trees.
Allah created for you and me.

Book Summary:
From Allah to Zakat, children of all faiths will delight in these 26 rhymes that introduce Islam in a fun, contemporary way. Coupled with bright illustrations from award-winning artist Lina Safar, each page will capture kids’ attention and open a window into Muslim culture and history.

Visit the author website for a variety of coloring pages to download and color.

Why I like this book:
Masha Allah! This was a really nice alphabet book! The first of its kind to be honest that I have learned about. As a teacher I have read many different alphabet books using a variety of themes but this one was refreshingly unique to Islamic culture. The illustrations are fun, warm and whimsical. It is definitely a must have in any Muslim child's home library. More importantly, it can even be used in a non-Muslim setting be it home, library or school to help introduce the meaning of a variety of Islamic vocabulary to children and adults from different backgrounds. I highly recommend this book!

Author Interview: Rania Marwan

Laila's interest in an unexpected topic opens up the doors to an unexpected lesson. After a quick fleeting thought to do something she had never thought of doing before, a new friend flies into the scene to save her day!

As Salaamu Alaikum and Welcome.  I would love to introduce you to author, Rania Marwan and her book, Laila and Pesto the Fly.  

Welcome Rania, please tell us a little bit about yourself?
  I am the proud mother of three kids, two beautiful girls 13 and 11 years old, and a 4 year old young boy, and I consider this to be my greatest accomplishment in life.  I had my Bachelor's degree in Economics in 1998 and my Masters degree in Public Administration in 2005 both from the American University in Cairo.
What were your earliest memories of writing?
 My earliest memories in writing were in my 6th grade, we were writing a short story as an in-class assignment, and the next day my English teacher (Miss Gillian) called my name and the whole class clapped their hands because of my well written story.  I remember my teacher's words very clearly, she said: "Rania, this is very good".  I also used to write my diary, and was very good at communicating with the rest of the family via letters (hahaha!).
What was your favorite children’s book growing up?
  I do not remember a favorite children's book as I grew up, but I would have to say that my father's limitless imagination, and the stories that he told me when I was young would have to be the main source of inspiration to me, and were it compiled in a single children's book, that would have been my favorite one.
Were you encouraged to write or was it something that came natural?
  I was not encouraged to write, it just came natural, I could always express myself better in writing.
What inspired you to write "Laila and Pesto the Fly "?
My daughters inspired me to write "Laila and Pesto the Fly".  I was looking for a way to convey to them the beauty of Islamic ethics in a non-conventional fictional way, and so I decided to write a story in an attempt to grasp their attention towards the beauty of Islam.  I ended up writing "Laila and Pesto the Fly" but I did not know what to do with the story, one day I decided to send it to a fellow member in MWA (Muslimah writer's Alliance), Sister Isahah, and she was kind enough to tell me about my current publisher (Creative Education and Publishing).
Tell us a little bit about your story?
Laila and Pesto the Fly is a story about a young girl who was on the verge of cheating on her Math test, but due to the intervention of a devoted fly, she refrained from doing so, and was taught a lovely lesson about the hadith that said: "He that deceives us is not one of us." 
What has the road to publishing your books been like for you? Does it ever get easier?
The road was not very bumpy. I am a strong believer that if one's intentions were purely for the sake of Allah, then everything will go as smooth as can be.  "Laila and Pesto the Fly" remained on my desktop for a whole year, I never gave up, and I never felt bad about the lack of response from the different publishers around the world that I sent the story to.  It took only one e-mail to sister Isahah Grant, and it was my breakthrough IHL.  The story was published, the director of MWA Sister Aishah Schwartz graciously invited me to share my story on Al Jazeerah channel, and I became one very satisfied writer.  I only ask Allah swt to accept all the deeds for his sake only, and none other, and assist me in making a minuscule difference in this world ISA.
What do you hope children and adults will take away from your book?
I ask Allah swt that children and adults would come to realize that Islam is a religion of ethics, and that our Islamic heritage is full of rich stories that support this.  I wish I could help in conveying that message in a fun, interesting, intriguing way. 
How can your book be used in the classroom?
The world is full of cutting edge technologies that are used as substitutes to the good old method of holding a book and just simply reading it.  The simple process of reading and letting one's imagination loose and transforming the words into mind images is irreplaceable, and very educative.  
What do you feel is the most challenging obstacle in the publishing industry?
I would have to say it is marketing the books, and getting the greatest amount of people to benefit from them. 
What has been your most rewarding experience since being published?
The most rewarding experience for me is to know that I can get people young and old to appreciate the beauty of Islam. 
What do you do when you’re not writing or promoting your books?
I read. I love reading! 
Are you working on a new book?
My books are a part of a series on Islamic ethics, and every book talks about a specific theme, so I am currently preparing for the fourth book, and waiting for the release of the third one ISA 

What advice would you give parents on selecting the right books for their children to read?
I would advise them to have a clear vision of the message that they want to convey to their kids through the book, and definitely read it themselves. 
What advice would you like give to new writers who wish to follow in your publishing footsteps?
My advice would be since you have a bigger purpose in life which is to serve Allah SWT, so never give up, just keep on pushing and trying and knocking on all the doors that you can find, you are bound to find a way through :)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Teaser Tuesday (1)

Today's teaser is from a picture book called I Love My Hijab by Fatimah Ashaela Moore Ibrahim.

Hadiyah is so happy to be a new Muslim, but it does come with a few changes. Hadiyah learns that she will now dress a little differently than before. Mama buys her some new hijabs, and Hadiyah wears them all weekend. But Monday is school day.

What will her friends say? Will she now be the odd one out? Or will they accept her new appearance?

Find out in this lovely story about faith, change, and confidence. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Recommended Picture Book: Zaahir & Jamel At The Mosque

Title: Zaahir & Jamel At The Mosque

Author: Amatullah AlMarwani

Illustrator: Sudha Choudhary

Publisher: Goodword Books; 2003 reprinted 2010

Age: 4 and up

Zaahir and Jamel are friends fast and true
Where one goes, the other goes too!

With a brand-new adventure each and every day
They invite you to join their fun along the way.

Today they are going to the Masjid for prayer
Let's watch and learn what happens there....


This early reader rhyming series is based upon a young Muslim boy (Zaahir) and his 
furry friend (Jamel the Camel). Come along with them and experience the pleasure and 
joy of this beautiful ride to the mosque. Learning about Islam will be more fun than ever 
with your Muslim pals Zaahir and Jamel the Camel 

The book includes lots of activities like an Islamic quiz, puzzle, Arabic activity, glossary and more at the end of the story.

Why I like this book:
I really like rhyming books and the author, Amatullah AlMarwani does a wonderful job weaving a fun and lyrical tale about a boy and his camel friend as they visit the mosque. Young children will learn and experience the pleasure and joy that Zaahir and Jamel has while there. I love that there are activities included at the end of the book that reinforces what they learned in a fun way.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Recommended Picture Book: Hind's Hands a story about autism

Title: Hind’s Hands A Story About Autism
Author: Umm Juwayriyah and Juwayriyah Ayed
Illustrator: Emma Apple
Publisher: Muslim Writers Publishing; April 3, 2012
Suitable for: 4 and up
Themes/Topics: Autism, Siblings,  Coping Skills, Disabilities: Autism
As salamu alykum! My name is Juwayriyah and I am nine years old. I have a little sister named Hind! She's almost five and boy, is she something else.
Book Summary:
Hind’s Hands is a story told by a big sister who learns coping skills to befriend and lead her autistic younger sister. "You see, my sister Hind has Autism. And I know that sounds like a really big word, but it's not. Autism just means that Allah made her to learn and act and think differently than other kids her age." In the story Hind's Hands, big sister Juwayriyah learns just how special her younger sister is, despite the challenging behaviors that she often has to deal with. Author Umm Juwayriyah collaborates with her oldest daughter, Juwayriyah Ayed on this book to help spread awareness about Autism.
Links to resources:
I could not find any resources from the author’s site but here are some links for more information about autism. What is Autism? Here are ten facts about autism. KidsHealth is a wonderful site that explains Autism to children using simple language and facts. Autism Speaks is another site with great resources for people with autism including apps. Home-schooling has many activities including a word search, coloring pagesone & twovocabularycrossword puzzlefill in the blank Q&A, bookmarks and more.  
Why I like this book:
What I really like about this book is that while it gives some general information about autism it does not generalize autism. You can't generalize autism. How one child or person with autism behaves is different than how another may. Yes, there are some characteristics that they all share, but they are just as much individuals as the rest of us. My oldest brother has autism and while he also has many characteristics as Hind, he is also very much different and his technique of calming himself is different. This is a VERY sweet tale about a sibling and how she learns to deal with her younger sibling with a disability. I commend the authors for sharing their story of love, patience, family and autism.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Recommended Picture Book: The Color of Us

Title: The Color of Us 

Author: Karen Katz 

Illustrator: Karen Katz 

Publisher: Owlet Paperbacks; October 1, 2002 

Suitable for: 4 and up 

Themes/Topics: Multiculturalism, Diversity awareness, Acceptance 

Opening: My name is Lena, and I am the seven I am the color of cinnamon. Mom says she can eat me up. 

Book Summary: Seven-year-old Lena is going to paint a picture of herself. She wants to use brown paint for her skin. But when she and her mother take a walk through the neighborhood, Lena learns that brown comes in many different shades. Through the eyes of a little girl who begins to see her familiar world in a new way, this book celebrates the differences and similarities that connect all people. 

Links to resources: 

Before and After activities from Teach Peace Now   
Lesson on Diversity: Similarities and Differences 

Why I like this book: 

This book is a “magically delicious” tale that celebrates diversity in our homes and communities. I love how the author uses tasty and yummy comparisons to showcase the variety of tones and hues of our skin like 'creamy peanut butter' 'cinnamon' and 'chocolate'. This book is great not just for biracial or children of color but every child will love the bold illustrations as they follow Lena as she moves about her community.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Recommended Picture Book: Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters

Title: Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale

Author: John Steptol

Illustrator: John Steptol

Publisher: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books; March 31, 1987

Suitable for: 3 and up

Themes/Topics: Folktale, Places & Culture: Africa, Honesty, Kindness, Good Character


A Long Time Ago, in a certain place in Africa, a small village lay across a fiver and half a day’s journey from a city where a great king lived. A man named Mufaro lived in this village with his two daughters, who were called Manyara and Nyasha. Everyone agreed that Manyara and Nyasha were very beautiful.

Book Summary:

Both of Mufaro's daughters are beautiful but one is bad tempered and one is kind. When the king of the land asks the daughters to appear before him so he can choose a queen, the prideful, bad tempered daughter decides to set out in the night so she can get there first. Along the path are many opportunities to show one's true character. The kind daughter who follows the same path the next day makes different decisions - with different results and a surprising ending!

Links to resources:

Create a story map

Scholastic Lesson Plan

Lesson Plan with before and after activities

Discussion points at Learning to Give
Why I like this book:

This is another book from my childhood. What stood out the most for me were the illustrations and how they captured the imagination and transported me to Mufaro’s village somewhere in Africa. Naturally, Nyasha was my favorite character; she was sweet, kind (she let her sister live in the palace with her) and so pretty AND she marries the king in the end! Who does not like happy endings!?! :D

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Reading Survey

Salaam and Greetings!

Parents, Teachers and Children Welcome!!!!

The following questions focus on the literacy and reading habits of school-age children. The results of this survey will hopefully help me form a better understanding of how children view reading, ideas to help encourage and promote their love of reading and fun ways to improve reading habits for the reluctant readers. I appreciate your participation and cooperation and I look forward to hearing from you! :)

Click on the link to find the Reading Survey.

Thank you
The Family-Ship Team!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Book Giveaway! Sameerah's Hijab and The First Day of School

It's a book giveaway! 

Fill out the for below for a chance to win a copy of Sameerah's Hijab and the First Day of School. Check out my review of the book here.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Author Interview: Janette Grant: Sameerah's Hijab and The First Day of School

As Salaamu Alaikum and Welcome.  I would love to introduce you to author, Janette Grant and her book, Sameerah's Hijab and The First Day of School. Janette is also a blogger and writer for 
Please tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Janette Grant and I am a revert to Islam. I converted to Islam in April of 1998 after having been a practicing born-again Christian.
What was your favorite children’s book growing up?
Tiki Tiki Tembo by Arlene Mosel. I think what I really loved most was the little song of Tiki Tiki Tembo’s full name from the book. As I got older I enjoyed reading Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume books.
Were you encouraged to write or was it something that came natural?
It was something that came naturally to me. I have always been very shy and find it easier to express myself through my writing.
What inspired you to write your book "Sameerah's Hijab and The First Day of School"?
My son was the inspiration behind Sameerah’s Hijab and the First Day of School and I had originally submitted the story to the publisher as a story about a little boy and wearing his kufi for the first day of school. When my son started school in kindergarten, we had to enroll him in a public school and he would come home and tell me how his classmates would ask him questions about his kufi and that some of his friends asked if I would make kufis for them. It was only after having discussions with the publisher that he suggested that the story may reach more readers if we changed the story to tell about a girl and her hijab on the first day of school.
Why do you feel this topic is important for any girl to read?
I feel this topic is important for the sake understanding one another and for exposing the shared values that many of us have in society. I also think that it is important for providing an accurate representation of Muslims and Islam for children and people living in the West who may not know anything about Islam and its practices.
What was the most difficult part of writing your story?
The most difficult part for me was keeping it short enough for a child to read but filled with enough information that would inform and entertain at the same time. It was most challenging to maintain the balance between sharing accurate knowledge and entertaining the reader within the page restrictions for content. There always seemed to be more that I could say or write concerning the topics addressed.
What do you hope that readers will take away from your book?
I hope that readers will take away an appreciation for the beauty of Islam and an open heart concerning Muslims and Islam; and especially for hijabis. Wearing the hijab is both an act of faith and an act of courage when living in a society where wearing the hijab is often thought of as foreign and I hope that this book will help others to be more compassionate towards girls and women who wear the hijab.
What has your publishing journey for this book like?
It has been very exciting and rewarding. Seeing my story in print lends a certain element authenticity to my efforts and it has been a very gratifying endeavor.
What has been your most rewarding experience since being published?
My most rewarding experience was receiving an email message from a sister who has a copy of the book and who has said that she reads it to her two daughters often and that they love it. It choked me up to read the email because that is one of the things that I had hoped for: that little Muslims could enjoy a story that was written essentially about them and for them and their peers.
Is there anything you wish you had known about the publishing industry before you became a published author?
No, not at this moment. I have been blessed to have had a very positive experience with the publisher of my book.
How do you deal with a bad review?
I take the criticism with meekness and try not to take it personally. Every bad review is a learning experience one way or another.
What do you do when you’re not writing or promoting your books?
I work from home in the telecommunications industry and crochet in my free time. I also love to read and try to read regularly.
Are you working on a new book?
Yes, I am currently working on my first fiction book for adult readers. I hope to have it published sometime in the near future.
How can your book be used in the classroom?
My book can be used in the classroom in a social studies class to highlight diversity and to reveal information about Islam as well as showcasing how easy it is for children to get along when they understand one another.
What advice would you give parents on selecting the right books for their children to read?
I would say to research the available books for your children first before committing to purchasing, only because there is so much of a wide variety of books. There are lots of resources available at local bookstores, public libraries and online to help in the selection of good and beneficial books for young minds.
Thank you so much Janette for joining us today and sharing your publishing journey with us. For more info about Janette and her book, check out the links below.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Recommended Picture Book: Sameerah's Hijab and the First Day of School

Title: Sameerah's Hijab and the First Day of School

Author: Janette Grant

Illustrator: Fatimah Ashaela Moore

Publisher: Creative Education and Publishing

Topics/Theme: hijab, new school, friendship, making new friends, people & cultures: Yemen

Age: 4 and up

Sameerah has moved to the United States from Yemen and has brought a treasured portion of her culture with her. in this story about a little girl's love for her hijab, see how not only she shares her culture with new friends but also how she learns about her new home and classmates. 

Learn fast and interesting facts about Yemen. Check out more facts here. Locate Yemen on the map.
Make your own hijab

Why I like this book:
We have all, at some time in our lives, had to leave behind old friends and places to experience new ones whether going to a new neighborhood, school, city, state, or country. In this story, Sameerah must learn to adjust to a new country and school when she and her parents arrive to the US from Yemen. Sameerah is not sure if she will fit in at her new school. Sameerah faces her fears head on as she teaches her new classmates all about her culture and hijab. But Sameerah does more than just share her religious and cultural background, she also learns about the religious and cultural backgrounds of her classmates. She makes friends with a couple of girls who are impressed with her hijab and the fact that her mother sews them. :) A great book to encourage young girls going into school who may or may not wear hijab but still would like to share their culture, religion and heritage with others.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Recommended Picture Book: Too Young for Yiddish

Title: Too Young for Yiddish

Author: Richard Michelson

Illustrator: Neil Waldman

Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing; February 1, 2002

Suitable for:  6 and up

Themes/Topics: People & Cultures: Jews, Language: Yiddish, Grandfather & Grandsons, Preserving heritage and language,

All afternoon, Aaron helped carry-or shlep, as his grandpa, Zayde, called it-boxes of books up the apartment-house staris.

Book Summary:
When Aaron is a small boy, his Grandpa, or Zayde, does not teach him Yiddish, but when Aaron becomes an adult he longs to learn the language and history of the Old Country from Zayde and his many books.

Links to resources:
The author provides a brief history of the Yiddish language and a glossary of words at the end of the book. These words can be turned into word searches, flash cards and more.

Why I like this book:
This is a great book that teaches the importance of preserving languages and cultures. I find many young people these days (myself included) do not speak their mother or father tongue (my dad’s language being Amharic). For whatever reason many parents and grandparents have for not passing on their history and language, I think in the end it does the youth a dis-service not knowing their past and the rich heritage, history, traditions and respect that comes with knowing the language of the “Old Country” whether that country is in Africa, Asia or Europe. Language is a part of knowing who you are and where you come from. I am happy that in the end, Aaron sees the importance and chooses to teach his son Yiddish while he is still young. While this book is in English, it is unique in its representation of the Yiddish language. It is bounded back to front the same way Yiddish books are printed. While it was not an uncommon experience for me, as the Qur’an, the Muslim’s holy book, is printed the same way, it was fun to read an English book printed in that format.