Once Upon an Eid: Stories of Hope and Joy by 15 Muslim Voices edited by S. K. Ali and Aisha Saeed, illustrated by Iman Rasheed (9781419740831)
Edited by two award-winning Muslim authors, this collection of short stories focus upon the celebration of Eid. The stories come from a variety of Muslim sects, cultures and backgrounds, offering a beautiful look at the expansive nature of the Muslim religion. The stories keep a focus on eleven and twelve year olds, many of whom are just starting to fast and many who discover the deeper meaning of Eid as they find a path through fasting as well. The stories also deal with deep issues such as divorce, friendships, hijabs, generosity, and family dynamics. At their heart though, each one is a positive force about seeing possibilities anew, finding ways to connect with one another, and pure joy.
The different voices and perspectives here provide a rainbow of experiences for children who are Muslim to relate to and those who are not to more deeply understand this religion. The positivity is uplifting and lovely to read, particularly during a pandemic. I don’t think it could have been better timed, frankly.
A winner of a short-story anthology, take hope and joy from this book. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy provided by Amulet.
A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi (9780062866561)
In the year after the 9/11 attack, Shirin starts yet another new school. At 16, she is in high school and is the only girl in her new school who wears a hijab. Shirin knows what she is in for and comes to school every day braced for both full-faced insults and microaggressions. She tends to ignore everyone, taking advantage of the way her hijab can hide her earbuds so that she can listen to music even in class. But even though she is determined to ignore everyone, people still enter her life. Part of it is her brother starting a breakdancing club that Shirin joins. And then there is Ocean, a white boy who wants to get to know Shirin and can see past her headwear to really see her as a person. But Shirin knows what the world is like and how it will turn against them both if they pursue their feelings for one another. Could the risk be worth it?
Mafi, known for her Shatter Me series, turns to realism and romance in this new book. Her writing is interesting because to make this work for white readers, she has to talk directly about the microaggressions that Shiring experiences and then also about how that makes Shirin feel. Her writing works beautifully and her directness is a strength. Part way through the book, the drama builds alongside the romance into a terrifying mix of love and xenophobia.
The anger of Shirin creates a strong and remarkable heroine. There is no way to read this book without deeply relating to Shirin and her experiences, that includes understanding her fierce defensiveness and rage at the world. Shirin is truly the center of the novel which is a great mix of breakdancing, romance, anger, and defiance. Her relationship with her family is complicated and honest, as is her first romantic relationship. It’s all complicated and wonderfully so.
A fierce heroine faces racism alongside romance in this gripping novel for teens. Appropriate for ages 13-17.
Reviewed from library copy.
The winners of the 2017 Arab-American Book Awards have been announced. The awards include a category for best Children/Young Adult book. Here is the winner and the honorable mentions for that category:
The Treasure of Maria Mamoun by Michelle Chalfoun
Balcony on the Moon: Coming of Age in Palestine by Ibstisam Barakat
The Three Lucys by Hayan Charara
Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan, illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Rubina has been invited to her very first birthday party and is elated. Until she tells her mother about it and her mother insists that she takes her little sister, Sana, or else she can’t go. Rubina tries to explain that here the kids don’t bring their little siblings to a birthday party, but her mother won’t budge. Sana is the only little sister at the party, but it isn’t so bad. Each girl gets a bag of party favors to take home and there is a big red lollipop for each of them. Sana eats hers right away, and Rubina saves hers in the refrigerator until the next morning. But when she wakes up eager for a taste, she discovers that Sana has helped herself to it!
A story based on Khan’s own childhood, this book perfectly captures the differences between families of various cultures and backgrounds. Rubina is simply expected to take her younger sister with her. And then she is expected to forgive her sister and share her lollipop. The wonderful piece of the book is when Rubina stands up for her younger sister at the end and helps convince her mother that Sana doesn’t have to bring their even younger sister to her first birthday party.
Illustrated with great style, the Arab-American culture is depicted here with real warmth. The illustrations have a creamy background color against which the characters and their expressive faces really pop. The relationships between the characters are strong and interesting. The final result of Rubina’s kindness rings true and is very satisfying.
This is a beauty of a book with multicultural elements and a strong story and style. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Viking.