Saturday, June 30, 2012

What's Basbusa reading? (Ramadan Edition)

So it's nearly Ramadan again insha'Allah, and the girls and I are all getting excited! I think I've checked out every Ramadan-related picture book in the entire metro-Boston library network over the past four years, but I haven't found all that many that we're really crazy about - it's nothing like the vast array of Christmas-related picture books that spill off the shelves in the library. We do have two favorites, though, which have now become part of our Ramadan traditions:

Under the Ramadan Moon is both Basbusa's and my favorite so far. It describes the practices and traditions that are part of every Ramadan, in preschooler-friendly language with beautiful illustrations. Basbusa likes all the opportunities it gives us to say, "just like we do, right, Mama?", as we reminisce about Ramadan last year, and she excitedly looks forward to the Ramadan that's about to begin isA. The book mentions fasting, breaking the fast as a community, visiting friends and family, watching for the crescent moon, giving in charity, going to the mosque, and hanging lanterns, among other things, and the illustrations manage to convey the joy and peace of the season. I also like that it seems to be set in the US (or somewhere in the West, anyway) - it's always good to have pictures confirming that being Muslim and being American go perfectly well together :) It's absolutely a book which is describing the experience of Ramadan, rather than trying to convey the underlying religious basis for it, but for Basbusa's age, I think that's just fine (and there is one page at the end, explaining what Ramadan is and why and how it is celebrated). The only thing that's slightly odd is that the mom in the family wears her headscarf in every single picture, even when she's at home in her own living room, but that's a small detail, and Basbusa didn't notice.

Our other favorite is Ramadan Moon, a book I've written about before. We still like it as much as we always have, but I'm surprised to notice that when I described it two years ago, I didn't mention the fact that most of the language was waaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyy over my daughter's head. And it must have been, because she was only two then, and it's still beyond her now, at almost-four! Maybe I hadn't started reading English to her at all yet, so I just translated everything into toddler-level Arabic? In any case, the text is still too advanced, but there's lots to discuss in the illustrations ("Look, Mama, the children are still playing in the park, even though it's night time! It's because it's Ramadan! Can we do that too?").

Since giving to the poor is one major part of Ramadan, I've also been seeking out books about poverty, of which Basbusa doesn't really have much of a concept yet. Her two favorites so far are The Teddy Bear, about a boy who ends up giving his bear to a homeless man, and Two Sandals, Four Feet, about the friendship between two Afghan girls living in a refugee camp in Pakistan. The plot of The Teddy Bear was somewhat unlikely, in my opinion, but Basbusa didn't seem to question it. She focused on the tale of the bear lost and found, and enjoyed it, while I liked that it presented a homeless man realistically but sympathetically, and not as something to be feared. It showed his daily rounds of the trash cans, for example, simply as part of his daily routine, rather than sugar-coating his situation or dwelling heavily and explicitly on his plight. Not the best book we've ever read, but it was more or less what I was looking for.

Two Sandals, Four Feet was a truly touching book, about two girls who shared one precious pair of yellow-and-blue flip-flops, the only footwear they owned. Basbusa did enjoy the book and has asked for several repeats, but I think she'll get more out of it maybe two years from now. For now, she appreciated that the two girls had made friends, and that their friendship helped them and strengthened them in their difficult circumstances, and that it was sad that they had to say goodbye at the end. But she didn't quite understand how hard the girls' lives really were, or how much they had lost, or how much the friendship meant to them as a consequence. I don't think she quite appreciated how generous it was of the girls to agree to share the shoes, given how few possessions they had and how badly they both needed them. But at least now when we're donating to charities catering to refugees, I will be able to tell Basbusa that it's for children like Feroza and Lina, and she will have some idea what I mean. 

Linking up with Read-Aloud Thursday and What My Child is Reading.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review of these great books. I will probably pick some of them when Anna asks for a Muslim country to study. Thanks for joining WMCIR!