On the first days of Dhul Hijjah, my true love gave to me…

Okay, I know, I know. I’m totally (mis?)appropriating a Christmas song. Well, I have a past and some cultural baggage in the form of a love of all things Christmas-y that came with it. I was a Christmas-celebrationist for 16 years you know. But enough of the made up words. This year, I reappropriated some ideas to get Noora and myself in the mood for Dhul Hijjah. Because Noora heard that Eid was coming and automatically thought it was Ramadan. And when she found out that it wasn’t Ramadan or Eid yet, let’s just say that she wasn’t too happy. Thus, the need to teach her that there are two Eids and that they are different and come in different months. So the way I decided to excite her about Eid-ul-Kabir, which, unfortunately, I think is treated as the lesser Eid since it comes and goes so fast…is by borrowing an idea from my dear Sr. Amnah of Little Life of Mine…the traditional Christmas stocking stuffer idea, which I actually never participated in as a Christmas-celebrationist for all those years.

So for the past ten days of Dhul Hijjah, Noora woke up to one very bright yellow bag that I’d place in front of our fireplace and Eid lights (SIDENOTE–>The bag is bright with pictures of (Muslim) people and Arabic letters all over it…yeah, it’s such a cool bag that I kept it as souvenir from our trip to Palestine). Each day, I placed a number for the corresponding hijri date…and put one gift inside. One for each day…to remind her that these are the best ten days of the year, and that we’re giving up TV and other trivial things we do for much more important things. It worked like a charm. Not only did it help her countdown the days to Eid inshAllah…(she quickly learned that 10 signified Eid early on!), but it also helped her to not get overwhelmed by too many gifts at once. She was actually able to enjoy one gift fully each day, enjoying the specialness of that gift and that day. A lot of the gifts were items that she needed–tights, knee-highs, shoes, but there were also some fun inexpensive items in there too like glow sticks and stick-on earrings. But on the first day of Dhul Hijjah, she woke to…

The second book of the Noor Kids series

And I am absolutely smitten with this book. And so is Noora. I was actually asked to review the Noor Kids series a couple of months ago, but never quite got around to it. I was actually sent two other samples of this series, but today, I am reviewing the book that I personally purchased at ISNA. You didn’t think that Noora wouldn’t have a book on hajj with all this celebrate-holy-days-cheerleading I’ve been doing, did you?! Well, here it is! And let me tell you, if you have more than one child, you should have one for each of them because there are activities inside! .Noor Kids Go to Hajj! and the Noor Kids series in general, are a very inviting and interactive way to talk and teach about Islamic concepts and morals with children. When I first read that the books were for the ages 3 to 8, I wondered how could that be?! That’s such a big gap! But this series is actually everything you could want in a book really. Written in a comic-strip-style format, Noor Kids books are interactive, discussion-generating, and also great for independent play with the coloring, word and image search, unscrambling, etc. activities. Of course a lot of the activities are geared towards older children, but Noora was able to color, answer some questions and do a seek-and-find with images, and she’s a pretty new three-year-old. And who in that 3-8 age group doesn’t love listening to stories? One main concept is featured per book through two stories and a lot of activities. I especially loved the first story presented in this issue, “In Allah’s Orbit”. The authors had a unique way of talking about tawaf through the attraction of the planets to the sun. MashAllah, it was a unique way to introduce the solar system and the idea of centering and focusing ourselves and our attention on Allah–two things that I’ve been wanting to teach Noora–all the while presenting the concepts of hajj through tawaaf and sa’iee.

This series would be a great companion to academic study. Children learn about science, inventions, and history all the while connecting to their faith. There’s also a parent guide on the very first page that clues you into the issue’s theme and lists other resources for development of the concepts. If I were to sum up this series in one word, it would be resourceFULL. I love the illustrations and creativity–they are colorful and the renditions of actual places like the Mecca are true to life and inviting. The covers feature traditional Islamic art with mihrabs, and the characters are animals, but still look Muslim, and cute while at it! It’s soft acculturation in a very cutesy kid-friendly format, I mean what child doesn’t like animals?! Soft cuddly bears, rabbits, and lions? (Good thing they aren’t lions and tigers and bears–oh my! ;)). Moreover, having different kinds of animals as the characters solves the dilemma of being multicultural, which is always a must in my book!

Noora asked to read this book every day during the first ten days of Dhul Hijjah. She liked it so much that I had to give her one of the review copies as another gift during these first ten days (Noor Kids Discover Their Blessings). When she opened it and saw what it was, she said, “look, another book of Noor!”  Oh, and I forgot to tell you that when she saw the first book on hajj, she noticed her name on the cover and asked if it spelled her name. MashAllah. All in all, I think I will have to subscribe to this series and it’ll serve as her Muslim Highlights for Kids right now. Speaking of which, there is a Muslim Highlights of sorts that came out in the UK recently. It’s called Discover…and I’ll be published in the second issue inshAllah, so stay tuned! Meanwhile, you can get yourself a free sample of the Noor Kids series from their website.

As for other cheerleading feats, I thought I’d try to be a Cake Boss this Eid. I had the wonderful? idea of decorating cookies and brownies to make them look like Ka’abas this Eid. Yeah, I was on my feet for four hours and I’m not quite sure that they ever evolved into the wonderful pictures that I had in my head…they tasted good though! Hey, I never said I had mastered any cake decorating skills. I’ll leave my art to pencil, paper, and fibers for now! Mastering the art of cake decorating and cooking is not a part of my agenda on this blog…so I’ll focus my intentions of more-likely-to-be-achieved tasks like getting ready to make twenty gifts for the next year’s first ten days of Dhul Hijjah, since Safiyya will be old enough to kind of understand the gifting process. In the future, I’d like to put out ten bags all at once, incorporating math skills, so that Noora can tell me how many days we have left til Eid and how many Dhul Hijjah days have passed (though that may be biting off more than I can chew–can you imagine the control it would take to not try to open all those gifts at once when they are right there?!).

Whichever way, I think I’m starting a tradition that will need advance preparation in order for continuation. And maybe by then I can finish those old ka’abas that I made from paper last year and never finished. When I actually do get them hanging from the ceiling (inshAllah!), there will be a tutorial here for you. Meanwhile, I better finish this arts and crafts idea from Little Life of Mine that we started during these first ten days of Dhul Hijjah…and think of what cheerleading feat I’ll have to pull for next month–Muharram, the beginning of the Islamic calendar (<–I so need to get this girl a calendar)! Until then, Eid Mubarak!

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Book Review: Under the Ramadan Moon

It took a while to find this book.

Last year, I checked out every children’s Ramadan book that my local library system had to offer to find *the* early childhood Ramadan book for Noora’s home library. There were more Ramadan books in the secular public library system than I thought! And they covered Ramadan traditions in different places, including Kuwait, Egypt, and America! I think I ended up with a stack of twenty books…I even checked out those non-fiction titles that would be perfect for a child’s research paper on Ramadan, but all I found were runner ups to *the* early childhood Ramadan book for us.

I found Hena Khan’s Night of the Moon: A Muslim Holiday Story (2008), but I found the words to be too much for an early childhood audience…and the illustrations of the mother outside of the house didn’t reflect my views on hijab. I found Na’ima B. Robert’s Ramadan Moon (2009), and while I loved the words…I wasn’t that big a fan of those illustrations either, though I loved seeing how the moon changed from page to page as Ramadan progressed :S.

I wanted something simple, something memorable, and something that rhymed, and while the meter is off to me in certain places…

This is *the* Ramadan book for my girls in their early childhood.

I don’t know how I found it. I guess you could say I was led to it…by the grace of Allah and the process of elimination. I mean, I wasn’t finding anything I was completely enamored with at the library. I think it was actually an Amazon search that brought up this title, and I must’ve liked what I saw because I added it to my wishlist as soon as I saw a few sample pages. I didn’t buy it then though. A couple of months ago, I added it to our baby registry for Safiyya’s aqiqa, and a sweet family member (who isn’t even Muslim!) gifted it to us. Right on time for Ramadan. And ever since the very first night of Ramadan this year, Noora and I read this book before bedtime. Even Safiyya pays attention. I started reading it for the first few nights, and it’s just now the middle of Ramadan and Noora has the words mostly memorized. She is “reading” it to me. This is important–Noora, who just turned 3, had been waiting for Ramadan and knew it was coming as soon as I started to decorate the house. But she didn’t really understand what it meant and why the whole flow of the house changed during this time. Why wasn’t daddy eating with her in the day? Why were so many guests coming at night? Why was mommy cooking as if her life depended on it ;)? Why were both mommy and daddy exhausted? Why weren’t we watching TV? Why did Qur’an and incense fill the house instead? Why weren’t we eating at restaurants (as we often treat Noora to)? Why weren’t we going on as many outdoor excursions (field trips) in the hot summer heat?

I think it’s hard for young children to grasp all that Ramadan means when they can’t fully participate in its activities such as fasting all day, but they can learn from our examples and by discussing simple stories such as Sylvia Whitman’s Under the Ramadan Moon (2011). In this beautiful story, Whitman outlines the basic practices of Ramadan with the repeating refrain “under the moon, under the moon, under the Ramadan moon.” It’s not a story about someone else’s Ramadan, nor is it about the why’s and how’s of Ramadan. It’s about what we do during Ramadan–and I believe that this word choice makes all the difference. By saying what we do during Ramadan, the young reader is instantly included into the narrative of the book and able to recognize the visible actions of Ramadan–most of which he/she has already participated in! <;–Our only exception in this book is that “We [do not] crack nuts and drink hot tea under the moon.” (I’m just not much of a nut-eater, though my DH and DD are 🙂 ).20120802-163838.jpg

So this is our new tradition besides the lights, dates, and decorations. A way to visualize and conceptualize Ramadan through a special Ramadan story. And it is now the 15th day of Ramadan–the very middle–a white day when the moon is full, shining in all her glory. A perfect time to show Noora how different the moon looks from the beginning and end of the month when it is crescent-shaped. (By the way, the moon changes with time throughout this book, too! Yippee!) Cuz lately, I’ve been trying to gently expand Noora’s sense of time…minutes, days, and now months, and while she doesn’t quite know what 15 minutes is and exactly what day it is everyday, she does know that it’s Ramadan and it entails certain actions. And though all of Noora’s questions of “why” aren’t specifically answered in this book, she recognizes that Ramadan is a special time of devotion and it is the main reason and answer to her questions. Ramadan is what we do as Muslims. “We wait for the moon./We watch for the moon./We watch for the Ramadan moon.” And when it’s gone, “We live our faith until next year/under the moon,/under the moon,/under the Ramadan moon.”

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P.S. In my search, I did find *the* Ramadan books for Noora and Safiyya when they’re upper elementary school age inshAllah–Mary Matthews’ Magid Fasts for Ramadan (1996), Asma Mobin-Uddin’s A Party in Ramadan (2009) and The Best Eid Ever (2007), and Ann P. El Moslimany’s Zaki’s Ramadhan Fast (1994). Great books, get them for your library too! More on them later as the girls grow up, inshAllah…under the moon, under the moon, under the Ramadan moon.

 

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