5 Ramadan surprises: Have you seen the beautiful children’s books?

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series 5 Ramadan Surprises

Ramadan Childrens books Under the Ramadan Moon and Night of the MoonRamadan children’s books.

That’s the fifth and final surprise this week. You can use the convenient index feature with this column (below) to go back through the other four surprising developments, which range from a creative Canadian idea for charitable giving—all the way to camel’s milk! The purpose of this week’s series is to wipe away stereotypes by bringing our readers news about the creative and compassionate range of Muslim culture.

Today, in Part 5, I’m arguing that a sure sign of the warmth of Muslim families is the appearance of children’s Ramadan books.

Why children’s books? They convey our traditions to future generations. In my own family, “December” never felt like “Christmas” until the children’s books emerged from our carefully packed holiday boxes. We still have several beloved editions of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and several more of The Night Before Christmas—after all, each edition has a different style of colorful illustrations! We’ve got a well-worn copy of Dr. Seuss’s fanciful tale about the Grinch. In our family, we always loved hearing my father read stories aloud before Christmas. The books he read remain among our favorites, including The Littlest Angel and a 1940, fire-engine-red, hardback edition of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer published just one year after the story debuted in a Montgomery Ward shopping promotion. (Note: I wasn’t born until 1955, but that bright-red Rudolph book and my father’s voice are among my earliest memories from the late 1950s.)

Get the point? Deep, loving, compassionate memories form around the reading of children’s books. As a journalist, when I began reporting about world religions three decades ago, I couldn’t find any books specifically about Ramadan in bookstores—period. After co-founding Read The Spirit in 2007, I helped to edit a book for adults on Ramadan: Najah Bazzy’s The Beauty of Ramadan.

Now, though, I’m thrilled to report that American parents can choose from many Ramadan children’s books in English. At Read The Spirit, we occasional recommend great children’s literature, so I have watched this Muslim genre closely. My two favorite Ramadan children’s books are shown at right.

The first is Under the Ramadan Moon, written by Sylvia Whitman and illustrated by Sue Williams. I simply love the gorgeous illustrations as the story takes us through a typical family’s experience of the fasting month. The lilting text is fun to read—and to hear: “We wait for the moon. We watch for the moon. We watch for the Ramadan moon.” I can envision children enjoying and repeating such lines.

The second is Night of the Moon: A Muslim Holiday Story, written by Hena Khan and illustrated by Julie Paschkis. While the first book tries to show us a mainstream, up-to-date family, I like the way Khan and Paschkis chose to introduce design elements from traditional Islamic art. These gorgeous details appear throughout the book, often framing the illustrations. The main character in this book is Pakistani-American, so a step away from the common stereotype that our Muslim neighbors are Arab-Americans.

Both are terrific choices for Muslim—and non-Muslim—families to enjoy with children. If you’ve read this far, you probably know the truth about terrific children’s books. It’s this: They’re fun for kids—but they’re even more fun for the adults who get to read them aloud.

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