CM . . .
. Volume XVIIII Number 2. . . .September 14, 2012
This picture book, in both English and Arabic, describes a little tree’s pilgrimage to Mecca. As the note to the reader on the front page explains, “The hajj is an Islamic religious pilgrimage. Going for hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam, required for those Muslims who can afford it. The hajj is a series of rituals, beginning and ending with worship at the Ka’aba [which is] a stone building covered in a black cloth, located in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.” This introduction, along with a glossary at the back, helps to explain parts of the story in further detail.
One wonders why it was a tree that wanted to make the pilgrimage, and not something that could more easily walk. The dedication indicates that the story was inspired by the author’s children, who asked “if trees were Muslim, too.” Beyond that, it could have been any animal and the effect would have been the same: anthropomorphizing something in order to make a complex religious ceremony more accessible to children. A young tree wants to make hajj but doesn’t know how it would get to Mecca. Its mother tells it to “make dua (pray)” on it. When a young man, who happens to be heading to Mecca, passes by, he offers to take the tree along. From there, they go through the steps of the ritual together. Each step is described, though explanations as to why the actions are performed are missing. Either the reader is expected to already be familiar with such things as why the head is shaved, or why they walk around the Ka’aba, or else the explanation would have been too complex and not age-appropriate. The man returns the tree to the forest and visits often.
The illustrations are simple, but clear. Labels help to identify and define various significant landmarks.
Ultimately, the entire book is more informational than story. Describing each step, each ritual, along the way, this is a simple introduction to the hajj for young children. It is very readable nonfiction rather than a strong fictional story. It definitely has its place on school and library shelves and ought to be part of any curriculum involving religion and culture. While not an inspiring story in itself, for children who want to understand the hajj, A Little Tree Goes for Hajj is a good introduction.
Barb Janicek is a Children’s Librarian with Kitchener Public Library, in Kitchener ON.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.