CM . . . .
Volume VI Number 11 . . . . February 4, 2000
"Wake up, stupid" Jamal sat up and rubbed his eyes. His sister Seema stood in the doorway. "Didn't you hear Abi calling? It's time for Fajr."Eight stories form the core of Muslim Child for it is through these that Khan, herself a Muslim, attempts to share the basic tenets of Islam and to show what everyday life could be like for Muslim children, especially those living in the cultural diverse milieu of North America. In "Fajr," Jamal has difficulties dealing with the first of five daily prayers, one which requires him to rise before sunrise and to carry out an appropriate pre-prayer cleansing of his body. Nabeel, of "The Black Ghost," is worried that his non-Islamic friend, Danny, will think he and his family are "weird" should Danny ever meet his mother whose dress includes both an hijaab which covers her head and an niqaab to cover her face. The story title, "Azeeza's First Fast," suggests what Azeeza attempts to do during Ramadan, the Muslim month of feasting; however, she discovers that keeping the dawn to dusk fast is most difficult, especially when a classmate's mother brings a birthday cake to school. In "I Love Eid," a child shares the happenings of Eid, the Muslim Festival of Charity. An overseas orphanage is the setting for "Samosas!" in which the honesty of Ahmad, one of the orphans, is rewarded by his being adopted. Keeping dietary restrictions is central to "Jumbo Jelly Shoes" for Jameelah learns that the candies she has just purchased, and now cannot return, contain pork byproducts. To respond to Halima's question regarding the year of birth of Mohammad, Grandmother relates the story of "The Year of the Elephant." Finally, in "Lost at Hajj," Bilal has been part of his parents' pilgrimage to Mecca, but he has become separated from them in the throng and is now lost. Muslim Child, in addition to containing three poems by the author plus brief selections from the Quran and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, also has instructions on how to make samosas and an Eid card. Patty Gallinger's black and white illustrations, some of them full-page, serve both decorative and informational functions. Instead of Khan's interrupting her stories to explain terms, such as "adhan" or daal," the words, when first used, are presented in italics and then defined or expanded upon in brief sidebars written by Irfan Alli. Using fiction as a means to impart factual information is a challenge for an author because the story can easily become didactic. Khan generally succeeds, though, but especially in those instances in which she presents her central characters with situations involving moral decisions, such as Jamal's having to choose between sleep or early morning prayer or Jameelah's being tempted by candy containing pork byproducts, a fact about which she could feign ignorance by pretending she had not read the packaging information that listed the ingredients. Muslim Child is a must purchase for most school and public libraries lack materials which, in user-friendly fashion, speak both to Muslim and non-Muslim children about Islam.
Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in children's and YA literature in the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba.
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