If you follow Orange Marmalade you know that when my children were small, our family lived in West Africa. Nearly everyone in that vast, dusty land was a Muslim.
These were the people who welcomed us in when we were strangers. Patiently put up with me when I could not figure out how to ask, “How much for the bananas?” Danced for joy when our daughter was born. Sat with us in comforting solidarity when we were violently robbed. Shared with us out of their poverty. Loved my kids with warm hearts when we were far from extended family. Rejoiced with us when our daughter survived cerebral malaria.
Here in Minneapolis, we have become friends with some from that same Muslim community and once again, their generosity, faithful friendship, readiness to overlook our faults, makes them some of our dearest, truest friends.
So, as you can imagine, I am outraged and deeply saddened by the xenophobic, anti-Muslim rhetoric spewing around our country these weeks. Not only by the vociferous voices of a sad number of guys with microphones, but by the bleating chorus of those who applaud them. Truly, my heart is crushed. Yet hopeful, too. It is beautiful to hear so many stand to denounce these fear mongering notions.
We must teach our children, and remind ourselves, how to welcome the stranger, show hospitality to those far from familiar faces and homes, comfort those whose lives have been shattered by violence, live in peace with those whose beliefs are other than our own. We must teach our kids to listen, to learn from, and to empathize with people who look, speak, behave, eat, dress, pray, differently than we do. What richness there is in the diverse cultures of the worldwide human race.
Every day is always the right time to plant seeds of kindness and peaceableness in kids’ hearts. Reading others’ stories is one place to begin. To that end, I’ve pulled together some titles. Those I’ve reviewed before are linked to their full reviews. The others I’m only mentioning so this blog does not run on far too long BUT they are great choices. I’ve marked the picture books with an asterisk:
Books about Islam/Islamic Cultures:
*Deep in the Sahara
A Mauritanian girl longs to wear a veil like her mama.
*Going to Mecca, by Na’ima B. Robert, illustrated by Valentina Cavallini, published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books in 2012
Great guided tour of all the events of a hajj for ages 5 and up.
*The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews During the Holocaust, by Karen Gray Ruelle, illustrated by Deborah Durland DeSaix, published in 2009 by Holiday House
Fascinating history of heroism for ages 8 to adult.
*I See the Sun in Afghanistan, by Dedie King, translation into Dari by Mohd Vahidi, illustrations by Judith Inglese, published in 2011 by Satya House Publications
A look at an ordinary day for a family of Afghani Muslims. Ages 4 and up.
*Lailah’s Lunchbox:A Ramadan Story, by Reem Faruqi, illustrated by Lea Lyon, published in 2015 by Tilbury House Publishers
A young girl wrestles with keeping the fast during school. Ages 5 and up.
*Mansa Musa: The Lion of Mali
The story of perhaps the wealthiest man in the history of the world.
*Mosque, written and illustrated by David Macaulay, published in 2003 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Macaulay is a master at teaching us how things are made. Ages 11 to adult.
*My Name was Hussein, by Hristo Kyuchukov, illustrated by Allan Eitzen, published in 2004 by Boyds Mill Press
A fascinating story about a Roma Muslim family in Bulgaria during WWII. Ages 5 and up.
An Iranian grandpa and his grandson long to be together.
*Nabeel’s New Pants: An Eid Tale, retold by Fawzia Gilani-Williams, illustrations by Proiti Roy, published in India in 2007; published by Marshall Cavendish in 2010
A funny tale about dressing up for Eid. Ages 3 and up.
*Nasreen’s Secret School
A courageous story of educating girls under the Taliban.
Thanks so much, Jill, for your beautiful words and passion in this post. I appreciate also, the encouraging words of action you’ve called us to in sowing seeds of peace, refuge and hope in our kids. The Asp family stands with you!
Thanks, Jen. It means so much to have kindred spirits like you in my life!
I hope that this blog post will find a huge audience. Your wonderful pictures and experiences are exactly what Americans need to see. I am eager to explore the extensive book suggestions. Thank you so much for sharing. I feel as though I have been given a real gift.
Thank you for your kind words. The work of these authors and illustrators is likewise a gift to me.
“What richness there is in the diverse cultures of the worldwide human race.” Amen!
Thanks so much for this impassioned call, and for including I’M NEW HERE on this beautiful list; so honored for it to be in the company of these titles.
I’d also like to share another book I illustrated about a Muslim American family, this one from Iran, written by Iranian Kurdish author Reza Jalali: MOON WATCHERS: SHIRIN’S RAMADAN MIRACLE.
Readers can find many more books about immigrants and refugees at I’m Your Neighbor Books: imyourneighborbooks.org
Thanks, Anne, and thank you for your recommendations. I’m ordering Moon Watchers from my library immediately.
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