sowing seeds of peace and refuge…some thoughts and book lists

vilage menIf 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 Djibril and Gretabananas?”  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 mama rochellewhen 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 Muslim-and-Christian-Girls-1000x1024-e1430827324469own. 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:

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*Deep in the Sahara
A Mauritanian girl longs to wear a veil like her mama.


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*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.

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*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.

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*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.

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*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.

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*Mansa Musa: The Lion of Mali
The story of perhaps the wealthiest man in the history of the world.

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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 cover image*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.
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*Mystery Bottle
An Iranian grandpa and his grandson long to be together.

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*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.

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*Nasreen’s Secret School
A courageous story of educating girls under the Taliban.



*Night of the Moon: A Muslim Holiday Story, by Hena Khan, illustrated by Julie Paschkis, published in 2008 by Chronicle Books

Yasmeen loves all the celebrations and traditions of the month of Ramadan.

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*A Party in Ramadan
, by Asma Mobin-Uddin, illustrated by Laura Jacobsen, published in 2009 by Boyds Mill Press
A birthday party during Ramadan presents a challenge for a young girl. Ages 5 and up.

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*Ramadan Moon, by Na’ima B. Robert, illustrated by Shirin Adl, published in 2009 by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

A walk through the practices of the month of Ramadan. Ages 4 and up.

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*Razia’s Ray of Hope
A girl yearns for schooling in Afghanistan.

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*Sundiata: Lion King of Mali
A dazzling story of the ancient Mali empire.

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*Time to Pray, by Maha Addasi, Arabic Translation by Nuha Albitar, illustrated by Ned Gannon, published in 2010 by Boyds Mill Press

The practice of prayer in Islam. Ages 4 and up.

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*Traveling Man:The Journey of Ibn Battuta
The fascinating travels of a medieval Muslim.

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*The White Nights of Ramadan, by Maha Addasi, illustrated by Ned Gannon, published in 2008 by Boyds Mill Press
A story about the celebrations mid-way through Ramadan. Ages 5 and up.

Books about the refugee experience:

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The Arrival
Powerful graphic novel about bewildering newness.

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Children Growing Up With War
, written and illustrated by Jenny Matthews, published in 2014 by Candlewick
Heartbreaking true stories from a photojournalist. Fantastic read for ages 11 to adult.

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The Day My Father Became a  Bush
An affecting story of flight amid war.

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*Four Feet Two Sandals
A sweet story from a refugee camp.

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*Hamzat’s Journey
The true story of one Chechnyan refugee.

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Home of the Brave
A marvelous novel of a Sudanese refugee to Minnesota.

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The House of Sixty Fathers
Incredible novel of a little Chinese boy during WWII.

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*How Many Days to America
A harrowing journey across the Caribbean to the U.S.

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*I’m New Here, written and illustrated by Anne Sibley O’Brien, published in 2015 by Charlesbridge

Guatemalan, Korean, and Somali immigrant children cope with their arrival in U.S. schools. Ages 5 and up.

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Inside Out and Back Again
The moving story of a Vietnamese refugee.

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A Long Walk to Water
The story of one of Sudan’s Lost Boys.

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*Mali Under the Night Sky
A young girl’s flight from Laos.

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The Red Pencil
A story of one girl’s trauma at the hands of Sudanese rebels.

A few golden favorites inspiring kindness, compassion, empathy, all with links to my full reviews:

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*Boxes for Katje

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*A Chair for My Mother

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*Chicken Sunday

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*Christmas Eve at the Mellops

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*Crow Boy

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*Emma’s Poem:The Voice of the Statue of Liberty

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Gus and Grandpa and the Christmas Cookies

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The Hundred Dresses

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*If You Plant a Seed

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*The Junkyard Wonders

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*Last Stop on Market Street

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*My Heart Will Not Sit Down

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Twenty and Ten

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