Author: Qasim Rashid
Illustrator: Aaliya Jaleel
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Topics: Ramadan, Good Deeds
The debut picture book by author and human rights activist Qasim Rashid that celebrates good deeds during the month of Ramadan.
It’s the first day of Ramadan and Hannah wants to be a part of this important month every way she can. But if she’s too young to fast, how can she observe Ramadan? By saving the world, Dada Jaan tells her. And so Hannah learns that by helping her friends and neighbors and by showing kindness and generosity, she can make the world a better place.
Why I like it:
- Its a book that represents South Asian/Brown/Desi muslim families.
- There’s a variety of good deeds relatable and doable by children. Hannah donates cans to the soup kitchen, helps her friend Maria find her special necklace at recess (even thought she got into trouble with her teacher for being late), donated clothes at the shelter, saved her friend’s science fair project from breaking (and he won first prize), and she went to meet/play with a new neighbor.
- I love how relatable Hannah is when she asks tells her grandfather that people won’t know who donated the clothes, to which her grandfather asks “does it matter?” and goes on to tell her sometimes it’s good to help people out of love, but also mentions that all the best superheroes work in secret!
- Hannah’s project for the science fair was a model of Abbas ibn firnas’s flying machine. I absolutely LOVE it when I have to look up information from a kids book and learn something new!! Her friend Dani made a globe showing dates and flight paths for Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo around the world. So two fun informational tidbits casually put in there!
- Another example of their adorable relationship is when Dada jaan is helping Hannah with her art project! Love the illustration of him just sitting down and cutting!
- There’s lots of multicultural elements in the story- Hannah’s family is desi (there is no mention of country but at the back the author shares that he is Pakistani), her new neighbour was arab (assuming from the kanafeh), Dani and Maria and the various neighbours and school personnel in the illustrations were all from different ethnicities.
- The story also has interfaith elements where Hannah’s friends from the church and synagogue, and the Sikh family who ran the soup kitchen at the local gurdwara also came to visit her on Eid!
- The illustrations are beautiful and I love that Hannah is wearing a lengha!
Things that could be improved:
There seems to be a page missing between where Hannah’s mother tells Hannah that they’re going to their neighbour Sarah’s house, and then where Sarah and Hannah are playing. It was a little abrupt because one minute we see Hannah is reluctant to go and right after they’re playing like best friends.
On the last page, the frame in the decor says “Yeh Roz Kar Mubarak Subhana Mai Yarani” from a poem written by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. Honestly, I thought it was random calligraphy but one of the parents pointed it out as a possible concern to many.
- Make a list with your kids about the things you can do together as a family to make your neighbourhood a better place.
Right at the beginning we learn that Hannah wont be fasting this year, and asks her grandfather “but if I can’t fast, then how can I celebrate Ramadan?”
“By saving the world” replied Dada Jaan.
And that’s what the story is about – Hannah’s journey through Ramadan being kind and helping others.
Even though there’s no details about Ramadan, fasting, and why we fast it has some very unique aspects.
The main characters in the story are Hannah and her Dada Jaan (grandfather) and their loving relationship. From the first page where he wakes her up for sehri to the end where they’re racing for the last gulab jamun – it’s simply adorable!
What I found distinctive was that on Eid, after the prayer Hannah and her family visited the cemetery to remember Dadi Jaan (grandmother) and other loved ones. This is a common practice in many countries, and I have not seen it addressed/represented in a children’s book before.
Furthermore two lessons that really stuck out were:
1- Hannah points out that the world has so many people how can they help everyone, and her grandfather’s reply was that “we can help our neighbours and that’s worth the world”. It reminded me of “saving one person is like saving all of humanity”. Focusing on making your neighborhood a better place with good deeds is something we can do with our children. We can make a list of little things we can do and Inshallah do one of them a week.
2- I liked the concept that you have to put in an effort to be kind, and you may not even be appreciated/praised. For kids it can actually be hard work to be kind. Parents often tell their children to “be kind” as if it just comes naturally, but it’s something that needs to be practiced and Inshallah it’ll become ‘easy’ over time. Also young children are generally all about “me me me” and need to be guided on HOW they can be kinder. That’s why I found Hannah so relatable and liked how her grandfather gently told her how she could save the world.