Posts Tagged ‘children’s books’

71vtwf4jx0l-e1452271560982The new book from Laura Alary, Make Room: A child’s guide to Lent and Easter, has beautiful, clear writing and gorgeous illustrations from Ann Boyajian. An excellent addition to a home library or church classroom, Make Room will have children feeling enthusiasm for this very special church season.

With language that is both practical and poetic, Alary’s book satisfies the need families have for literature that inspires excitement about faith. The language is simple, leaving space for parents to expand as a child questions and grows. Yet the writing communicates its messages clearly, providing words for experiences that often are hard to articulate.

Why do we observe Lent? What is the purpose of this season? In Alary’s words,

“During Lent we make time to be with God.
Every day we talk with God in different ways.
Sometimes we pray with words.
Sometimes we sing or listen to music.
Sometimes we get out paints and crayons and create many-colored prayers.
Colors are like a different language we can all speak
Even when we have no words.
God understands.”

I highly recommend Make Room for the young people in your life. Whatever books you choose for your family, may this season bring blessings of peace and prayers into your home.

Disclaimer: This review is freely give, based on a loaned copy of the book. No fee was received.


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Yesterday I sent my daughter to the garden, asking her to please see what’s for dinner. She returned with snow peas, kale, and turnips, and together we turned these into a satisfying salad. Thoughtful child that she is, she also brought in a branch of catnip for her cat.

Before deciding on a salad, my daughter paged through Simply in Season Children’s Cookbook for inspiration and ideas, noting dishes that might make great options for our next meal. We have had a lot of fun with this cookbook, which has colorful photos and recipes that are very easy to follow. I posted a review a while ago, but with the gardening season in full swing, I feel compelled to highlight this fun and inspiring cookbook. Whether you grow your own food, shop at a farmer’s market, or visit a grocery store, these recipes will help your children prepare easy, seasonal dishes.

I appreciate that Simply in Season Children’s Cookbook inspires children to make wholesome food choices and to develop an understanding of nature’s cycles. In our home, for example, strawberries become even more special when we remember they are an early summer treat.

In a time when too many things are instant or fast-paced, books like this can help families to live values of simplicity and stewardship. Simply in Season Children’s Cookbook would make a great gift not only for families with young children, but also for camps, libraries, and religious education programs.

I welcome your comments about websites and books that inspire your family to grow and prepare food together.

Disclosure: As mentioned above, a copy of this book was received for review purposes a while ago. My original review can be read here. No fee was received for the reviews.

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In my search for children’s books with Muslim characters, I encountered the lovely volume Extraordinary Women from the Muslim World. Written by Natalie Maydell and Sep Riahi, the book contains brief biographies of 13 Muslim women, accompanied by Heba Amin’s rich paintings. The authors affirm a wish to provide an introduction to the contributions of Muslim women, and acknowledge that these biographies are but a sampling of diverse accomplishments.

Each story highlights the positive impact a women made in her community, beginning with Khadija bint Khuwaylid, the first wife of the Prophet Muhammad and the first muslimah. Women from Turkey, Indonesia, India, the Arabian peninsula, Iran, and North Africa are included, with accomplishments in the fields of the arts, spirituality, and politics. These women are strong leaders who embody piety, compassion, and learning. For me, perhaps most exciting was the story of Nana Asma’u of Nigeria, a 19th-century scholar, community leader, and pioneer of women’s education whose work was previously unknown to me.

The book’s pages are bordered with beautiful patterns that reflect the natural world and the geometric design common to Islamic art. Artful calligraphy of quranic verses accompanies the stories of Khadija bint Khuwaylid and Aisha bint Abu Bakr.

Published in 2008, Extraordinary Women from the Muslim World has received numerous awards. It fills a need for quality English-language children’s books about the contributions of Muslim women from diverse cultures. This book would make a beautiful gift, as well as a helpful addition to a library at home, school, or in the community.

Disclosure: This review is freely given, based on a book in my personal library.

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The choices we make as consumers can be powerful expressions of our wishes for peace and justice. One place in daily life where we can express our faith in beautiful forms is the kitchen table. Our food choices and our ways of preparing food can be nourishing expressions of our values. When we prepare meals with our children, they receive nurturing for both body and spirit. As you explore cooking with young people, I highly recommend Simply in Season Children’s Cookbook: Fun with food from garden to table, by Mark Beach and Julie Kauffman. This book would make an ideal gift to share with the children you love.

Planning meals, I confess, is not my favorite chore. Thankfully, when I enlist the help of my 8-year-old daughter, the task becomes much more fun. If she can choose a meal for us to make together once a week, I find my energy refreshed. My daughter was very excited to read Simply in Season Children’s Cookbook, and she declared, “The recipes all look interesting in their own way.” She loved the colorful photos and the fun facts (squash seeds found in Mexican archaeological digs!). We made immediate plans for pumpkin mini muffins and green monster soup. My daughter observed that the authors “give steps very well.” The recipes are written clearly and are easy to follow.

Part of preparing food with my daughter includes modeling gratitude for the food we are fortunate to have, and to think of ways to share with others. We greatly enjoyed the simple prayers and poems included in each seasonal section of the book.

I want to prepare healthy meals, and use locally grown produce whenever possible. I have learned from growing some of our own vegetables that the fresher the food, the more delicious. It feels right to eat foods at the time when nature produces them. (My significant exception is that I live in Pennsylvania, yet I’m very fond of mangoes and pineapple. I have to accept these, along with my olive oil and spices, as precious gifts from far away.) When my daughter saw a delicious-sounding peach recipe she asked, “Can we make this, when it’s the right season?” I felt proud that she has an understanding of where her food comes from, and the rhythms of nature that provide bounty for our table.

I know many people who are making a sincere effort to prepare whole foods for their families, moving away from prepackaged convenience foods and toward the nourishment, nutrition, and tastiness of natural foods. This way of eating is better for our local economies, can be more supportive of local farmers, has a lighter impact on the Earth due to lower consumption of fuels. If you have not visited a local farmer’s market recently, I encourage you to try it. There are winter markets in many cities and towns. You may be surprised at how many delicious foods are grown in your local area, and at the interesting conversations you can have with the people who grow your food.

Many children find it fun to see their food grow from seed (or young plant) to harvest time. If you are growing some of your own food, you will appreciate the seasonal garden tips. There is a simple discussion of growing herbs that would be suitable even for an apartment’s windowsill.

I highly recommend Simply in Season Children’s Cookbook for your kitchen library. Share copies with children you love, teachers, your public library. This book will help children learn how to prepare beautiful, nourishing meals while developing an understanding that food comes from the Earth that God has entrusted to our care.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. No fee was received in exchange for this review.

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This month three million Muslims, including more than 11,000 from the U.S., will make the Hajj, insha’Allah (God willing). All Muslims who are physically and economically able are expected to make the Hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, sometime during their life. The Hajj takes place at a set time of year and requires pilgrims to follow a series of prescribed rituals and procedures. The pilgrim’s actions commemorate events in the life of the Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim), as described in the Qur’an.

Author Na’ima B. Robert has written Going to Mecca, a lyrical children’s book that makes a beautiful introduction to the Hajj. Her text provides enough facts to properly inform and to create splendid scenes in the reader’s imagination; yet her language is spare enough to not overwhelm younger readers, or those unfamiliar with Islam. On page 6, a pilgrim arrives in the Sacred Mosque and recites talbiya, the pilgrim’s prayer:
Call with a pilgrim
As she utters a prayer,
And says the words
That will make her draw near:
“Labbayk Allahumma labbayk.”
“Here I am, O my Lord, here I am.”

The narrative carries the reader on a journey of accompaniment through the rites of pilgrimage to the welcoming home. At the end of the book the reader will find a small glossary, providing further detail about important places in the story.

The pages of Going to Mecca are richly illustrated by Valentina Cavallini with scenes of mixed media collage. The colors are varied and cheerful, and the people in the story realistically reflect the varied skin tones of humanity. When I shared the book with my artistic 8-year-old daughter, we took turns exclaiming over the detail and patterns within each page. I would not be surprised to see my daughter create some artwork inspired by Cavallini’s style. The textures and patterns in the artwork are absolutely lovely.

This book would be an ideal choice to share with children who have family members and friends making the pilgrimage, or for teachers to share with their classes. Parents will find that the text provides many openings for sharing more detail with children as their level of interest deepens. For this reason, the book is suitable for a range of ages. Older children even might use the poetic phrasings as models for their own writing.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and enthusiastically recommend it. May all of those who are making the Hajj have safe journeys.

Note: The number of estimated pilgrims cited above is based upon US State Department figures from September 2012.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. No fee was received for this review.

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Ramadan, the holiest month of the Islamic year, now is underway. This season of fasting and extra prayers presents an ideal opportunity to visit a local mosque and get to know Muslim neighbors. I encourage you to call a mosque in your area and arrange a visit. There will likely be a community member to greet you and to provide a welcoming experience. The New Brunswick Islamic Center has compiled a very helpful guide to proper etiquette for visiting a mosque.

During this month, many mosques will have community iftars (meals that break the fast, after sunset). Breaking bread together, neighbors can talk and get to know one another. The first iftar meal I ever attended was part of an interfaith open house, and it was an extremely powerful experience. I met so many people who were eager and willing to answer my questions about Islam.

There are wonderful books for teaching young children (Muslim and non-Muslim) about Ramadan. You can find an excellent list, with descriptions of titles, at goodreads. Personally, I highly recommend A Party in Ramadan by Asma Mobin-Uddin.

During Ramadan, fasting from before dawn until after sunset helps the observant to remember those who live with hunger, and to feel increased gratitude for the daily blessings of food, water, and shelter. May we all remember those in need, and do our part to show mercy and increase justice.

May this be a joyful season of peacemaking and reaching out to one another in a spirit of love and friendship.

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