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Posts Tagged ‘young readers’

I am hungry for books that raise up the stories of women in the Bible, and was thrilled to discover Women of the Bible from Paraclete Press. The richly-illustrated volume from Margaret McAllister and Alida Massari is ideal for sharing with the young people in my life.

In this lovely book, we have a glimpse of the world through the eyes of Rachel, Miriam, Mary of Magdala, Lydia of Philippi, and six other remarkable women. Rather than a passing mention embedded in a tale of men, granted a mere few lines of text, their voices speak to us directly from these pages, helping the reader to imagine the faith of these important ancestors. The stories are filled with hope, tenderness, yearning, and a confident faith in God.

I especially enjoyed the story of Mary of Nazareth, in which she describes scenes of motherhood and of the life of her son, Jesus. Outside of the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), there are few words ascribed to Mary in the Bible; yet she has such a significant place as a model of faithfulness. Through Margaret McAllister’s telling, young readers will be able to imagine Mary in her special role as a strong and loving mother.

Throughout the book, the colors are rich and vibrant, from Lydia’s purples and Mary’s blues, to golden fields and bright blue rivers. Alida Massari gives beautifully expressive faces to the people in these tales, and their landscapes are livened with playful patterns. The animals are enchanting, and any young artist will find inspiration in these pages.

This book would make a special addition to a child’s home library, as well as a welcome gift for a teacher or special friend.

Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. Review is freely given.

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I enjoyed My Basmati Bat Mitzvah very much, and certainly will recommend it to young readers as well as teachers. Author Paula J. Freedman does a beautiful job of sharing cultural traditions smoothly within the narrative, weaving them into the story as a natural and important part of her characters’ lives. Unlike other books I have read that address religious diversity, there is nothing preachy to this book.

The main character, Tara, has strong and loving relationships with friends and family, and these are made very believable. Throughout the story, Tara is an engaging and likeable character. As she prepares for her bat mitzvah, a rite of passage for Jewish youth, she wonders how this step will affect her identity. Her father is of European decent and her mother is from India, a convert to Judaism; Tara is used to integrating both cultures. Meanwhile, Tara also copes with the confusion that often arises in junior high friendships. A warm-hearted girl, Tara strives to resolve her challenges while also being a loyal friend and a faithful daughter.

At the end of the book there is a brief and helpful glossary of the Yiddish and Hindi terms used in the text. All the terms are readily understandable with context clues, but this addition eliminates any guesswork.

I found myself wondering if there will be more stories about Tara in the future. So many children of mixed racial/ethnic/religious backgrounds will be able to relate to her experiences.

I feel very lucky that, thanks to Goodreads First Reads I was able to read this excellent book. With Hanukkah at the end of November, I am thinking about young people I know who would enjoy receiving this book as a gift.

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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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