February 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Recommended Books on Islam for K-12

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Deep in  the Sahara  (Cunnane) ©2013 by Hoda Hadadi

Deep in the Sahara (Cunnane)
©2013 by Hoda Hadadi

Originally posted as a sidebar for a School Library Journal feature in October 2010 entitled “Islam in the Classroom“, the following curated list has been updated with more recent titles. The books below received positive reviews in SLJ. Feel free to add any we might have missed in the comments section.

Picture Books

ADDASI, Maha. Time to Pray. tr. by Nuha Albitar. illus. by Ned Gannon. Boyds Mills. 2010. RTE $17.95. ISBN 978-1-59078-611-6.
Gr 1-4-During a visit to her grandmother in the Middle East, Yasmin learns about her religion and finds a way to pray at home, even though there are no mosques where she lives. A warm intergenerational story, told in English and Arabic, with illustrations that feature Islamic geometric designs and Arab architecture and culture.

ADDASI, Maha. The White Nights of Ramadan. illus. by Ned Gannon. Boyds Mills. 2008. RTE $16.95. ISBN 978-1-59078-523-2.
Gr 1-4-When Noor, who lives in Kuwait, sees the almost-full moon rise, she knows it’s time to prepare for Girgian, a Muslim celebration observed mostly in the Arabian Gulf states during the middle of the month of Ramadan. The story underlines the importance of sharing, self improvement, and community welfare. Highlighted with moonlit hues, the attractive illustrations are done in a style that reflects one of many Muslim cultures.

CUNNANE, Kelly. Deep in the Sahara. illus. by Hoda Hadadi. 40p. glossary. Random/Schwartz & Wade. 2013. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780-375870347; lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780375970344. LC 2011050245.
Gr 2-4-Mama cautions Lalla that a malafa is for more than beauty. Cut-paper collage illustrations feature boys in turbans, men hurrying to prayers, and women dressed in brightly colored swaths of cloth, enlivening the browns, greens, and adobe brick of the desert background. This upbeat picture book about a mother welcoming her daughter into their community of faith will engender a more positive attitude toward women who choose traditional dress in the modern world.

JALALI, Reza. Moon Watchers: Shirin’s Ramadan Miracle. illus. by Anne Sibley O’Brien. Tilbury House. 2010. RTE $16.95. ISBN 978-0-88448-321-2. LC 2009046324.
Gr 1-4-Shirin is disappointed because she is too young to fast, but her father encourages her to do good deeds. As Rama-dan ends, the family prepares for Eid-ul-Fitr, and a big surprise awaits Shirin, a “miracle.” O’Brien’s watercolor illustrations depict a Persian-American family.

KHAN, Hena. Night of the Moon: A Muslim Holiday Story. illus. by Julie Paschkis. Chronicle. 2008. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8118-6062-8.
Gr 2-4-A seven-year-old Pakistani-American girl learns about the Islamic calendar and enjoys a special dinner with her family. Typical events follow, such as a celebration of the “Night of the Moon” at the community center. Then Ramadan is over, and the next day is Eid. Paschkis’s stunning paintings incorporate Islamic tile art, adding to an authentic sense of the culture.

KHAN, Rukhsana. King for a Day. illus. by Christiane Krömer. 32p. glossary. Lee & Low. 2013. RTE $17.95. ISBN 9781600606595. LC 2013007506.
PrS-Gr 2-Spring has arrived in Lahore, Pakistan, and the celebration of Basant ushers it in with an annual kite-flying contest. Young Malik plans to win the self-proclaimed title of “king of Basant” by capturing and/or setting free more kites than anyone else. Mixed-media collage illustrations consist of an intriguing combination of cut paper, floss, yarn, cloth, and pencil sketches.

MOBIN-UDDIN, Asma. A Party in Ramadan. illus. by Laura Jacobsen. Boyds Mills. 2009. RTE $16.95. ISBN 978-1-59078-604-8.
Gr 2-6-Leena faces a difficult decision when she wants to fast during Ramadan, but also wants to attend her friend’s pony party. She decides to do both, but finds that resisting the tempting treats isn’t easy. When it is time to end the fast, her friends come with cake, and her mother invites them to share the iftar dinner. This well-told story is a great resource for discussing choices and religious differences.

ROBERT, Na’ima B. Ramadan Moon. illus. by Shirin Adl. Frances Lincoln. 2009. Tr $17.95. ISBN 978-1-84507-922-2.
K-Gr 4-A girl explains what happens throughout the month as people pray in mosques, listen to imams read verses from the Qur’an, and perform good deeds. The language is poetic, and the art shows the moon’s waxing and waning phases as the family worships and rejoices.

WHITMAN, Sylvia. Under the Ramadan Moon. illus. by Sue Williams. Albert Whitman. 2008. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-0-8075-8304-3.
Gr 2-4-In a lyrical text, Whitman describes how a modern family observes Ramadan. Soft pastels captures the events and family interactions, and show women in hijab giving hugs and talking on cell phones.

For Older Readers


ABDEL-FATTAH, Randa. Does My Head Look Big in This? Scholastic/Orchard. 2007. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-439-91947-0.
Gr 7 Up-Amal, a devout Muslim, decides to wear the hijab full time. She faces typical teen concerns and deals with misconceptions non-Muslims have about her religion and culture. The novel deals with some heavy issues, but it’s also very funny. See also Randa Abdel-Fattah’s Ten Things I Hate About Me.

BUDHOS, Marina. Ask Me No Questions. S & S/Atheneum/Ginee Seo Bks. 2006. Tr $16.95. ISBN 1-4169-0351-8.
Gr 7-10-Nadira, 14, and her brilliant older sister are typical Bangladeshi-American teens until their father is arrested and detained at the Canadian border for having a long-expired visa. The resourceful girls mobilize, tap members of their mosque and their community, and attain the necessary documentation to plead their case before a judge. A powerful, eye-opening look at the hard realities of life for Muslims in post 9/11 America.

CLEMENTS, Andrew. Extra Credit. illus. by Mark Elliott. S & S/Atheneum. 2009. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4169-4929-9.
Gr 4-7-Illinois sixth-grader Abby Carson and Sadeed Bayat, the best English-language student in his Afghan village, be-come pen pals, but because it isn’t proper for a boy and girl to correspond with one another, he must pretend he is his sister. He can’t keep the secret though, and the two become friends and learn about one another’s culture and connect through their shared love of Frog and Toad Are Friends.

ELLIS, Deborah. Parvana’s Journey. Groundwood. 2002. Tr $15.95. ISBN 0-88899-514-8; pap. $5.95. ISBN 0-88899-519-9.
Gr 7-10-This heart-wrenching sequel to The Breadwinner (Groundwood, 2001) follows 13-year-old Parvana as she searches through war-torn Afghanistan looking for her mother and siblings who had disappeared in the tumult of the Taliban takeover. An unforgettable read about the will to survive.

STRATTON, Allan. Borderline. HarperTeen. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-145111-9; PLB $17.89. ISBN 978-0-06-145112-6.
Gr 7 Up-Sami is bullied at school because he is a Muslim, and the administration doesn’t do anything to stop it. Then the FBI breaks into his house and takes his dad away, unjustly assuming that he is a terrorist. A fast-paced thriller with strong characterizations.


ALI-KARAMALI, Sumbul. Growing Up Muslim: Understanding the Beliefs and Practices of Islam. 212p. bibliog. diags. index. notes. websites. Delacorte. 2012.
Gr 6 Up-Ali-Karamali’s primer offers an informal, highly personal introduction to Islam. Chronicling her experience growing up Muslim in California, she comfortably discusses major aspects of the faith such as prayer, fasting, and theology as well as food, fashion, and relationships, while connecting these topics to her daily life. This unique introduction is a good choice for dispelling misconceptions and prejudice about this faith.

CALVERT, John. Divisions Within Islam. ISBN 978-1-4222-0533-4.
KAVANAUGH, Dorothy. Islamic Festivals and Celebrations. ISBN 978-1-4222-0534-1.
—-. The Muslim World: An Overview. ISBN 978-1-4222-0532-7.
LUXENBERG, Alan. Radical Islam. ISBN 978-1-4222-0536-5.
MELMAN, Anna. Islam in America. ISBN 978-1-4222-0535-8.
RADU, Michael. Islam in Europe. notes. ISBN 978-1-4222-1363-6.
RUBIN, Barry. The History of Islam. ISBN 978-1-4222-0531-0.
SKLAR, Tanya. Islamic-Jewish Relations Before 1947. ISBN 978-1-4222-1361-2.
ea vol: 64p. (World of Islam Series). Mason Crest. 2009. Tr $22.95.
Gr 6 Up-These titles clarify issues facing the Muslim world and show the diversity of opinions within the religion. They also show the diversity of thought and opinion within Islam, In order to get a broad picture of the Islamic faith, the books work best as a set.

ELLIS, Deborah. Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak. Groundwood. 2004. Tr $16.95. ISBN 0-88899-554-7.
Gr 7-9-Alternating accounts from young people between the ages of 8 and 18 show the devastating effect of war on their lives and how any sense of childhood has been stolen from them.

HAFIZ, Dilara & Imran Hafiz, & Yasmine Hafiz. The American Muslim Teenager’s Handbook. Acacia Pub. 2007. pap. $11.95. ISBN 978-0-9792531-2-6.
Gr 7 Up-A fine introduction to the basics of Islam. Quotes from teens tell what it’s like to be a Muslim in America, and the authors address dating, dancing, drinking, and drugs. The conversational style will appeal to teen readers, whether practicing the religion or wanting to know more about it.

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  1. Great way to educate children about Islam.. The illustration adds to the ease in making them understand the principles and the history of the religion.

  2. For nonfiction, I also highly recommend 1001 Inventions and Awesome Facts from Muslim Civiliation from National Geographic Kids. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13643011-1001-inventions-and-awesome-facts-from-muslim-civilization It’s gorgeously put together and highly browseable.