First of what promises to be a highly selective but at least not humorless set of introductions to biblical events.

THE BEGINNING

From the The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls series

An ancient scroll transports two modern children and a dog back to witness the biblical Creation.

Great-Uncle Solomon says he has a jarful of scrolls that “prove the Bible is true.” A midnight venture into his library leaves white Peter, 9, his adopted, Chinese 10-year-old sister, Mary, and their unusually smart dog, Hank, floating in a dark but not airless void until a big voice calls out “LET THERE BE LIGHT.” As similar all-cap commands bring day, night, water, and the rest, white-robed Michael arrives in a boat, warns that Satan lurks nearby (“I have a feeling that he is going to try to mess things up here”), and tells them that they have seven days to guess the meaning of the scroll’s secret Hebrew message or they’ll be stuck. When the great serpent shows up he gets a karate kick to the face from Mary, after which the children watch the “first man” (white, in the drawing) rise and name the animals (Hank gets to be “dog”). Peter translates the scroll’s message (“GOD CREATED EVERYTHING”) just in time and brings the travelers back to hear from their great-uncle how God kicked the first man and woman out of Eden but will “fix everything someday.” How? Repeated oblique mention of a lion (the only remotely subtle thing about the tale) might furnish a hint. Book 2, Race to the Ark, publishes simultaneously. Howells’ cartoon illustrations (many not seen) are as straightforward and artless as the text.

First of what promises to be a highly selective but at least not humorless set of introductions to biblical events. (Religion/fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8249-5684-4

Page Count: 112

Publisher: WorthyKids/Ideals

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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A sweet story about the importance of sharing and caring that’s embedded in Islamic traditions.

ZAHRA'S BLESSING

A RAMADAN STORY

A young Muslim girl, cued as Pakistani American, prays for a blessing and ends up being one.

During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Zahra and her parents fast, worship together at home, and attend mosque. Zahra has learned from her mother that Ramadan is the month of blessings, so she prays for a sibling (specifically a sister) and for her lost favorite toy, a teddy bear, to be found. At the local refugee center where Zahra volunteers regularly with her mother, she meets and paints with Haleema, a young girl who has lost both of her parents. As the days of Ramadan go by, the two girls grow closer, and Zahra wishes she could find her teddy bear and give it to her new friend. The night before Eid al-Fitr, Zahra’s parents reveal that they have “something special to tell” her. Readers discover (eventually) that Zahra’s parents are adopting Haleema—just one of the unexpected blessings Zahra receives as Eid morning dawns. Shamsi’s narrative is engaging, portraying a Muslim community assimilating to life in America but also holding on to important cultural traditions. The text makes references to Pakistani foods and to religious rituals like iftar, and the dialogue includes a few Muslim phrases. Mirza’s digital paintings depict rosy-cheeked, brown-skinned main characters (background characters are racially diverse), are full of vibrant colors, and incorporate patterns that echo Pakistani textile design. As some Muslim women do, Zahra’s mother covers her hair in public but not at home except when praying. Members of Zahra’s community are depicted wearing shalwar kameezzes, hijabs, and topi hats as well as Western clothing.

A sweet story about the importance of sharing and caring that’s embedded in Islamic traditions. (notes, author’s note, illustrator’s note) (Religious picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64686-493-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Barefoot Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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Thoroughly agenda-driven fodder for discussions about values and diversity, but its streak of silliness should draw a few...

HELPING THE POLONSKYS

From the Muslim All-Stars series

Muslim children help out an elderly (Jewish) couple in a British import that creaks but doesn’t quite collapse under the weight of its worthy purposes.

Responding to a want ad seeking housecleaners, the five young teens—Imran from Pakistan, Leila and Sumaya in stylish hijabs, Adam (a Jamaican convert) and Che Amran, a “Malaysian-looking boy” with Asperger’s—meet on the doorstep of Shimon Polonsky. The elderly gentleman has three days to get an outsized house—in which he keeps dogs, goats and other wildlife—cleaned up before his wife gets home from the hospital. Pausing twice a day for prayers, the companions not only learn to work together to do the deed and make a “Welcome Home” banner, but consign the money they earn to charity. When she arrives, Mrs. Polonsky violently orders them out (supposedly not because of their religion, but even younger children will read between those lines) before being humbled by their selflessness. Slapstick encounters with a mud puddle and a crazed washing machine lighten the load, and in Nayzaki’s brightly colored cartoons, the children sport appealingly huge manga eyes.

Thoroughly agenda-driven fodder for discussions about values and diversity, but its streak of silliness should draw a few chuckles. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: June 4, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-86037-454-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Kube Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2013

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