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ZAHRA'S BLESSING by Shirin Shamsi


A Ramadan Story

by Shirin Shamsi ; illustrated by Manal Mirza

Pub Date: March 29th, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-64686-493-5
Publisher: Barefoot Books

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)