6 Ramadan stories for readers of all faiths
For the 1.8 billion Muslims around the world, the holy month of Ramadan keeps rolling. These six titles highlight traditions, beliefs, and events central to Ramadan, including those that are particular to certain regions and communities. Muslim readers may find some of their own experiences reflected in these stories, while those who do not celebrate Ramadan will find much to learn and enjoy within these books.
Lailah's Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story
By Reem Faruqi, Illustrated by Lea Lyon
In this story, based on the author's own experiences growing up, Lailah is fasting for Ramadan for the first time. Her excitement is mixed with a longing for the friends she left behind in the United Arab Emirates, and nervousness at explaining to her teacher and classmates at her new school in Georgia why she won't be eating lunch for the next month. With the help of the school librarian, Lailah finds a way to share her feelings with her teacher, as well as a place to spend her lunchtimes during Ramadan - the library. Soft watercolors deftly express the range of emotions Lailah experiences in this story of belonging and growing up. The glossary is very brief, but an author's note elaborates on Reem Faruqi's childhood experiences.
Nabeel's New Pants: An Eid Tale
Retold by Fawzia Gilani-Williams, Illustrated by Proiti Roy
In this retelling of a Turkish folktale, Nabeel, a kindhearted shoemaker, buys gifts of new clothes for his wife, mother, and daughter for Eid al-Fitr, the festival celebrated at the conclusion of Ramadan. As an afterthought, he decides to buy a pair of pants for himself. The pants are "four fingers too long," so he asks his family for help altering them, but they are all too busy. In this humorous cumulative tale, Nabeel's pants get hemmed, but not in the way he expects. A glossary helps to define words used throughout the text. Colorful, detailed India-ink and gouache illustrations round out this fun story.
Night of the Moon: A Muslim Holiday Story
By Hena Khan, Illustrated by Julie Paschkis
Yasmeen's mother shows her the tiny sliver of moon that marks the beginning of Ramadan.Yasmeen observes the changing moon as she celebrates Ramadan, Chaand Raat, and Eid al-Fitr. Her Pakistani-American family takes part in special events and traditions from fasting and iftar, to parties and presents, to prayer and cooking for the hungry.
On Eid, Yasmeen receives a special present - a telescope to help her study the moon and anticipate the arrival of Ramadan next year. An author's note and glossary provide more information for curious readers. The gouache illustrations, exquisite and saturated with color, contain features of Islamic art.
A Party in Ramadan
By Asma Mobin-Uddin, Illustrated by Laura Jacobsen
In this story about a young girl navigating her Muslim faith in the US, Leena is excited to receive an invitation to a friend's birthday party. Then she learns the party falls during Ramadan on a day she had planned to fast. Leena decides to attend the party, but to not eat or drink anything there. This proves harder than expected when her friends begin to enjoy lemonade and cake. Later, Leena returns home to pray and eat dinner with her family, who express how proud they are of her. After fasting, Leena is all the more thankful for the food before her, including a special surprise. More information is included in an author's note. Pastel pencil over watercolour portrays appealing party and family scenes.
By Na'ima B. Roberts, Illustrated by Shirin Adl
The book opens with a little girl and her family eagerly awaiting the appearance of the new moon announcing Ramadan's arrival. Depictions of prayer, fasting, and charity are interwoven with descriptions of the moon as it waxes and wanes. The girl is wistful as the month of Ramadan comes to an end, but she and her family rejoice when the new moon arrives again marking the festival of Eid. While the book focuses on one family, it also touches on the larger world of Islam, emphasizing that Ramadan is celebrated all over the world by people of many nationalities and races.
The lively collage illustrations contribute to the festive feel.
The White Nights of Ramadan
By Maha Addasi, Illustrated by Ned Gannon
Set in the author's native Kuwait, Noor and her family observe Girgian, a celebration specific to the Gulf region that occurs in the middle of Ramadan. Noor makes candy and decorates colorful bags with her little brothers, anticipating what's to come: a night of dressing up in special clothes and traveling through the neighborhood collecting sweets. Afterwards, when Noor and her grandfather deliver a basket of food for the poor to their local mosque, she is reminded of the true meaning of Ramadan. An author's note and glossary provide additional context. The illustrations painted in rich, luminous oils are as striking as they are inviting.
Sara Ackerman is a writer and kindergarten teacher. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Brain, Child Magazine and others