Books by Muslim Authors, Diverse Books, Middle Grade Books, Muslim Shelf Space

Diana and the Island of No Return by Aisha Saeed – Book Review

I loved this book so much! It’s a beautiful story about friendship and working as a team and supporting each other.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Young Princess Diana is fierce and whip-smart, and she loves her island home of Themyscira. Her deepest wish is to be able to train with the rest of the Amazons and protect her homeland–but she’s told it’s out of the question. This is the year Diana hopes to persuade her mother, Queen Hippolyta, to let her learn how to fight when the world’s most powerful women gather on Themyscira for a festival to celebrate their different cultures.

But at the start of the festivities, an unexpected and forbidden visitor–a boy!–brings news of an untold danger that threatens Themyscira and all of its sacred neighboring lands. It’s up to Diana and her best friend, Princess Sakina, to save them, even if it means tangling with a cunning demon who reveals that a terrifying force is out to capture Diana against her will.

I love all of Aisha’s books and I was so excited for her Wonder Woman series and then I heard about how one of a main characters is a young Muslim girl who is also a princess and I squealed so loud! Kid me would have been so happy to see a Muslim princess in a book as the main character!

I really loved this book and the friendship between Diana and Sakina was so beautiful. Even though they don’t get to spend a lot of time together I loved that they sent letters to each other throughout the year to keep their friendship strong. They look out for each other and listen to each other and if they hurt the other person they apologise and try to make up for it and it was so heart warming to see.

Being scared doesn’t make you less brave. I think in some ways, it makes you even more brave.

They are both driven and have goals and dreams and while they are both very different they supported each other which and pushed the other up. Throughout the story we see that they have different strengths and weaknesses and they both take lead where they need to and take a step back where they need to. Honestly adults could learn a lot from these two kids. I could talk so much about their beautiful friendship and I hope we get to see more of that in the next book!

The story also introduces a young boy who has to make a difficult decision but ultimately makes thee right choice and is able to make the best of the situation he is put in. It was great to see how well all three of them were able to work together despite the circumstances in which they met. He is also a great character where what he wants to do and what his dad expects of him is very different and he has to navigate that during the story too. I really liked how Aisha included all these themes into the story in a way that young kids can understand and relate to. While they are heavy themes at times it never feels too heavy for a middle grade book. Aisha balanced it really well.

The story itself is a sort of quest where they have to find specific things to defeat the demon that has taken a whole island hostage while also trying to figure out why he wants Diana in the first place. It’s fun and adventurous and has some great moments where I was literally cheering for the girls and I am so looking forward to the next book!

While they are able to complete the quest and save the island there is still lots of mystery and intrigue of a larger arc where we are still left with questions and I absolutely need the next book to know what will happen next! This is a story that kids will definitely enjoy especially if they love superheroes and even adults can enjoy this book!

Books by Muslim Authors, Diverse Books, Middle Grade Books, Muslim Shelf Space

Once Upon An Eid Edited by S.K. Ali and Aisha Saeed

Thank you to Abrams Kids and Netgalley for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I absolutely adored this book and all the wonderful stories!

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Rating: 5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Once Upon an Eid is a collection of short stories that showcases the most brilliant Muslim voices writing today, all about the most joyful holiday of the year: Eid!
Eid: The short, single-syllable word conjures up a variety of feelings and memories for Muslims. Maybe it’s waking up to the sound of frying samosas or the comfort of bean pie, maybe it’s the pleasure of putting on a new outfit for Eid prayers, or maybe it’s the gift-giving and holiday parties to come that day. Whatever it may be, for those who cherish this day of celebration, the emotional responses may be summed up in another short and sweet word: joy. The anthology will also include a poem, graphic-novel chapter, and spot illustrations.

This book was pure joy and happiness to read. Even the stories which showed people in difficult situations were full of hope. I cried happy tears several times reading this book and this book will forever hold a special place in my heart.

Eid is such an important day for Muslims and this book captures what it can be like and how varied everyone’s experiences are. Being the oldest sibling I always tried to make Eid a fun and memorable day for my sisters and little cousins. From putting up decorations and gifts which would be opened after Eid prayer to going to the Eid fair and playing games we had so much fun. And reading this book brought back all those memories.

I loved every single story in this anthology which is rare but they were all written so wonderfully and beautifully and I sobbed my way through the book. I loved how diverse the stories were and how everyone celebrates differently and has their own traditions in their family, community and their culture. We see how people all over the world have different food they will want to make or the clothes they were and how they get together with family. I loved how family wasn’t just the mum, dad and kid but showed how families are a lot more varied. It was so inclusive and I was weeping with joy.

The stories themselves were so great and even though this is a middle grade book, and I am an adult I loved them so much. I loved Aisha Saeed’s story about how everyone in the family came to the rescue when Yusuf overcooked the brownies and Asmaa Hussein’s story of how Kareem learns what it truly means to be generous and giving and caring for those who are less fortunate. I also loved that there was also a graphic short story because I know lots of kids love graphic novels!

Each story is full of hope, even the stories where the situation the people are in are less than ideal. Searching for Blue by N.H. Senzai is the story of a young boy who is in a refugee camp in Greece and how the refugees get together with some wonderful people who love there to make the best of the situation and make it a special day for everyone. Such a beautiful heart warming story while simultaneously showing how difficult the lives of refugees are. In fact all the stories have some really wonderful lessons which are integral parts of Islam woven beautifully into the stories.

I cannot wait to get my finished copy and see all the artwork to go with the stories! This book is phenomenal, filled with much needed stories of joy and hope and I adored every single one of them!

PS. These books will make the perfect Eid gifts!

Book Reviews, Books by Muslim Authors, Diverse Books, Middle Grade Books, Muslim Shelf Space

The Hour of the Oryx by Farah Zaman – ARC Review

Thank you to the author for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

The title of this book sounded really intriguing and I loved seeing young Muslim characters in a mystery type book.

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Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:

It all began with a mysterious book. One day it was found and by night it was gone. Who stole it and why? A trail of blood is the only clue left behind.
Adam Horani, his sister Layla and their friends Zaid and Zahra, are frequent visitors at the Dar-as-Sakinah Orphanage. When they set out to investigate a shocking murder, the teenagers soon realize there’s more to the mystery than meets the eye. From the disturbing sketch of a mute boy to the chilling discovery in the underground vaults, they’re stunned at the villainy coming to light.
Determined to see that justice is served, the teenagers leave no stone unturned in their search for the truth. As the forces of evil cooks up a macabre plot, a deadly clash looms on the horizon. Will the young sleuths emerge victorious? Or are they on a collision course with disaster?
The Hour of the Oryx is the exciting third book in The Moon of Masarrah Series.

This is the third book in a series called The Moon of Masarrah however each book can be read as a standalone too. I hadn’t read the first two books when I started this and everything still made sense to me.

One of the first things I thought when I started this book was that it reminded me of the Famous Five and Secret Seven books by Enid Blyton and they were some of my favourite childhood books so I knew I would love this book too! Of course this is set in the present and is much more diverse with the main characters all being young Muslim teens.

I loved how Farah wrote the Muslim characters and wove their faith into the story and it was just…normal…the main focus of the story is the mystery they are solving but the references to Islam were wonderful to see. The teens would say lets meet up after praying, for example, just casual as if it’s the norm and my heart felt it would burst with joy! Imagine I had been able to see that in the famous five type books I loved as a kid?!

The mystery that the teens were solving was really interesting. It involved black magic and jinns and folklore which also meant it was quite dark at times too. In fact the story starts with a murder, which is what the group of friends end up deciding to solve. They meet some really great characters who help them solve the mystery. I really loved seeing how different each of the characters were yet they were all accepted and no one judged them for their weaknesses.

I loved seeing young characters who were comfortable in their faith and there was no tension of being judgemental towards each other. They were kind and compassionate and wanted to help the friends they made at the orphanage. They stood up to bullies and they even helped with the daily activities without protest from cleaning to cooking and generally helping out at the orphanage.

Each of the people they suspected was also in a position of power so it was interesting how they had to navigate around all of that and also that they couldn’t trust any of the adults. They each had their own secrets and to solve the murder they had to find out each of their secrets.

The setting was also really interesting as it was set in orphanage where children from war torn countries were living so we also get a glimpse into what it is like for those children who are often forgotten. We see how their trauma affects them and that they each react and deal with it differently. One of the young boys they meet hasn’t spoken since he was sent to the orphanage and he communicates with hand gestures and his art. A lot of important discussions around refugees and the trauma of these children was included in the book but it was never too heavy yet still heart breaking to read.

If you like mysteries and want to read something more diverse than things like famous five or Nancy Drew then I highly recommend this series. It’s fun and spooky and it will keep you hooked until the very end!

Books by Muslim Authors, Diverse Books, Middle Grade Books, Muslim Shelf Space

The Arabic Quilt by Aya Khalil – ARC Review

I was sent a copy of an ARC by the author in exchange for an honest review.

I absolutely adored this picture book! It is such a wonderful story and has beautiful illustrations!

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Rating: 5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

That night, Kanzi wraps herself in the beautiful Arabic quilt her teita (grandma) in Cairo gave her and writes a poem in Arabic about the quilt. Next day her teacher sees the poem and gets the entire class excited about creating a “quilt” (a paper collage) of student names in Arabic. In the end, Kanzi’s most treasured reminder of her old home provides a pathway for acceptance in her new one.

This is a book I wish I had when I was young and I will definitely be giving this book to all my friends and family with young kids. Especially with everything happening in the world today, these type of books are so needed. It shows how being “different” doesn’t make you any less than the majority.

This book showed how people come from different cultures and that being around people from lots of different cultures can be so beautiful because you get to experience so much more. The diversity gives people the chance to be more open minded and they can learn about different traditions, food, clothes, languages and so much more. Egyptian culture from the way they are at home to the food they eat and so much more is woven into the story as the norm for Kanzi and it was so wonderful to see!

It also showed how kids from ethnic minorities can feel nervous about being “too different” and not fitting in or being accepted and that if we were more inclusive it would make everyone feel comfortable and safe. Aya showed how Kanzi is made fun of because she speaks a different language and her food is different from what is considered the norm at lunch and how it made her feel.

It’s so important for kids to see this how it isn’t okay to make others feel like this because it is different from your normal. Being bilingual is amazing and I know that in my effort to fit in I didn’t learn my mother tongue as well as I could have and I do regret it now. So it was really lovely to see that aspect in the book where Kanzi is taught to be proud of her mother tongue and heritage as it is a part of her.

In the story we see how one particular girl is dismissive and somewhat condescending in how she treats Kanzi and we find out she learnt these opinions from her mum and I thought it was a really great thing to include as kids really do learn and form opinions based on what they see their parents doing. It was really great to see that once she learns more about Kanzi and spends time with her she changes and learns to treat her better.

I just love how much kids can learn from this book and still enjoy a wonderful diverse story of a young girl that many kids from ethnic minorities will easily relate to.

This book is a wonderful story and uses something that all kids will understand, a blanket to build bridges between the kids and show that no matter what culture or background you come from you are all valid and equal. That different cultures actually enrich our lives and introduce us to so much that we wouldn’t see otherwise.

I highly recommend everyone reading this book to the kids in their lives. Plus the illustrations are so wonderful too.

Books by Muslim Authors, Diverse Books, Middle Grade Books, Muslim Shelf Space

Other Words For Home by Jasmine Warga – Book Review

I had been recommended this book several times so when I saw it was on sale I just had to but it and it did not disappoint!

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Rating: 5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

I am learning how to be
sad
and happy
at the same time.
Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives.
At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven’t quite prepared her for starting school in the US—and her new label of “Middle Eastern,” an identity she’s never known before. But this life also brings unexpected surprises—there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is.

I absolutely adored this book and read it in one day! It is beautifully written and completely in verse which I thought added to the beauty of this book. It’s a heartfelt story which had me shedding a tear because this is a story that is a reality for so many young people today and not all of them get the same ending as Jude.

It shows the horrors of what it is to be a refugee and the heartbreak of having to leave everything in your life behind including your family and friends in the hope that you will make it safely to another country and be safe when you get there and how you have to start a whole new life in a place where you don’t know anyone and can even be made to feel unwelcome there.

The beginning of the story we see Jude in Syria doing your average everyday things that kids do but also the underlying tension that even the kids feel because where they live is increasingly becoming unsafe for them. Then we see her journey to the US and have to navigate a place where she is unfamiliar with the culture (outside of the films she has seen) and the language barrier she faces.

The story shows how she struggles with adjusting at times and the loneliness she feels but also her determination and perseverance to live the life she dreamed of. Half way through the book she decides to wear a hijab and Jasmine showed how people’s perception of her changed and how people treated her, despite it being a middle grade book the Islamophobia was shown in a raw and realistic way that even young readers can understand.

This is a story that could be about any immigrant and refugee child which is what makes it even more hard hitting when reading about Jude’s life. It’s a much needed story in today’s society and written beautifully. It shows the hardship and difficulties but also the hope and dreams they have just like every other child. It’s such a wonderful story and I loved it.