This story is loosely adopted from the author’s own memories about growing up first in Abu Dhabi and then in Peachtree City, Georgia. When in Abu Dhabi, the little girl in the book, Lailah, was too young to join in fasting for Ramadan, but in Georgia, she also feels stymied from participating in the fast; she is afraid to explain her beliefs to her new non-Muslim friends.
Hiding out at lunchtime in the library, Lailah finds the inspiration to be herself from the librarian. (Hurrah for super librarians!)
The illustrator, Lea Lyon (pronounced like “Lee Lion”), uses a loose watercolor style for her children’s picture books, five of which have won awards.
In an Author’s Note at the end of the book, the author explains that Ramadan isn’t just about fasting; rather, it’s about family and community and sharing. As the National Geographic Kids site explains:
“Ramadan is the ninth month on the Islamic calendar, which marks important holidays and events for Muslims (people who practice Islam). During Ramadan people fast, or refrain from eating and drinking, while it’s light out. Once the sun sets, families meet for big meals that may include stew, rice, dates, lentils, and more. People also have a morning meal before the sun rises.
For the hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world who observe Ramadan, the month is a time to focus on their faith and also perform generous acts. People raise money and donate supplies to help others in need. And many fast to remind themselves about those in the world who don’t have enough to eat.
After the last day of Ramadan, a three-day festival is held. Families and friends gather together to celebrate. They sometimes decorate homes with lights and exchange gifts. As for food, people eat all sorts of things including candies and pastries — and during this time, fasting is not allowed.”
Evaluation: This is a good story about figuring out how to negotiate the world when you are different than other kids. It is also a way for non-Muslim kids to learn about this important culture. To that end, I wish there had been more information about Ramadan and the Muslim religion in general. For example, information of interest to kids might have included the The Five Pillars of Islam, the use of the lunar calendar by Islam, and how Ramadan and Eid Al Fitr are celebrated. There are a number of sites on the web about all this geared to kids, such as this one.
Note: Ramadan in 2017 began the evening of May 26 and continues through the evening of June 25.
Published by Tilbury House Publishers, 2015