Maha Addasi's Time to Pray, published by Boyds Mills Press, is set to hit bookstores on September 1st. Maha is a recent graduate of Vermont College of Fine Art's MFA Program in Writing for Children and Young Adults, and although that is how I know Maha, it is not why I decided to review her book here, although it didn't hurt. I am pleased to review Maha's book because it is beautifully written, lusciously rich in culture, and (dare I say it?) educational, at a time when we all need to be more educated.
Time to Pray is a beautiful picture book aimed at children ages 7 to 9, which tells the story of Yasmin's visit with her grandmother, Teta. Not only is this an endearing story of a loving relationship between a girl and her grandmother, it is a primer on the traditions of Muslim prayer. The story follows as Teta makes Yasmin her own prayer clothes, buys her a prayer rug, and teaches her how to prepare herself to pray five times a day. When Yasmin returns home, she finds Teta has sent along a special gift which reminds her, not only of the mosque near her grandmother's home, but also the time to pray. It is a story of prayer, but also a story of burgeoning spirituality, of family traditions, and family love.
What Addasi does particularly well is draw the reader into this world, even if the reader is completely unfamiliar with a world of morning cinnamon buns, bustling market places, delicious upside-down rice, and the calls of the muezzin. Addasi's simple text and Gannon's lush illustrations create a believable and loving relationship between Yasmin and her grandmother, which should be familiar to any reader regardless of their cultural roots. Additionally, Addasi provides an explanation of prayer times at the end of the story, which explains some of the traditions of Muslim prayer and the five daily required prayer times. The corresponding Arabic translation, by Nuha Albitar, provide yet another layer to the depth of an already complex picture book, even if one can only admire the looping calligraphy.
This picture book would make an excellent gift for any Muslim child who is curious about the traditions of her own faith as well as for a non-Muslim child who is curious about other faiths.
Let's share our favorite multi-cultural books: What are they and why do you like them?