Friday, August 20, 2010

Book Review: TIME TO PRAY by Maha Addasi

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?


  1. Some of my favorite multicultural picture books are by Allen Say: Grandfather's Journey (emigrating to America), A Tree of Cranes (Christmas in Japan), and Kamishibai Man (Japanese street theater).

    I also like the Gary Soto MG and YA novels and short stories about Mexican-Americans in the U.S.

  2. What a great review. And Time to Pray sounds lovely. And so needed in these times.

  3. Thank you for this review, Meg. My favorite multicultural book is Dumpling Soup by Jama Kim Rattigan. It's one of those books that touches your heart.

  4. Gale - Yes A Tree of Cranes is a beautiful book and I've read some of Gary Soto's YAs.
    Janet - Thanks for stopping by. How's Montana?
    Anonymous - I'm not familiar with Dumpling Soup, I'll have to go look for it.
    I'll also add Deborah Noyes' Red Butterfly.

  5. Esperanza Rising -- a wonderful MG by Pam Munoz Ryan.

  6. I haven't read that on J.A. Thanks for the suggestion.

  7. Time to Pray sounds like a wondering, eye-opening book.

    A recent multicultural book I read and loved was Cleversticks by Bernard Ashley. It's about a Chinese kindergartner who thinks everyone else in class can do something cool, until he realizes he's the only one who can use chopsticks. I read it years ago, but I can't get it out of my head.