Moon Watchers: Shirin's Ramadan Miracle
Illustrated by Anne Sibley O'Brien
Hardcover, $16.95, ISBN 978-0-88448-321-2
9 x 10, 32 pages, color illustrations
Skipping Stones Honor Book, 2011
Maine Literary Award Finalist, Children's Books, 2011
"This book is perhaps most valuable as a lesson on Islam. Each practice and tradition is explained, but without disrupting the pace of the story. Non-Muslim readers will walk away with a more developed global perspective. Muslims will relate the tale to their own Ramadan experiences, and every young reader will identify with hearing that terrible phrase: 'You're too young.'"
"This quiet story adds to the small collection of books about Muslim families that can counteract the often harmful messages seen in the media."
"This moving picture book for older readers about a young Muslim girl and her family at Ramadan weaves together the traditional observance and its meaning with a lively drama of sibling rivalry. . . . Along with the information about the holiday, there is a real story here: when Shirin helps Ali, it changes their relationship and reveals the meaning of the holiday."
"In this lyrical telling of a contemporary story about Ramadan, Shirin watches the moon wax and wane with her father and learns to put sibling rivalry aside. Moon Watchers is rich in detail about one Muslim family's life. The warmth of the telling and themes like family traditions and helping others will resonate with readers everywhere."
—Karen Lynn Williams, author of Galimoto; Four Feet, Two Sandals; and many other books for children
"Reza Jalali has crafted a culturally sensitive narrative that introduces the reader to an important aspect of Islam: Ramadan. Nuances of culture and tradition are skillfully woven into the storyline. I highly recommend this book for teachers introducing diverse cultures from around the world."
—Tami Al-Hazza, Ph.D., Old Dominion University
"This is a beautiful, simple story and helps people understand about Ramadan. Ramadan is about self-discipline and remembering the poor. But Ali and Shirin also come to love and care more for each other, which is one of the most important aspects of the month. I think it is also a time when kids like Shirin learn more about their religion and the responsibilities they have to take. It is a very interesting story about Ramadan."
—Omar Abdille, Waynflete School student, Portland, Maine
Looking through the tall trees in their backyard in Maine, Shirin and her dad search for a glimpse of the new moon, the sign that the month of Ramadan has begun. Ramadan is a time when Muslims around the world pray, fast, and pay special attention to doing good deeds. Shirin is nine and thinks she should be able to fast like her older brother Ali, but her parents feel she is still too young to go without food and water all day. When Shirin catches Ali sneaking food after school, she wonders: Should she tattle or is this an opportunity for a good deed? Shirin feels left out when the others break their fasts to have their own meals after dark and in the early morning, before it is light again. But then her grandmother tells a story that shows her a way she can feel more a part of Ramadan and the traditions and closeness her family enjoys during this special month of the year. Her good deeds result in a surprise for everyone!
Reza Jalali is a teacher, writer, and community organizer. Originally from Iran, he has lived in Maine for over two decades. When not working at the University of Southern Maine or playing soccer for fun, he writes stories, which especially delight his children. A sky watcher, he believes we each have a star named after us. He continues to search the night sky to find his and those of his family and friends. Reza remembers his own childhood Ramadans this way:
Some of the happiest memories from my childhood in Iran are from the time when my family observed Ramadan. In bigger cities the signal to stop eating and start the fast would be announced by the boom of a single cannon, but in our town (before people got alarm clocks) men from the neighborhood would go around beating the ground with their sticks, reminding us that it was time to finish our pre-dawn meal. My mother, always the storyteller, told me that in the old days, those fasting would check the time in the evening by carrying outside two strings of cloth—one black, another white—to see if they could be told apart in the waning light. When they looked the same, it was time to break the fast. I was a moon watcher as a child, fascinated by how the moon seemed to follow me around. (Afraid of being teased by older boys, I kept this to myself.) Even now, I chuckle when I catch a glimpse of the moon following me around as I walk outside under a full moon in the Maine night sky. I hope our children, Azad and Setareh, will have their own stories of Ramadan and will share them with others one day.
Anne Sibley O'Brien has illustrated twenty-nine books, including Talking Walls and three other titles by Margy Burns Knight, for which they received the 1997 National Education Association Author-Illustrator Human & Civil Rights Award. She has written thirteen of the books she illustrated, including The Legend of Hong Kil Dong: The Robin Hood of Korea, which received the Aesop Award and the Asian / Pacific American Award for Literature. Annie's passion for multiracial, multicultural, and global subjects was kindled by her experience of being raised bilingual and bicultural in South Korea as the daughter of medical missionaries. She lives with her husband on an island in Maine and is the mother of two grown children. For more about Anne: AnneSibleyOBrien.com, coloringbetween.blogspot.com
Tilbury House, Publishers
103 Brunswick Avenue
Gardiner, Maine 04345
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