Book: It’s Ramadan, Curious George
Author: Hena Khan.
Overview: This book tells the story of how Curious George learns about Ramadan, a month of fasting for Muslims (culminating in the celebration of Eid), from his friend Kareem.
Morals or lessons: friends can support friends in practicing a religion other than their own.
I like how committed this book is to highlighting some traditions of Ramadan and Eid. I appreciate how George supports Kareem in several different ways, although it’s clear from the text that George is not Muslim. The lesson is that it is a beautiful act of friendship to try to understand and engage with your friend’s religious tradition, even if you don’t plan to convert to it. I also love how seeing George help Kareem through the month of fasting (a time of self-discipline) emphasizes to me the ways that communities even outside religious boundaries can encourage individuals in their pursuit of moral lessons.
Age range: engaged listeners.
Because of the length of this story, I’d recommend it for those who can follow a plotline (or in shorter chunks according to attention span).
Format: one longer board book.
This is one sequential story broken into seven parts (page layouts), each containing only three paragraphs. Because of the shortness of each of the seven parts, I wouldn’t classify this as a chapter book, but the splitting does make for easy passing between multiple readers.
Visual/reading ease: medium visual, low reading.
The pictures are helpful in drawing listeners of all ages in, but the vocabulary in the book makes this more suited for experienced readers (it includes words such as curious, rumbling, peaceful, celebrate, and crescent).
Biggest pro: how informative this book is for people who aren’t familiar with Ramadan.
The book assumes no prior knowledge of Islam, the tradition of fasting during Ramadan, or the ways people might celebrate Eid. If you’re looking for a way to illustrate Ramadan and Eid to a child who has never heard of them, I think this is a good starting point.
Biggest con: how little this book gets into the motivations behind Ramadan practices.
“To do a good deed” is the closest we ever get to an explanation of why the characters in the book are engaging in volunteer work, donations, and fasting. Things I expected to be mentioned in this book that weren’t included: fasting as self-discipline, fasting and donations as solidarity with the poor, or fasting and volunteering as deeds to offer up to God. While the practices are explained well, the motivations behind them aren’t touched.
Fun factor: not high but present.
This book isn’t meant to be a funny book. However, there is a great moment when George mistakes the shoes left in the entrance to the mosque as donations (rather than as belongings temporarily placed there as the owners pray). This moment highlights the funny and awkward situations that can come from being a cultural outsider in a way that young kids can find funny and older kids / adults can understand.
How much heart: lots of heart!
As with any good book about friendship, moments in this book tug at my heart. When George distracts Kareem so he can keep his first fast, or when we see people putting together a food drive with George trying to help, the book is full of reminders that beautiful things can occur when someone supports their friend of a different faith.
I think the impact of this book is probably highest before and during Ramadan. This is a great book to keep with your spring decorations and bring out every year when Ramadan nears, but other Curious George books or other books featuring Muslim characters and traditions may be more of a draw at other times of the year.