Symbols and Traditions: Books to Celebrate Ramadan and Understand Islamic Culture

The holy month of Ramadan begins at sundown Saturday, April 2, lasting until the evening of Monday, May 2 or Tuesday, May 3, depending on the sighting of the moon over Mecca. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn until after dark. Ramadan has great spiritual significance in Islam and is a time for prayer, contemplating one’s blessings, and doing good deeds for others. The month culminates in Eid al-Fitr, a joyous feast to break the fast. The fiction and nonfiction books below will educate all young readers about the diversity of ways that Muslims around the world celebrate Ramadan and broaden their understandings of the culture and traditions of Islam.

Ali, S. K. (ed.) and Aisha Saeed (ed.)
Illustrated by: Sara Alfageeh
Once Upon an Eid: Stories of Hope and Joy by 15 Muslim Voices. 2020 (Middle Grade Fiction Anthology).
This collection of short stories showcases the most brilliant Muslim voices writing today, all about the most joyful holiday of the year: Eid! Eid: The short, single-syllable word conjures up a variety of feelings and memories for Muslims. Maybe it’s waking up to the sound of frying samosas and simmering pistachio kheer, maybe it’s the pleasure of putting on a new outfit for Eid prayers, or maybe it’s the gift giving and holiday parties to come that day. Whatever it may be, for those who cherish this day of celebration, the emotional responses may be summed up in another short and sweet word: joy. This anthology also includes a poem, graphic-novel chapter, and spot illustrations.
S.808.83 On18

Faruqi, Reem
Illustrated by: Lea Lyon
Lailah’s Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story. 2015 (Picture Book).
Lailah is in a new school in a new country, thousands of miles from her old home, and missing her old friends. When Ramadan begins, she is excited that she is finally old enough to participate in the fasting but worried that her classmates won’t understand why she doesn’t join them in the lunchroom. Lailah solves her problem with help from the school librarian and her teacher and in doing so learns that she can make new friends who respect her beliefs. This gentle, moving story from Reem Faruqi comes to life in Lea Lyon’s vibrant illustrations. Lyon uses decorative arabesque borders on intermittent spreads to contrast the ordered patterns of Islamic observances with the unbounded rhythms of American school days.
S. F251l

Jalali, Reza
Illustrated by: Anne Sibley O’Brien
Moon Watchers: Shirin’s Ramadan Miracle. 2010 (Picture Book).
Shirin and her dad, looking through the tall trees in their backyard in Maine, 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 lead to a surprise for everyone!
SE. J216m

Khan, Ausma Zehanat
Ramadan: The Holy Month of Fasting. 2018 (Middle Grade Nonfiction).
Throughout the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast during the day and break the fast together as a family each night. Ramadan provides the opportunity to focus on positive thoughts and actions. It is a time to become more grateful for the blessings people often take for granted and be reminded of the importance of helping others. Ramadan: The Holy Month of Fasting explores the richness and diversity of the Islamic tradition by focusing on an event of great spiritual significance and beauty in the lives of Muslims. Rich with personal stories and stunning photographs, Ramadan demystifies the traditions and emphasizes the importance of diversity in a world where Islamophobia is on the rise. This is part of the nonfiction Orca Origins series for middle grade readers.
S.297.362 K5272ra

Khan, Hena
Illustrated by: Mehrdokht Amini
Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets: A Muslim Book of Shapes. 2018 (Picture Book).
From a crescent moon to a square garden to an octagonal fountain, this breathtaking picture book celebrates the shapes and traditions of the Muslim world. Sure to inspire questions and observations about world religions and cultures, Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets is a simple and delightful book to read aloud in a classroom or at story hour.
Q. SE. K5272cr

Khan, Hena
Illustrated by: Mehrdokht Amini
Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors. 2012 (Picture Book).
Magnificently capturing the colorful world of Islam for the youngest readers, this vivid and informative picture book celebrates Islam’s beauty and traditions. From a red prayer rug to a blue hijab, everyday colors are given special meaning as young readers learn about clothing, food, and other important elements of Islamic culture, with a young Muslim girl as a guide.
Q. SE. K5272g and available online

Khan, Hena
Illustrated by: Aaliya Jaleel
Under My Hijab. 2019 (Picture Book).
Grandma’s hijab clasps under her chin. Auntie pins hers up with a whimsical brooch. Jenna puts a sun hat over hers when she hikes. Iman wears a sports hijab for tae kwon do. As a young girl observes the women in her life and how each covers her hair a different way, she dreams of the possibilities in her own future and how she might express her personality through her hijab. Under My Hijab provides a friendly introduction to hijabs for all readers and celebrates the many Muslim women and girls who choose to wear them.
Q. SE. K5272un

Manglik, Gauri and Sadaf Siddique
Muslims in Story: Expanding Multicultural Understanding through Children’s and Young Adult Literature. 2018 (Professional Development Book).
Islamophobia is a long-standing, deeply entrenched global issue. One of the key causes of Islamophobia is ignorance, often fueled by negative portrayals of Muslims in media and popular culture. Countering Islamophobia through stories is a timely and proactive approach to facilitating systemic change, by fostering friendships and empathy through literature about the diversity of Muslim experiences. Exposing children in their formative years to positive stories about Muslims can go a long way to creating a multicultural understanding and cementing ideas of respect and acceptance. Several chapters centering on themed book lists relating to Muslims or Islamic culture, complete with discussion starters and ideas for further topic engagement, are a helpful programming and collection development tool. This book will equip librarians or educators to share Muslim children’s books about various themes with all young patrons.
BP67.U6 M36 2018 [SSHEL Stacks]

Mir, Saira
Illustrated by: Aaliya Jaleel
Muslim Girls Rise: Inspirational Champions of Our Time. 2019 (Biography Anthology).
Discover the true stories of nineteen unstoppable Muslim women of the twenty-first century who have risen above challenges, doubts, and sometimes outright hostility to blaze trails in a wide range of fields. Whether it was the culinary arts, fashion, sports, government, science, entertainment, education, or activism, these women never took “no” for an answer or allowed themselves to be silenced. Instead, they worked to rise above and not only achieve their dreams, but become influential leaders. Through short, information-rich biographies and vibrant illustrations, Muslim Girls Rise introduces young readers to the diverse and important contributions Muslim women have made.
Q. S.305.23083297 M67mu

Saeed, Aisha and Becky Albertalli
Yes, No, Maybe So. 2020 (Young Adult Fiction).
This young adult novel is told in alternating chapters between characters Jamie Goldberg and Maya Rehman, both seventeen years old. Jamie is cool with volunteering for his local state senate candidate, but only behind the scenes. He would never choose to knock on doors to canvas for votes… until he meets Maya. Maya Rehman is having the worst Ramadan ever. Her friend is too busy to hang out, her summer trip was canceled, and she just learned her parents are separating. Her mom keeps pushing her to spend her time political canvassing with an awkward guy she barely knows. Passionate about both local activism and one another, Jamie and Maya are a charming and driven team. Yes, No, Maybe So beautifully captures interfaith love in contemporary America.
S. Al146ye