Hands up every parent who has ever searched the internet with any combination of the following phrases: Muslim Childrens’ Books, English Muslim Kids Books, Quality Muslim Kids Books, Stories for Muslim Children.
Oh! Me! Me! Me!
As a lifelong picture book aficionado, it was only natural that once I became a parent I searched for the most beautiful, poetic and thoughtful books for my children – and let’s be honest, for myself. I found so many wonderful books but something was missing – books that reflected us!
I scoured the Internet but it could only take me so far. I then began to ask other parents for recommendations and searched with them for publications which better incorporated Muslim characters and perhaps even impart stories from our tradition. As the years passed this got slightly easier with many new publications entering the Muslim children’s book market and happily, my own children now have a solid collection of lovely illustrated books rich in diversity. But now, in the midst of this ongoing biblio-adventure, I have come up against another challenge all too soon: A child who is outgrowing picturebooks.
I’m not sure when it happened exactly, but my six year old wants longer stories, more complex tales with more characters and action. She’s not as concerned with the pictures as she once was and so, my search has also had to shift slightly. Where, oh where, were the storybooks for the slightly older child? I found some interesting books for young adults, but not age-appropriate for my daughter and I pulled out classic childhood fiction, including The Little Prince and The Velveteen Rabbit, but those stories needed a few days to complete and she preferred stories that could be read in entirety before bedtime.
I remembered then a conversation I’d had some months ago with a good friend in Toronto. She mentioned that she had finally located and purchased the entire set of Khurram Murad’s books for children and how they were still so good. Ah Ha! How could I have forgotten these mainstays of my childhood bookshelf? Published by The Islamic Foundation, a quick online search showed they were still available but I held off on ordering right away. A few days later I found myself in a West London Islamic bookshop and there, in a dusty, dark corner, lay almost all the books I had been searching for! My joy was overwhelming and the owner was so pleased to have someone take an interest in them that he sold them to me with 50% off. A winning situation all round. I was so pleased.
I brought home my treasures and we began reading the stories immediately. Both my six year old and two year old listened intently to the simple yet evocative tales. Some are biographies of the Prophetic Companions and others are grouped by subject, like kindness to animals or being a good neighbour and citizen.
They are so well chosen, so thoughtful and considered. There are strangely charming illustrations, but not too many, and the stories are all true and from the Prophetic tradition. They emphasize good character, steadfastness and love. First published in the mid-1980s, I am amazed that even after all these years they are still the best thing I’ve seen for children who are a bit too old for picture books and a bit too young for chapter books
If you can find a set, or even the books individually, it is well worth the investment as I don’t expect my children to outgrow them any time soon and each story is both enjoyable to read but also brings up many opportunities for discussion around key themes. They also come as audiobooks, now available as a 7 CD set, which would be perfect for road trips.
As happy as I am with my new collection, these books are not enough and so, I am still on the lookout for more and different stories for this age group. Please share your feedback or recommendations in the comments and help us build our slightly older kid booklist.