It’s hard to imagine how a children’s picture book about colors could be the center of controversy. But Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors by Hena Khan (author) and Mehrdokht Amini (illustrator) uncomfortably found itself at the fury of a Marietta, Georgia parent when his daughter purchased the book at a school fair. Furious, the father filed a complaint with the school board about the book’s presence at the school fair, remarking, “That culture there doesn’t seem to have anything good coming out of it.”
It was a shame that father was so ensnared in his own prejudices that he refused to allow his curious daughter the enjoyment of this delightfully simple book. He might have learned from the pages that the “culture” he was referring to (actually it’s a religion not a culture!) has so much beauty. Look no further for some of that beauty than the idea of zakat: “Yellow is the box we fill on Eid with gifts of zakat for those in need.” Muslims are required to give away some of their money at the end of Ramadan—zakat—to directly help the poor.
Written in rhymes, “Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns” is based around colors that represent meaningful concepts and items in Islam. “Green is the Quran I read with pride. Grandma explains the lessons inside.” It is both educational and enjoyable for Muslims and non-Muslims alike as it describes Islamic concepts in a way that doesn’t feel like an explanation: “Blue is the hijab mom likes to wear. It’s a scarf she uses to cover her hair.” The illustrations are gorgeous, with hues warming each page based on the color presented.
“Orange is the color of my henna designs. They cover my hands in leafy vines.”
I am always on the lookout for books featuring Muslim and/or Arab characters as I want my children to see their identity reflected in books we read. Although many Muslim authors have been trying to change the dearth of titles featuring Muslim characters in recent years with more and more titles available, books that feature Muslim or Arab characters are still few and far between, and books aimed at younger readers are even fewer. This book is an exciting contribution to picture books for preschool-aged readers.
Although this book is aimed at a young crowd, my five- and seven-year-old daughters enjoyed it as well. I’m not sure if it’s because they saw concepts in the book they could relate to like a prayer mat, henna, mosque or dates at Ramadan, but there were also words that were unfamiliar to them like fanoos. “Silver is a fanoos, a twinkling light, a shiny lantern that glows at night.”
The tenets of Islam are what unite Muslims around the world but there are many cultural practices that make Muslims unique. I liked that my kids got a subtle sense of this as well from this book.