We have read many books about Ramadan in our home, but these are our top six favorites.
1. A Party in Ramadan by Asma Mobin-Uddin is the perfect Ramadan book for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Centered around a Muslim child invited to a non-Muslim child’s pony party during Ramadan, the book adeptly bridges both worlds through a mix of Muslim and non-Muslim characters, while explaining some of the excitement and rituals around Ramadan. You can read more about A Party in Ramadan here.
2. The White Nights of Ramadan by Maha Addasi gives a glimpse of one of the fun Ramadan traditions in a Persian Gulf country, a festival called Girgian, known as “the three whites.” Celebrated around the days of the full moon, it is like the American Halloween, where children dress up in traditional clothes and go from house to house asking for treats from neighbors. My children loved seeing a glimpse of how Ramadan is celebrated in other countries and ask for this book again and again. Kids unfamiliar with Ramadan will get a sense of the joy that the celebration brings.
3. Nabeel’s New Pants: An Eid Tale by Fawzia Gilani-Williams is a funny book about Eid, the festival celebrating the end of Ramadan. Nabeel is out buying presents for his family and buys himself a pair of pants that are too long. He wants someone in his family to hem them, but they are all too busy cooking for the big celebration. See what happens with Nabeel’s pants at the end when the family all put on their new clothes—a tradition on Eid—to head to mosque to celebrate and feast.
4. Sometimes books about holidays can be too didactic and kids get bored. Other times a story may not do enough explaining of the holiday, leaving unfamiliar readers with many questions or incomplete ideas. Neither of these is the case for Night of the Moon: A Muslim Holiday Story by Hena Khan, which seamlessly weaves a description of Ramadan into a story about a little girl, Yasmeen, who watches each phase of the moon as she and her family celebrate Ramadan in the West. With beautiful illustrations, I loved how this book conveys the excitement around Ramadan, with special dinners and big parties to look forward to each weekend while explaining the fast as well as covering the centrality of giving to the poor. The book culminates in the much-awaited celebration of Eid where Yasmeen gets a big surprise!
5. Moon Watchers: Shirin’s Ramadan Miracle takes the fast of Ramadan one step further than other books. It captures not just the joy of Ramadan, which all the books do well, but also kids’ earnest desire to be included in the fast. Non-Muslims usually breath a sigh of relief when they learn that children aren’t expected to fast. But what most non-Muslims don’t realize is that children can’t wait to fast as they want to feel part of their family traditions. In this book, father and daughter have a nightly ritual of going out to observe the moon during Ramadan but young Shirin want to fast like everyone else; her parents insist she is still too young. We also catch Shirin’s teenage brother “cheating” by sneaking food when he thinks no one is watching, something my husband tells me he also did when he was a teenager and first learning to fast. One more thing this book addresses nicely is the head scarf, specifically why some wear it and some don’t, which has also been a question from my Muslim children. Shirin’s mom answers, “There are different traditions about such things. But all Muslims use the same prayers and we all observe Ramadan.”
6. A final book I will mention, which is not explicitly a Ramadan-related book is Time to Pray by Maha Addasi. It’s well suited for Ramadan though as it explains the ritual of prayer through a story of a Western child visiting her grandmother in a Muslim country. Anyone who has visited a Muslim country, no matter what faith, will know the beauty and serenity of hearing the call to prayer five times per day as it rings out across every city and town within the Muslim world. The call to prayer was one of the first things about the Muslim world I fell in love with (years before I met my Muslim husband), as a traveler across many Muslim countries. The story shows the ritual of washing before prayer, how one prays and dresses to pray, as well as the fun adventures little Yasmin has with her grandmother. This books gets an extra special mention as it’s the first bilingual book in Arabic and English I have come across (although I am sure there are more I have yet to discover)! Applause!
If you are looking for books that give a complete explanation of Ramadan and Eid but are still aimed at children, then try these next two. They don’t read as lightly as the above-listed picture books and are geared toward slightly older readers, above age five, but are informative.
Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr by Deborah Heiligman. As this book is published by National Geographic, it’s no surprise that it’s full of stunning photography that jumps off the page.
Ramadan by Suhaib Hamid Ghazi is a detailed account of Ramadan as told through the story of a boy. It’s a bit denser than a usual picture book and gives a thorough account of the practices of Ramadan through a story.