A Party in Ramadan by Asma Mobin-Uddin and illustrated by Laura Jacobsen, is the perfect Ramadan book for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Centered around a child’s pony party during Ramadan, the book adeptly bridges both worlds through a mix of Muslim and non-Muslim characters.
Young Leena is not yet expected to fast during Ramadan, but she has chosen to in order to partake in the celebration with her family, especially her Auntie Sana who is coming over for iftar dinner on the first night. Leena is insistent about fasting even when attending her friend Amy’s pony party, despite her mother’s encouragement to participate in the celebration and forego fasting.
At the party, Leena’s mother introduces herself to Amy’s mom and explains that Leena is fasting. Leena feels a hint of embarrassment as Amy’s mom asks, “Not even water?” I appreciated this hint of how Muslim children juggle the precepts of their faith in a non-Muslim society that may not understand it. Her embarrassment is fleeting, and soon she’s off enjoying the party. At first, Leena thinks it’s no big deal to fast while the other girls are drinking lemonade. Then thirst sets in. When the cake is served, she feels even worse—a headache and fatigue overtake her and she must lie down in the other room. “Why did God have to make it so hard?” she thinks.
The book explains the feeling of fasting in a way children can understand—the fatigue, the thirst that dries your throat, the headache. However, Leena’s challenge during the party, which feels almost too difficult in the moment, is rewarded when she breaks the fast at iftar. Food has never tasted so good and she appreciates every morsel she puts in her mouth. Her mother even saved her one of her favorite puddings. When her little sister asks for some of her pudding, Leena is hesitant to share until she remembers how she felt about the cake at the party. She takes one more bite of pudding and gives her sister the rest. Fasting made her more thoughtful and more prone to sharing. Through a chocolate pudding and cake, the book expertly conveys to children the meaning of Ramadan—to be more thankful and grateful, to be more thoughtful of others and more reflective about your own actions.
The biggest reward is a visit from Amy’s family with leftover cake for Leena. The families sit down to dinner and a dessert of cake and baklava–a warm message of inclusion and community between a Muslim and non-Muslim family. The ending etches in children’s minds how pleasant and seamless interfaith relations can be. A final page gives readers a bit more color on the celebration of Ramadan and the meaning of wearing hijab, or head scarf.
Out of all seven Ramadan books we picked up this year, this book has become my four-year-old’s favorite. Although she may be a bit biased, as she tends to like all things cake and referred to it as the “birthday cake book” before she knew its name (even if there is no reference to a birthday but rather just a party in the book), the intricacies of the story and warmth of the message are what continue to draw her to the book and provoke her questions. Most of all, I love this book because rather than solely portraying Muslims and Ramadan, the book blends two worlds so harmoniously, just like we do in my own family.