Rukhsana Khan, illus. by Patty Gallinger. Muslim Child. Napolean and Co, 1999. ISBN 978-0929141619 72 pp. $
A timely book that fills a gap, Muslim Child consists of eight stories that illustrate the history of Islam, the 5 pillars of Muslim religion (belief, praying, fasting, charity and the pilgrimage to Mecca) and introduce traditional Islamic customs of dress, diet, and celebration. Written by a practicing Muslim, the stories stress that the religion is worldwide with diverse practitioners, and shows Muslim children struggling with fitting in while keeping the faith.
The author states in her introduction that her intention is to “Correct the misconceptions regarding Muslims” but there are several minor errors in comparing the culture of America and Christian religion to Islam, for example, stating that Halloween is a celebration of the forces of evil when it is based on the pagan new year.
The stories themselves are unexceptional; for example, in “The Black Ghost,” point of view shifts midway through the story, and the endings of most are predictable. Still, the sprinkling of Arabic and small cultural details make the setting genuine. Sidebars define unfamiliar terms, but much of the information is repetitive, as if the publisher did not intend the work to be read a whole. Informational pages containing traditional recipes, excerpts from the Quran, or a history lesson are interspersed between the fiction, and a glossary and pronunciation guide concludes the book.
Hopefully, this will be the first of many such books about a people that are in the forefront of our minds and that makes up a fifth of the world’s population.