‘Ayat Jamilah: Beautiful Signs: A Treasury of Islamic Wisdom for Children and Parents (This Little Light of Mine)’
By Sarah Conover (Adapter), Freda Crane (Adapter)
Winner of the 2004 Aesop Prize, Ayat Jamilah/Beautiful Signs: a Treasury of Islamic Wisdom for Children and Parents is the second book in Eastern Washington University Press'This Little Light of Mine series. A young adult/adult crossover anthology, it draws from not only the core of Islamic spirituality and ethics, the Qur'an, and the traditions (hadiths), but also from the mystical verse, folk tales, and exemplary figures of the Islamic narrative. Unlike any other collection of Islamic stories, Beautiful Signs gathers traditional stories from the farthest reaches of the Muslim world, which stretches from Morocco in the west to Indonesia in the east, and from China in the north to Tanzania in the south. This unique anthology, with its rich and thorough explanatory notes, will be invaluable to anyone wishing to understand, or to teach, geography, world history, or world religions. It will also be treasured by Muslim families and by all parents committed to broadening the lives and values of their children and themselves.
9 and Up–This book aims to do for Islam what Conover's Kindness (EWU, 2000) did for Buddhism: reflect the ethos of the religion in a treasury of stories accessible to teens. Here, too, pithy sayings from the tradition are framed on full pages between the narratives, and 22 pages of notes and sources provide foundations and suggest further exploration. These stories from the Qur'an, from Muslim history, hadiths (oral tradition), and folktales originated in the Middle East, China, Indonesia, Africa, and even Muslim Spain; several are from Sufi teachings (e.g., Rumi's). Although many feature mullahs, women star in a couple of tales. Focusing on life lessons, even the stories identified as historical can have an idealized moral: a band of robbers converted by the honesty of a youth, or a thief reformed by a lone woman's kindness. Calligraphy and frames surrounding illustrations reflect the astounding inventiveness of design in the Islamic tradition. Of the dozen line-and-color illustrations, most represent a scene and reflect the cultural diversity of the sources. Several are merely decorative. Islam today is undeniably important: a work as informative and entertaining as this one, that helps readers to understand its values, should be welcome.
(Patricia D. Lothrop, St. George's School)
‘Once there was and there was not" is the Arabic equivalent of "Once upon a time," and it begins many of the stories in this collection of folktales and stories from the Islamic world. One of the most popular folk characters is Mulla Nasruddin, a wise and witty spiritual guide. In one story, a woman comes to the Mulla's court and asks him to forbid her sweet-toothed son from eating candy, which the Mulla eventually does, but only after curing himself of his own sugar addiction. The book isn't only folktales; it also includes retellings of Qur'anic passages (including one about the infant Jesus), parables from the Hadiths, and stories from Islamic mystics like the great female saint Rabe'a al-Adiwiyah. Though somewhat less kid-friendly than its predecessor in the This Little Light of Mine series, the collection of Buddhist stories Kindness (2001), many of the tales from Ayat Jamilah will make excellent read-alouds, and the adapters have done a magnificent job of collecting stories from throughout the Islamic world, from China to Africa to the Middle East.’
Age Group: 9-12