Moon Watchers: Shirin's Ramadan Miracle
For Muslim people around the world, Ramadan is a month-long time for prayer, fasting, and charity. This "month of blessing" is not viewed as a time of hardship but instead as a time to develop self-discipline and increase awareness of and compassion for the poor and the hungry. It is a time to deepen connection with Allah through prayer and community. For this much-anticipated month, Muslim people gather together in homes, shops, and restaurants to break their fasts and pray.
Islam uses a lunar calendar, so the timing of Ramadan depends on the cycles of the moon. Ramadan lasts a lunar month: from new moon to full moon and back to new moon. Ramadan always begins on the first night of the new moon of the ninth month of the year. Because the lunar calendar's months are shorter than the solar calendar's months, Ramadan appears to "move" from year to year. As a result, fasting (no food or water) during the winter months is not quite so much a challenge as fasting during long, hot summer days.
It is the custom to start the day with a pre-dawn meal called suhoor, then not eat or drink again until after the sun has set. That post-daylight meal is called iftar. Sharing these pre-dawn and post-sunset meals is an important part of community and family bonding, which is part of why Shirin feels a bit left out.
Ramadan is as important to many Muslims as Christmas and Easter are to many Christians, and Passover, Yom Kippur, and Rosh Hashanah are to many Jewish people. Ramadan ends with a gift-giving celebration called Eid ul-Fitr, which means "festival of breaking the fast."
Moon Watchers could promote conversations about:
- Sibling rivalry
- Making ethical decisions
- Food, culture, and religious holidays
- Lessons that can be learned from the experience of fasting
- The role of the lunar calendar in Islam and other religions
- Diverse family traditions and practices for holidays
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About the Author
In this lyrical telling of a contemporary story about Ramadan, Shirin watches the moon wax and wane with her father and learns to put sibling rivalry aside. Moon Watchers is rich in detail about one Muslim family's life. The warmth of the telling and themes like family traditions and helping others will resonate with readers everywhere.--Karen Lynn Williams, author of Galimoto; Four Feet, Two Sandal; and many other books for children
Gr 1-4-This thought-provoking tale straddles American, Persian, and Islamic cultures. Shirin, nine, watches for the moon signaling the start of Ramadan. She is disappointed because she is too young to fast, but her father encourages her to do good deeds. Jalali depicts the Shia-Muslim form of prayer, which includes kissing a stone, and also touches on the issue of women covering their hair. Throughout the story, Shirin follows the waxing and waning stages of the moon and is delighted when she gets permission to do half-day fasts and even more pleased when it appears that she is able to cope with them better than her brother. To her astonishment, she discovers him secretly eating. She decides not to expose Ali and counts it as a good deed. As Ramadan ends, the family prepares for Eid-ul-Fitr. O''Brien's watercolor illustrations evoke a culturally authentic Persian-American aesthetic, depicting warm characters in a family setting. An explanation of Ramadan and Eid is given in the back matter. This is another wonderful contribution to the slowly increasing collection of fictional books on the observance of Ramadan and a great resource for librarians and teachers.Fawzia Gilani-Williams, An-Noor School, Windsor, Ontario(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.-- "School Library Journal"
This moving picture book for older readers about a young Muslim girl and her family at Ramadan weaves together the traditional observance and its meaning with a lively drama of sibling rivalry. In her backyard in Maine, Shirin, 9, and her father watch for the new moon that starts the holy month. Shirin begs to be allowed to fast, like her older brother, Ali, 12, but she is furious when her family tells her she is too young. Then her parents decide to let her fast for part of the day, and she is thrilled. She also learns that Ramadan is about doing good deeds to help others. The unframed, intricately detailed, mixed-media illustrations show the siblings'' ugly standoffs (Shirin''s jealousy, Ali''s smugness), as well as the family at prayer, at the dinner table, and in warm close-ups. Along with the information about the holiday, there is a real story here: when Shirin helps Ali, it changes their relationship and reveals the meaning of the holiday. Grades 2-4. --Hazel Rochman--Hazel Rochman "Booklist"
Shirin lives in a suburban U.S. setting where she and her father can go outside and spot the new moon as Ramadan begins. The nine-year-old wants to fast this year after all, her 12-year-old brother is doing it but her parents tell her that she is too young. Her grandmother comforts her with a story about a boy who fasts part-time, and Shirin quickly recognizes the boy as her father. She, too, begins in the same way, but it is her new willingness to help others that leads to the changes in her relationship with her sibling that create the small but important miracle. Jalali is from Iran, but his story is about universal Muslim practices, with a few specific details indicated in O Brien s intense watercolors. The grandmother regularly wears a headscarf, while the mother does not. Both adult women wear chadors during prayer, and the grown-ups also use Shi ite heart-shaped prayer stones at the tops of their prayer mats. This quiet story adds to the small collection of books about Muslim families that can counteract the often harmful messages seen in the media. (Picture book. 6-9)-- "Kirkus"