Ilyas and Duck: Ramadan Joy by Omar S. Khawaja illustrated by Leo Antolini
The fourth book in the popular Ilyas & Duck series is perfect for instilling joy about Ramadan, and excitement in overcoming Mr. Mean. But first readers along with Ilyas and Duck, will have to understand what fasting means, realize that it is hard and not all fun, learn some Arabic words and concepts such as compassion, empathy, and gratitude, before they can save the neighborhood from a menacing villain wanting to destroy the blessings of Ramadan.
As always, with Ilyas and Duck, the rhyming book asks questions that kids think about and is silly in a way that they can relate to. The illustrations are bright and engaging and the hardback book is 38 pages of fun and information, perfect for ages 5 and up.
The book starts with the ayat from the Qur’an that says, “O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous” (chapter 2, verse 283). The book concludes with a mock newspaper spread of the Current Times, full of tidbits about the crescent moon, benefits of fasting, Ilyas and Duck Ramadan cards, a crossword puzzle, and a classified add for Eid Goodie Bags posted by an anonymous, Mr. “M.”
The book cleverly conveys how a day of Ramadan is practiced without getting preachy. It shows Ilyas and Duck, praying and eating dates and decorating and getting excited. the women wear hijab, but nothing about singling out that this is a part of Islam or Muslims is really mentioned. The reader just is going along with Ilyas and his pal Duck. It does remark that Allah is the provider and fasting helps build your relationship with Allah, but not to the point that it would seem preachy or alienating to non Muslim children. Meaning I think you could read this book to your child’s public school class, or scout troop and not have any problems, while similarly giving a Muslim child an awesome story to identify with.
A lot of the behavior details of what one should and shouldn’t do in Ramadan actually come from Mr. Mean, as he like all villains, lays out his evil plan. He is hoping to spray a poison that will make kids play instead of pray, and he is leaving cookies around to tempt kids to break their fast. He is also planning to spread rumors, and encourage gossip, and get kids to make promises they cannot keep. Alhumdulillah, Sheriff Ilyas and Deputy Duck run him out of town because “there’s no room for meanness, only goodness in Ramadan.”