A beautiful picture book simultaneously explores shapes, Islam, and the cultures of the Muslim people.
Ranging from simple (circle, rectangle, triangle, oval, diamond) to more advanced (cone, cube, hexagon, octagon, arch, crescent), various shapes introduce an object, architectural form, or concept related to Islamic faith or cultural practices. “Cube is the Ka’aba, / a most sacred site, / where Muslims worship / each day and night.” The daff (a type of drum) is a circle; the minaret is a cone; an ayah, defined as “a verse of the holy Quran” in the glossary, is printed on a hexagonal tile, and diamonds adorn a new kaftan for Eid, “an Islamic holiday.” Illustrations are elaborately adorned and ornamented, a characteristic of Islamic art, and depict Muslims of many races and ethnicities. However, Muslims dressed in noncultural clothes are largely (though not entirely) missing from illustrations, potentially reinforcing a stereotypical image for non-Muslims. This is partially remedied by the author’s note that each spread represents a different country, but without a key or labels, it is difficult to discern which ones these are. The book successfully covers a wide array of concepts, cultures, and shapes, but Islam’s vastness, rightly celebrated here, means that some choices in spelling (“mimbar” vs. “minbar”; “Ka’aba” vs. “Ka’ba” or “Ka’bah”), definition (“iftar” is not necessarily a “light” meal), and illustrative detail (the kaftan is not belted) may throw readers accustomed to other practices.
A good accompaniment to the duo’s Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns, which featured a Western Muslim family (2012), in a collection of children’s books with an Islamic theme. (Picture book. 3-7)