Hannah and the Ramadan Gift by Qasim Rashid and Aaliya Jaleel

Hello, Qasim Rashid! Thank you for visiting Watch. Connect. Read. to celebrate Hannah and the Ramadan Gift. I wish I could have experienced it with my students when I was an elementary school teacher and a K-5 teacher-librarian. They would have loved it! The good news is I can share it during my 2021 Books I Love presentation.

What planted the seed for Hannah and the Ramadan Gift?

Qasim Rashid: I was a voracious reader as a child, but I was hard-pressed to see myself in those books. So when my wife, Ayesha, and I started reading to our three young children, we wanted to get them books in which they could see themselves meaningfully represented. This proved to be a challenge, both from a ‘main character’ perspective and also from a topical perspective. Think about the joy parents feel when their children open Christmas presents, or the pride they experience during a bat mitzvah? Similarly, I wanted the lived and memorable experiences for my children with Ramadan and Eid—which is such an uplifting and community-building time for our family—to be shared with the world. These are the emotions and experiences I sought to capture in Hannah and the Ramadan Gift

What ran through your mind (or your heart) the first time you saw Aaliya Jaleel’s finished illustrations for Hannah and the Ramadan Gift?

Qasim Rashid: Aaliya is an incredibly talented, experienced, and thoughtful artist, and the artwork for this book is a true testament to her skill. The ultimate test for me was what my own daughter Hannah Noor (after whom the book is named) would think of the illustrations. And when I showed Hannah Noor the book-cover, her eyes lit up. Her spontaneous response was an astonished “Abbu! It’s me!” She saw herself in this book in every authentic way and that was in large part due to Aaliya’s art, which truly brought my words to life. Hannah Noor’s reaction warmed my heart and affirmed for me once more how much representation matters. I’m lucky to have a partner like Aaliya for this important book and grateful to her for the time and care she invested in every single page.

Scenario: A teacher-librarian in Naperville, Illinois, asks you to booktalk Hannah and the Ramadan Gift to a second-grade class. What would you share with the students?

Qasim Rashid: I grew up not far from Naperville, IL in Glen Ellyn, IL, so I’d be thrilled to be home again and have that conversation! My message to every child is simple. You have the power to save the world. Each of you does. It’s true. How, you ask? You start by serving your neighbor, your friends, and your community. And even if you can help only one person, that is worth the world. That’s what Ramadan is all about, saving the world by serving one person at a time.

Please finish the following sentence starters:

Hannah is your friend, your classmate, your neighbor in your community. She may look different, speak a different language, or have a different religion, but just like you, she loves her family, wants to grow up big and strong, and loves to laugh, play, and eat her favorite foods! 

Kheer, gulab jamuns, jalebis, and savyian (a stringy noodle sweet dish) are the perfect desserts to enjoy (anytime!) but particularly to celebrate the joy of Eid with your family and friends. 

School libraries are heaven on Earth. And librarians are guardian angels for every child that walks through those doors. My parents had instilled in me an early love of books and growing up, my library was an escape, a moment to forget about the real world and plunge into a new one. I spent a great deal of my childhood in libraries and I cherish those memories -- the thrill of finding a new book that I loved, the excitement of picking up the latest in a particular series, and the anticipation of waiting for a book to be returned so I could check it out. 

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me why would a family who doesn’t celebrate Ramadan enjoy this book?

Folks will enjoy Hannah and the Ramadan Gift for the same reason you don’t have to celebrate Christmas to be moved by the story of the Three Wise Men. Or why you don’t have to be Jewish to be pulled into the story of the Exodus. Hannah and the Ramadan Gift is an inclusive and heartwarming story that teaches our children the importance of service to humanity, expanding our tent of compassion, and remembering that our differences are opportunities for recognition and respect. But it is ultimately also simply a joyful tale about love. Hannah’s relationship with her grandfather, the deep affection between Hannah and her friends, and her desire to earn the respect of her family even as a very young child – these are things all of us can relate to, no matter where we come from, or what faith we practice.

Look for Hannah and the Ramadan Gift on April 6, 2021. 

Penguin's Description: 

The debut picture book by author and human rights activist Qasim Rashid that celebrates good deeds during the month of Ramadan.

It’s the first day of Ramadan and Hannah wants to be a part of this important month every way she can. But if she’s too young to fast, how can she observe Ramadan? By saving the world, Dada Jaan tells her. And so Hannah learns that by helping her friends and neighbors and by showing kindness and generosity, she can make the world a better place.

Qasim Rashid is an author and human rights lawyer focused on women’s rights, religious freedom, and children’s advocacy. Qasim, his wife, Ayesha, and their three children reside in Virginia. Visit qasimrashid.com or find him on Twitter @QasimRashid.

Aaliya Jaleel is a freelance illustrator, designer, and visual development artist. She is currently majoring in animation at the University of Texas at Dallas.


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