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In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Chapter Book Review: Magid Fasts for Ramadan by Mary Matthews

On 24, Jun 2016 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

Magid FastsMagid Fasts for Ramadan written by Mary Matthews, illustrated by E. B. Lewis

From Goodreads: It is the first day of Ramadan, the month when good Muslims eat nothing and drink nothing all day, every day, from sunrise to sunset. Mama and Baba have told Magid he isn’t old enough to fast, but even Magid’s sister, Aisha, is fasting, and Magid doesn’t want to wait.

I thought this was a nice little story about honesty and also feeling left out of something “grown up”. Magid is your typical kid. He finds a way to get around the restrictions placed on him without really thinking through the consequences. I thought Matthews nailed that. The illustrations dated the book somewhat, but it was nice to see an average looking, modern Egyptian family (as in, the family doesn’t look like they lived 300 years ago). The story is about Magid wanting to fast for Ramadan and to be a devout Muslim. But it’s also about honesty and how something that is meant well and done with good intentions can still be dishonest.

Aaaaand then I read the reviews on Amazon. It seems like a fair number of Muslim parents have chimed in on it. Some like the story, others don’t. Most didn’t like that Magid was actively discouraged from fasting even though he wanted to and that his sister was such a pill. All valid points. On the other hand many liked the story for its message about honesty and weren’t perturbed by Magid being discouraged from fasting. I can’t find much about the author and I’m not sure where she got the idea for the story. I’m also relatively sure that she isn’t Muslim so there is very much the issue of authenticity here.

I think in the end, it has a Message with a capital “m” (it didn’t bother me, but that was my personal opinion) and if you don’t want a book that explicitly teaches something, you don’t want this book. I think it’s worth buying for library collections as there are obviously Muslim families that like it, but if you’re looking at it for your family see if the public library has it first and see if it fits with your conception of Ramadan and Islamic values.

The book itself is an odd hybrid of chapter book (it has chapters) and picture book (most pages have an illustration spread much like a picture book). The text is longer, like a chapter book, but the amount of illustrations make it feel younger. I would encourage you to share it with many age levels, as the story is worthwhile. I wish the publisher would reissue it in a small, chapter book trim size. I think it would fit better in the collection and would circulate better. We do have chapter books that have lots of pictures, but they need that seemingly more grown-up size to appeal to those readers who are moving up.

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