Monday, May 6, 2013
THE WHITE NIGHTS OF RAMADAN by Maha Addasi
"Noor was too excited to sleep. She kept checking the candy and the fanouses that would light up their path for Girgian." This undercurrent of energy courses through the whole story, in which little Noor and her littler brothers prepare for a three night celebration during Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting. It's always a pleasure to read of that exuberance in the child during what is a spiritual and peaceful but also challenging time (fasting from dawn until dusk for a month!).
The familiar and widely known facts are there about Ramadan, but we get to learn a whole new facet of Arab culture in the description of a culturally specific holiday, Girgian (which I personally was unfamiliar with, despite my Muslim heritage). I enjoyed learning about this celebration, and I'm sure a lot of kids will actually relate to it—even if in the most ridiculous way—by equating the action of giving and collecting candy from house to house to that of Halloween. However, here you see children share in the delight of making the traditional candy and adorning their fancy ethnic garb together, while the parents instill the understanding that there is deeper purpose to the holiday and the month itself. There's no discord here; Noor naturally picks up from her grandmother the joy of being with your family and supporting others, an action she fulfills completely by the end of the novel.
This is a well-written story about a multigenerational family in Kuwait who share in the many experiences of Ramadan, and teach us about a jovial new one.
Soft, swirly illustrations in rich jewel tones bring out the bright white moon and brilliant red garb and yellow drums, all the while inviting the reader to experience the excitement of the children. I love illustrations that capture the details in their expressions as well as their cultural background. These are just incredibly warm and evocative. The guide at the back is helpful and informative as well—worth an exploration into something that may be somewhat familiar to the general reader but offers rich insight into the beauty of another culture. I've become a fan of Maha Addasi's work and highly recommend this book.