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Review: Once Upon an Eid

Thank you to Amulet Books for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

  • Book: Once Upon an Eid
  • Editors: S. K. Ali and Aisha Saeed
  • Year Published: 2020
  • Overall rating: 4.5 stars

Once Upon an Eid was a heart warming and uplifting anthology all about the indescribable joy of Eid and its power to bring people together. It was full of wholesome, own-voices Muslim representation and it’s a brilliant read for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. As a Muslim, I felt like a saw a small piece of myself in every story and I think many others will feel the same. I loved how Muslims with so many different cultures and Eid traditions were represented. Reading this anthology during Ramadan made the experience even better, filling me up with fuzzy, warm joy!

(1) Perfect by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, 4 stars: A twelve-year-old Black American hijabinista named Hawa was nervous about spending Eid-ul-Fitr with her father’s side of the family from Guinea in New York. Despite what her father thought, she didn’t feel like the ‘perfect Mandinka girl’ at all. It was about accepting all the different parts of herself and becoming closer to family. I could really sympathise with how awkward it can be to navigate language barriers and meet unfamiliar extended family.

(2) Yusuf and the Great Big Brownie Mistake by Aisha Saeed, 4 stars: Yusuf was distraught when his favourite Eid tradition of making brownies went wrong and his sister decided she had grown out of it. This one was about the importance of tradition, but also how it can change. About how doing things with family can make them better.

(3) Kareem Means Generous by Asmaa Hussein, 4.5 stars: Generosity is a core value that Islam teaches and, as the title suggests, this story was about a boy called Kareem learning about the importance of generosity and kindness by helping out a friend. He realised that not every one was as lucky as him and giving brought him more happiness than keeping everything to himself.

“Anytime you share something you love, it comes right back to you like a boomerang. You never lose it.”

(4) Don’ut Break Tradition by S. K. Ali, 4.5 stars: For Nadia, this Eid didn’t feel special because her mum was ill. This story was all about how Nadia was determined to make Eid special for her mother and the rest of her family. It was about the power of tradition and the magnitude small gestures can have. I loved how every member of the family was represented by a donut and the hopeful message the story had which really resonated with me.

(5) Just Like Chest Armor by Candice Montgomery, 4 stars: Eleven-year-old Leila decided that she was ready to wear hijab, however, her parents weren’t so sure. She took her time with it learning how to wear it and feel comfortable with it before wearing it outside. She decided that she didn’t mind how other people reacted to her hijab because it was how she wanted to express her faith and it felt right for her. I liked how this story went against the idea that some people have that Muslims are ‘forced’ to wear hijab and it instead showed the pride, strength and connection that wearing hijab can bring. I also loved this story’s emphasis on colour.

(6) Gifts by Rukhsana Khan, 4 stars: Idrees was excited for Eid because he was excited to receive his gifts. He gradually realised though that the real gifts in his life were the non material aspects like love, memories and worship.

“It’s not the gift. It’s the love behind it”

(7) The Feast of Sacrifice by Hena Khan, 4 stars: This one was set around Eid-ul-Adha. Humza and his siblings had to stay with their grandparents whilst their parents embarked on the Hajj pilgrimage. As the eldest sibling, Humza was struggling having to be more responsible for his siblings and didn’t like his grandparents’ less exciting way of celebrating Eid. This story was about making sacrifices, about not being selfish and being able to give for someone else to receive. It was also about the importance of community in Islam, especially around Eid.

(8) Seraj Captures the Moon by G. Willow Wilson and Sara Alfageeh, 4 stars: This was a really cute graphic short story where a boy called Seraj goes looking for the Eid moon in a hot air balloon. It was also about the importance of sometimes blocking out all the noise and distractions to focus on faith and sharing joy.

(9) Searching for Blue by N. H. Senzai, 5 stars: This story was about celebrating Eid at a refugee camp in Greece. Bassem felt like their prayers were going unanswered and they had been forgotten. However, with everyone banding together they all managed to pull together a joyful, hopeful Eid for everyone despite their circumstances. It was really thought provoking and presented the many hardships and sorrows that refugees face and the writing was beautiful.

(10) Creative Fixes by Ashley Franklin, 4.5 stars: Makayla’s family had converted to Islam and all the changes to their lives were a lot for her to take in. It was about her finding the self confidence to be proud of herself and enjoy her first Eid.

“It’s hard to see the beauty in things when you can’t see past your insecurities”

(11) Taste by Hana Alkaf, 5 stars: Alia’s mother had been in a car accident and was in hospital, she was so upset and ridden with guilt that all her food lost its taste. But that wouldn’t stop her from cooking the lontong they had every Eid. It was about opening up to family and the power of food to bring people together. The writing was so compelling, I loved it!

(12) Eid Pictures by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, 4 stars: This was a moving poem about how Eid celebrations have changed over time and how the first Black Muslims in America must have celebrated their first Eids there.

(13) Not Only an Only by Huda Al-Marashi, 4 stars: This story focused on a girl called Aya who was the only Muslim in her school which she didn’t mind until an uncomfortable lesson about Sunni and Shia Muslims. The main message of the story was Sunni or Shia, we’re all Muslims- one community- and that it what matters most.

(14) Maya Madinah Chooses Joy by Ayesha Mattu, 4 stars: Maya Madinah didn’t know how to enjoy Eid after her parents had divorced. She hated everyone else’s joy and wanted to run away. This was a story about embracing change and focusing on creating love and joy around yourself.

(15) Eid and Pink Bubble Gum, Insha’Allah by Randa Abdel-Fattah, 4 stars: Deyana, her three younger siblings and her parents were embarking on their annual Eid-ul-Fitr road trip to visit her grandparents who lived near Sydney. She missed the peace she had when she was an only child and found her brothers and sister frustrating beyond belief. This story was about how love between family can overcome anger and the importance of patience and responsibility. It was really cute and funny.

All the short stories in the anthology were sweet and simple with a young main character and a moral or lesson to learn. I thought this was a good thing making the book accessible to a vast audience and a wide range of ages. I loved how all the stories focused on the core values of Islam and the true spirit of Eid: faith, family, community, kindness, generosity, responsibility and joy.

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