by Asmaa Hussein, illustrated by Amina Khan
Set in a village in Somalia, the protagonist, Omar, wants to surprise his mother with a delicious feast. He goes to the local Imam, Shaykh Omar, to get help in putting put his plan into action. As Omar invites everyone to the community feast, the meal gets fancier and tastier and bigger. By the time Omar’s mother comes to the masjid at dinner time, the whole village is there and they have a menu that includes much more than just soup!
In this colourful picture book, Canadian author Asmaa Hussein teams up with the talented illustrater Amina Khan to take children on an adventure exploring the meaning of community. The bonds of family are sweetly highlighted in Omar’s loving desire to treat his mom to a delicious meal. Also the important role of the Imam as the community leader and advisor is evident in his relationship with Omar. Not only that, but Shaykh Omar’s hands-on approach models the Prophetic traits that we as parents want our children to emulate: humbleness to get one’s hand dirty regardless of position. Most obvious though is the way a community takes care of each other. Omar’s village all helped in creatign the spectacular surprise for his mother…and they all joined in celebrating and sharing the joy.
This book is an example of one that hits the trifecta of desired features in a Muslim children’s book.
- Celebrating Islam: The masjid as a place of gathering, men in beards and thawbs, women in hijab, even everyday Islamic phrases like Alhamdulillah and Masha Allah are normalized in this book. Children will easily be able to see themselves and their daily routine and lifestyle mirrored in Omar’s life.
- Diverse characters: This book adds a welcomed dose of diversity to any child’s library. It celebrates Somali culture and uses the Somali words for mother (Hooyo) and father (Aabo). Not only will Ssomali children rejoice at seeing their culture celebrated, but children of all racial backgrounds will benefit from seeing black characters in their books.
- Moral Values: Sharing, community, trust in Allah, and generosity. These are all themes that “Bismillah Soup” touches on while taking kids on their little soup adventure. The moral themes are smoothly incorporated into the story; neither parents nor kids will notice the little lessons that Omar and his village are quietly teaching them.
This beautiful remake of the classical folktale “Stone Soup” is filled with mesmerizing colourful illustrations. The interesting adventure of Omar brings it to life and makes it a perfect book to read to kids of any age. And for those kids just starting to read independently, the simple sentence structure makes it an ideal choice.
This books is a beautiful celebration of the solidarity of community and the joys of generosity.
A perfect gift, especially in this Ramadan season.