Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

To See Your Beliefs Reflected All Around You

Each morning as the first pale rays of dawn light touch the sky we wake knowing today is an opportunity to be our best selves.  As the sun drops below the horizon and evening descends, we can evaluate what was done or not done and what was said or not said.  As an educator, a librarian, it's our sacred task to learn and grow so the patrons, children and adults, who enter the library see, use and read materials which provide the whole world.  Everything we do should be in an effort to build connections through understanding whether through factual information or fiction titles.

Our lives are enriched by the increase in our knowledge about others and every living thing on this planet.  (We cannot ignore the events in our communities, our home states, the United States and around the world.)  For today, June 26, 2018, Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets: A Muslim Book of Shapes (Chronicle Books, April 10, 2018) written by Hena Khan with illustrations by Mehrdokht Amini rose to the top of a group of recently purchased books.  It supplies to readers a mirror, a window and a door. 

Cone is the tip 
of the minaret so tall.
I hear soft echoes 
of the prayer call.

As the pages are turned in this narrative and as we travel around the world visiting places with people observing Muslim beliefs and traditions, our hearts expand with compassion.  We learn to look for figures and patterns.  Each one has significance and value.

A door opening into a mosque is a rectangle. A fountain providing water for washing before prayers is an octagon.  A drum played during celebrations is a circle.  If you seek shapes, they are there.

Three more shapes represent structures used for sermons, prayers, and a sacred site.  Another is seen in gardens of great beauty.  A decorative tile holds a place for an affirmative verse.

A family gathering, a special article of clothing and a greeting reveal the outlines of forms. Tying these together are people.  People who begin and end their days with hope.  We are more alike than we are different.

To read the words written by Hena Khan silently is to feel peace.  To read them aloud is to release the joy. Each two sentence pair rhymes with the final word.  The first sentence includes the shape.  It may also introduce us to a meaningful word in the Muslim beliefs and traditions.  This technique of supplying readers with a repeating pattern fully engages us in the narrative.  Prior to the page turn we are wondering where in the world we will go, the shape we will see and how our awareness will strengthen.  Here is another couplet.

Square is a garden
with sweet orange trees,
a hint of jannah
on its fragrant breeze.

When opened, the matching dust jacket and book case depict the intricacy of the design elements in Islamic art and its architecture.  Several of the shapes mentioned within the book are shown on the front illustration.  It's a beautiful blend of interior images.  To the left, on the back, is an exquisite layered and vertical pattern in rows. 

On the opening and closing endpapers a combination of squares, rectangles, and triangles woven together is further representation.  Illustrator Mehrdokht Amini selects shades of red, orange and yellow to color the first set of pages.  At the back hues of blue, purple and green are used.  On the verso and title pages the top of the tower and minaret are shown with a rising sun behind them.

Each picture, spanning two pages and rendered in mixed media, enhances the couplets.  We travel from country to country and within various parts of a given community.  Colorful clothing and marvelous buildings, on the outside and on the inside, envelope us in this world.  We are explorers and guests and for others, this takes them into the known.

Mehrdokht Amini shifts the point of view allowing us to get an overview when it's important and bringing us close to the people so we can respectfully observe or participate.  Her people, adults and children, have large expressive eyes.  They suggest the mood within the moment.

One of my favorite of many illustrations is for circle.  Two daffs, large round drums, are being held and played by women.  Another woman is blowing on a small horn.  These four adult women frame the entire image.  Beginning on the left and crossing the gutter, children, holding hands, dance in a circle.  The clothing on everyone but especially the women is lovely.

With each reading your respect intensifies and your perceptions sharpen.  Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets: A Muslim Book of Shapes written by Hena Khan with illustrations by Mehrdokht Amini gives readers a stunning portrait in rhythmic, informative words and vibrant illustrations of Muslim beliefs and traditions. It is a vitally important title you will want to have on your personal and professional bookshelves.  There is a glossary and an author's note at the conclusion.

To learn more about Hena Khan and Mehrdokht Amini and their other work, please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names.  Hena has a blog linked to her site.  Mehrdokht has many illustrations for you to see on her site including the one I mentioned.  Hena has accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.  Both Hena and Mehrdokht are showcased at Book Q & As with Deborah Kalb.  Hena chats about her work at 88 Cups Of Tea in a podcast.  She also talks in a video at Colorin colorado!  Mehrdokht is highlighted at Let's Talk Picture BooksAt the publisher's website you can download a printable poster.

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