Hip Hip Hooray!!
Today I am thrilled to congratulate Maha Addasi on the publication of her first book, The White Nights of Ramadan! This beautiful picture book is out this month from Boyds Mills Press, and I have a very special reason for celebrating.
Maha is a member of my critique group, and I was privileged to read early drafts of the manuscript several years ago. Now I feel like a proud godparent, since I was able to share the excitement of Maha’s first sale, and see the manuscript evolve into its final form as she worked hard on revisions.
The “white nights” referred to in the title are three days in the middle of the holy month — before, during, and after the full moon — which coincides with a special celebration called Girgian. In countries of the Arabian Sea-Persian Gulf region, such as Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, this is a festive time, when children go from house to house collecting treats, much like trick-or-treating in the U.S., but lasting for 3 consecutive nights! They carry lanterns, wear traditional clothes, and greet their neighbors with “Girgian, O Girgian,” which translates as “Candy, O Candy!”
In Maha’s story, based on her own childhood experiences growing up in Kuwait, Noor and her younger brothers excitedly prepare for Girgian by decorating their treat bags, making pistachio nut brittle, and trying on their special clothes.
These activities occur alongside the traditional practices of fasting, prayer, reading of the Koran, and special alms-giving. Unlike some of the other formal, stilted treatments of this subject, The White Nights of Ramadan will show young readers that the true meaning of this observance can also be about having fun, while spending time with family, visiting neighbors, and sharing with those less fortunate.
The masterful oil-on-canvas paintings by Ned Gannon are a study in luminosity, with deep, rich colors that perfectly emulate the ancient, exotic setting. The opening spread shows Noor staring at the rising moon, full of anticipation. I love how Mr. Gannon extends this white light by incorporating it throughout the book. It radiates from the children’s garments, the powdered sugar in the candy, the ceramic plates used for iftar (the meal taken after sunset to break the day’s fast), the lanterns bobbing along with happy children in the streets — until it becomes the full moon in the final spread, lighting the way for Noor and her grandfather as they take a charity basket to the mosque.
Every time I turn the pages of this lovely book, I feel the spirit of happy children, and think how much of Muslim culture is probably misunderstood by many Americans. I highly recommend The White Nights of Ramadan for all children ages 4 and up, and see it as a must-have for school libraries and home schoolers. The Authors Note and Glossary will encourage further study.
For now, grab your spoons and slurp your congratulations to Maha, who will be visiting alphabet soup in September. Be sure to check back; you won’t want to miss meeting this Renaissance woman!
*Interior spread from The White Nights of Ramadan posted by permission, Copyright © 2008, Ned Gannon. All rights reserved.