soup of the day: time to pray by maha addasi and ned gannon

Today, I’m absolutely thrilled to be able to congratulate dear friend Maha Addasi on the release of her second picture book, Time to Pray (Boyds Mills Press, 2010)!

Although its official pub date is not until September 1st, I wanted to let you know about this beautiful book now, since we are in the midst of the Holy Month of Ramadan, which is being observed this year between August 11th and September 9th.

Prayer Room, King Hussein Ben Talal Mosque, Amman, Jordan (frankenschulz/flickr).

You may remember my review of Maha’s first book, The White Nights of Ramadan (Boyds Mills Press, 2008). Time to Pray is the perfect companion book to White Nights. It has been illustrated with more of Ned Gannon’s stunning oil paintings, and this time, there is a wonderful addition: an Arabic translation of the story by Maha’s mother, Nuha Albitar!

In Time to Pray, young Yasmin visits her grandmother in an un-specified Middle Eastern city, where, for the very first time, she hears the voice of the muezzin calling everyone to prayer. As their precious days together unfold, Yasmin learns more and more about the proper way to pray, five times throughout the day. She sees her grandmother perform the washing ritual (wudu) and carefully observes as Teta bends and kneels on her prayer rug. They spend the morning shopping, and Yasmin gets to select fabric for prayer clothes and choose a prayer rug of her own. Best of all, Teta helps Yasmin practice praying, both at home and at the mosque.

It’s a sad day when Yasmin must fly back home to America, but upon her arrival, she discovers a special gift from Teta — a prayer clock with a timer that doesn’t ring, but makes the sound of the muezzin’s voice! Now, every time Yasmin is reminded of the five prayer times, she also remembers her special time with Teta, living far away, but ever present in her heart.

I love how Time to Pray de-mystifies this aspect of Muslim culture. The “educational” elements are skillfully integrated into what is ultimately a heartwarming intergenerational story with strong universal resonance. We see what an Arab American girl might find fascinating in the country of her ancestors as her spirituality gently blossoms.

The bond between Yasmin and Teta is touching, and young readers will be happy to discover that Yasmin isn’t perfect, that prayer can be both solemn and joyful, and that she is still practicing to get it right with the best of intentions. I also love how the narrative is sprinkled with charming moments of candor: “I like it when Teta calls me habibti, my love.” And did I mention the morning cinnamon rolls and upside-down rice with yogurt for lunch? ☺

Once again, Ned Gannon’s detailed illustrations beautifully capture the richness of Muslim culture. He has created a gorgeous visual context with a warm palette of browns and rusts, celebrating Yasmin’s spiritual awakening with an array of pleasing patterns. Pages featuring English and Arabic text are embellished with lovely borders, which echo the colorful patterns of prayer rugs, bolts of fabric, bathroom tiles, architectural elements, and the characters’ clothing.

Both Time to Pray and The White Nights of Ramadan help meet the ever-growing demand for high quality books about Middle Eastern culture. Maha’s words and Ned’s pictures are a perfect match, and we hope to see many more titles by this wonderful team.

Now, please join me in congratulating Maha and Ned by dipping your spoons five times in today’s special soup. Well, better make that ten dips, five for Maha, five for Ned! Take some time for reflection and gratitude. Taste the love of family connections and celebrate the fine art of words and pictures!

Today’s Special: Prayer Time Potage (seasoned with savory minutes and happy seconds).

To go with your soup, help yourself to some upside-down rice, just like Yasmin had for lunch:


And, why not top it off with a date-filled cinnamon roll muffin?

By now you know the drill: race down to your local indie or click through to your fave online bookseller to order your very own copy of Time to Pray — and yes, it’s already available, a little ahead of its pub date! If you go to a bricks and mortar store, be sure to wear something with a pretty pattern, smile sweetly at the salesperson, and say the secret password: “upside down rice.” Stand on your head if you like. Spread the joy!☺


TIME TO PRAY by Maha Addasi
Arabic translation by Nuha Albitar
pictures by Ned Gannon
published by Boyds Mills Press, September 2010
Full color bilingual picture book for ages 4-8, 32 pp.
Includes Authors Note, “Prayer Times”
Cool themes: religious practices, Muslim culture, family, grandparents, Arabic language, Arab Americans
On shelves now!!

Maha Addasi’s official website.

Ned Gannon’s official website.

♥ Online reviews: BookDragonA Patchwork of Books.

♥ Recent interview with Mary Ann Dames.


*Spreads posted by permission of illustrator, English text copyright © 2010 Maha Addasi, Arabic text © 2010 Nuha Albitar, illustrations © 2010 Ned Gannon. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2010 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

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