Elise Bellin, Librarian of the Islamic Resource Center, wrote this book review as part of an ongoing series that focuses on a range of books within the IRC collection as a service to the community.

The Apple Tree (The Prophet Says Series)

by Mariam Al-Kalby, illustrated by Yee Von Chan © 2013 –ISBN: 978098507067

Sometimes it can be hard to find a good book that really teaches important moral values to children. It seems that many books these days are simply there to entertain rather than enlighten. Add in that the book should have a basis in your faith, though not so overwhelmingly so that it becomes both incomprehensible to those it seeks to teach and turns away those that may not want to delve so deep into a religion, whether they are a part of it or not, by becoming too preachy, so to speak, and the search can become downright onerous. Don’t despair because Mariam Al-Kalby has begun a series that proves you can do just that.

In Al-Kalby’sThe Prophet Says series, the characters take a look at a single moral issue in the context of what they are doing. For instance, in The Apple Tree, the young girl around whom the series revolves, “Little Shaima,” wakes up to discover her father planting an apple tree in the front yard. When she asks why, he starts to discuss the hadith about earning the reward of charity for planting a tree, explaining that even if someone steals an apple from it, it doesn’t change the hard work that went into it and when anyone or thing takes from what has grown, it is considered an act of charity. So, when later in the book the apple tree produces fruit and she finds someone trying to steal some of the fruit or an animal or bird eats from it, the lesson is further brought home for children to understand. The author even develops it into a community-creating event where all of the neighbors help to pluck the apples from the tree and work together toward a single goal.

In addition to a very approachable story, I feel the need discuss the unique art style used in this book, as well as its sequel. The illustrator, Yee Von Chan, a native of Malaysia, is heavily influenced by both Japanese illustration styles. All of the characters are drawn with the distinctive large eyes and elegant lines reminiscent of Japanese manga (aka graphic novels). It is somewhat subdued in color, most often using washed-out browns, greens, and reds with some slight pale blues. A real feeling of home, gentleness, and the simple life seems to spring to life.

This is a book that really will speak to children and teach them in a gentle, wholesome manner.

Founded in 2010, the Islamic Resource Center (IRC) is the first Islamic public lending library in Wisconsin. The IRC aims to provide resources to educators, students, health professionals, interfaith groups, and any members of the Milwaukee community that want an accurate understanding of the Islamic faith, its practices, and its people.