The Forever Tree


“Wonderful book about the forever tree. Written by Asmaa

Hussein and love the illustrations by Heather Greenwood. Published

in Canada!”


Mysoon Husein – Readit Islamic Books




It definitely has its place on school and library shelves and ought to be part of any curriculum involving religion and culture.



CM: Canadian Review of Materials




The other treasure that I came across this year was A Little Tree Goes for Hajj by Eman Salem. I bought this book at our local Islamic school book fair. The author is a fellow Calgarian :) Masha-Allah it is wonderful to see books like these coming out of my very own community.


This book is both in Arabic and English. There is a two page spread diagram of all the rituals of hajj. This provides the opportunity to discuss each act.


We always told our children that plants are constantly engaged in the remembrance of Allah. To read a book about a tree performing hajj was not a stretch in our home. Even though hajj is the main theme, the book also tells the poignant story of friendship. The author cleverly slipped in subtle lessons on respect for elders and parents, believing in the power of dua’ and gratefullness.



“A fine reminder of Canada’s multicultural citizenship, the books will reinforce and extend children’s understandings of the four concept areas.”



CM: Canadian Review of Materials




The At The Masjid books are a great opportunity to open cultural conversations in a way that is relevant to a Kindergarten student’s development.  This series incorporates vocabulary and math concepts while promoting tolerance and acceptance.


Mrs Tanya Sequeira.

JK/SK, Teacher Sawmill Valley Public School, Mississauga



Good After Noora Book Review

A couple of months ago, I was asked to review a new children’s book series that took place at the masjid. So I checked out their website to make sure that I could review the books with justice. You see, a good number of books I’ve encountered at Muslim bookstores have issues to say the least. From typos to questionable interpretations to being limited to one cultural representation per book, a book review could turn out to be ranting and raving of my pet peeves, and I so do not want to do that. So my policy is if I think a book just isn’t any good, I just refuse to review it.

So when I first stumbled upon the Compass Books page, I was delighted to see a multicultural and colorful representation of folks at the masjid. My eye was caught by a beautiful brown-skinned woman in hijab wearing a baby in a sling with a little boy right next to her. She was to represent the color yellow. I seldom saw anyone who looked more or less like me–baby sling and all–in a Muslim children’s book. So I agreed to write this review.

When I first received the package from Canada, I was a bit surprised. The books were smaller than I thought…tiny, very much pocket books. And as I flipped through, I wondered to myself, “Where is the narrative?” For the most part, the series has one word/idea/concept per page. I was preconditioned to think that I was going to be reading a story that merely featured numbers, colors, opposites, and shapes at the masjid. I wasn’t ready for this–I’m used to reviewing books that have at least 500 words per page, academic that I am. So I put the books down and let my two-year-old daughter, Noora, decide.

I couldn’t believe it. She wouldn’t put the books down. Everywhere I looked, the books followed me to be read aloud. She kept having me read the one word-idea-concept pages over and over. I’d yawn, but I’d comply. It was a little scary…and a little boring at first. But hey, the books weren’t to teach me concepts–they were to teach Noora concepts. So I got the idea to test out if these books were truly educational. Noora knew some of the words already, but not all. I got my answer when I questioned Noora about concepts on various pages…”what shape is this?”…”where is this person?” The AHA! moment clicked for me when Noora described the old/young page in the Opposites at the Masjid book. She said the old man was Papa. She knew the difference between old and young and applied the illustrations to her real-life great-grandpa. Wow, mashAllah.

On a more practical note, complete with a board book case, theAt the Masjid Learning Series books are great for traveling and putting in the diaper bag. Pocket-sized, they are great for small hands. Authored by Katherine Bullock and illustrated by Heather Greenwood, the series includes Numbers at the Masjid, Colours at the Masjid, Opposites at the Masjid, and Shapes at the Masjid and I highly recommend them for preschool age children. I don’t think any child is too young to discover the concepts presented in these books. Everyday, general concepts have been given a creative Islamic setting–the series is a winner by all accounts. And I must say I especially love the slogan/motto of Compass Books: “Guiding Readers Through the World of Books.”

I’m not sure if Noora has a favorite of the whole series, but I know that the series has definitely grown on me. I look forward to being hunted down, and for Noora to “read” the “stories” aloud to me. I never was a fan of minimalism, but I now understand the concept of “keep it simple sweet” that my mother always chimes. And with only one word-idea-concept per page, the At the Masjid Learning Series gives Noora and other imaginative children like her the chance to invent their own stories per page. And what’s more, there are also free coloring pages from the books available now for your little one to color any way he/she sees fit!  And I must say that truly, I don’t feel that it’s me who is the reviewer of these books–it is only through Noora’s eyes that I was able to see the treasure this series offers



A Little Tree Goes for Hajj

Eman Salem is an artist/illustrator who lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, with her husband and four children. Eman studied at the Alberta College of Art and Design, where she received a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts. Eman uses her art to bring together her diverse experiences growing up in Canada with a Palestinian Muslim heritage. Eman has illustrated other Muslim Children’s books, including “We’re Off to Make Umrah,” “Hijab Boutique,” and “The Victory Boys”

“A Little Tree Goes for Hajj” is her first book as an author/illustrator. Eman’s children inspired her to write and illustrate this story by asking her if trees were Muslim too.


An Interview with the Author

CB:       What inspired you to write this book?

ES:       It was my children that inspired me to write this book. When my eldest asked me if trees were Muslim too, the idea came about. Also as a parent and a Muslim, I see what is missing for our children’s Islamic education. There seems to be a lack of fun or whimsical books about Islam. Our community sometimes forgets that learning can be fun too.

CB:      This is your first time as an author/illustrator, how does it feel to illustrate your own text, instead of another’s’ text?

ES:      I found it easier to illustrate my own text compared to another’s. The vision I had was easy to translate on to paper.

CB:       Tell us about the process of writing. Did the words come easily?

ES:      I found the process of writing the hardest. I sometimes found myself going on and on, then going back and rewriting things. It is definitely a learning process. I can’t wait to start the next one inshallah.

CB:       How about the illustrations?  Tell us about how you thought up the ideas for the illustrations. Talk to us a bit about your technique, choice of materials, and so on.

ES:       The illustrations changed from when I first thought of the book. I decided I wanted it to look more classic and less naive. I decided to use watercolor paints. The brightness of the colours and the delicacy adds to the classic style of the illustrations. I enjoyed this part most.

CB:       As an author/illustrator do you think the words or the images first?

ES:       I thought of the idea of the story first, then the illustrations. The actual full story came last. Alhamdulilah (thanks be to God) it worked out that way.

CB:       How would you like this book to be used?

ES:       I would like this book to be used as a learning tool teaching Muslims and non muslims about the importance of Hajj.

CB:      Anything else in closing?

ES:      This was an exciting step for me and my family. Alhamdulillah I had this opportunity and I hope inshallah (If God wills) it will be the start of something great!



An Interview with the Author – Asmaa Hussein

CB: What inspired you to write this book?

AH: My four-year-old daughter loves to look at books. She can sometimes sit for an hour, alone, just poring over the book collection we have at home or at the library. And she learns ideas very quickly when they’re told to her through a story. So I thought it would be amazing to teach about a “Forever Tree” through a story that she could flip through and memorize.

CB: How did you come up with all the different trees that the book mentions?

AH: Some of the trees I mentioned in the book are beautiful trees that grow locally here in Canada. I have a willow tree near my home, and Japanese cherry blossoms lining some side streets near where I live. I’ve had yummy pancakes served with delicious maple syrup that comes from the Canadian Maple. Many of these trees I’ve seen and admired here, or trees that I’ve seen on my travels (e.g. palm trees in Egypt).

I also researched a few more trees so that I could really capture and compare the traits of a large variety of trees. There are trees that have a lot of cultural significance (e.g. the olive tree mentioned by Zainab’s teacher). Then there are trees that I just thought were fascinating! For example, I’ve never seen a rainbow tree before, but my research took me to images of these trees in Australia that I found incredibly beautiful!

CB: Who do you want to read this book?

AH: I think essentially any child can read this book – whether Muslim or not. Muslims will stand to learn from it and incorporate some of these ideas into their lives, while non-Muslims will stand to be informed of some of the beliefs that Muslims adhere to.

CB: You have been going to Islamic schools to do readings with kids, how have the responses been?  What are some typical questions?  What is the most poignant question you’ve been asked? What is the most surprising question?

AH: The responses at schools have been great. One of the things that stands out to me the most is the ability for the children to see themselves in the story. They have the same names as the characters, they look the same, and they believe in the same things. I truly believe that books contain the power to strengthen identities, especially for young and impressionable kids.

Some of the greatest questions I’ve gotten are all about the “forever tree” itself – like: Do forever trees exist in this world? Why can’t we have forever trees now? Who gets forever trees?

Then they usually start listing what else they want to see/have in Paradise, which is a lovely conversation to have with them

CB: How would you like this book to be used?

AH: It would be great if parents used this book as a starting point to have conversations with their children about all of the beautiful descriptions of paradise that God outlines in the Quran. This book is just about the trees, but there’s so much more than that!