Recommended for readers 4-8
A young, British, Muslim artist’s YouTube hit reaches an even wider audience with this picture book that celebrates peace, love, and happiness. Called “the Muslim Justin Bieber” by NPR, Harris J’s words, combined by Ward Jenkins digital artwork, come together to create a story where peace is spread, hand to hand, via kind deeds: handing an umbrella to someone in the rain; a balloon; a cup of coffee – each recipient paying it forward and spreading kindness to another. The characters from the book come together to hold hands, forming a human chain of love and understanding that embraces the world.
“Salam alaikum” means “peace be upon you”; the formal and informal greeting, in both English and Arabic, greets readers at the beginning of the book. The response, “wa alaikuma salam” – “and upon you, peace” – leaves the reader in peace at the book’s close. The kindness spread from one hand to another is depicted as a golden glow that grows as it’s passed on. The story is optimistic, bright, and filled with hope more importantly, it’s a call to action for everyone who reads it, who witnesses this message, to be part of the change for good. That’s a message we really want to pass on, especially now. The cast of characters is diverse, and the text is bold, black, and stands out against the pages, making it an easy read-aloud. The refrain, “Assalamu Alaikum”, appears throughout in large, scripted font, the message standing out.
Salam Alaikum sends a positive message about peace and living together as a global community. It’s a strong and upbeat choice for storytimes and collections.