Parents who wish to discuss the topics of honesty and making amends for bad decisions with their children will likely enjoy the book Snatched written by Asmaa Hussein and illustrated by Sviatoslav Diachyk. Marketed for “ages 4+,” I think the book is most appropriate for ages 4-8.
At the beginning of Snatched, school has just let out, and Omar, the main character, sees a tempting, sweet, nutty baklava pastry sitting on a stool. He knows it belongs to the doorman, Amo Mohamed, but he also knows it was made by Amo Mohamed’s wife, Tant Shaima, who is famous for her delicious pastries. The hungry boy gobbles up the baklava but immediately regrets his decision. He feels even worse when Amo Mohamed blames someone else for snatching the dessert. Omar tries to hide from his guilty conscience at first, but it becomes clear that he will have to address his misdeed if he wants to feel at peace.
One of the main lessons of this book is that a good deed erases a bad deed. Omar knows he has done something wrong, but he also knows that he might be able to make amends if he can do a kind act for Amo Mohamed. The book shares a hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) who said:
“Be conscious of Allah wherever you are. Follow the bad deed with a good one to erase it, and engage others with beautiful character.”
Children who read Snatched will see the importance of talking to a parent when they make a mistake, even when it’s hard to admit their wrongdoing. Omar’s mom can see something is wrong with her son, and she insists that he talk with her. When he finally confides in her, she is patient and understanding. “Making mistakes is normal,” she says. “The important thing is figuring out how to fix them.”
It takes even more courage for Omar to admit the truth to Amo Mohamed, whose pastry he has stolen. His mother helps him bake a new batch of syrupy baklava, but she insists on Omar delivering them himself. She tells her son, “We made the baklava together, but you have to talk to Amo Mohamed on your own.”
Young readers will no doubt relate to Omar’s nervousness as he prepares to confess to the older man. They will probably wonder, How will Amo Mohamed react? Will Omar get into trouble? The book’s happy ending will reassure young readers that telling the truth is the right course of action, and that most adults are forgiving.
Snatched will give youngsters a glimpse into the life of an imperfect character who means well but had a lapse of judgment. Children who have made similar mistakes will probably relate to Omar’s conundrum and hopefully will be inspired by his decision to come clean and fix the problem. My own elementary school-aged children say they enjoyed reading Snatched. One daughter says she liked “How Omar admits his mistakes even though it’s hard to be honest sometimes.” The other one said she likes how “It all turns out fine in the end. Omar does a good deed by making more sweets.”
A glossary at the end of the book provides definitions for the Arabic terms “Assalaamu alaikum,” “Muezzin,” “Isha,” “Alhamdullilah,” and more. In this way, non-Muslim readers will get a brief education on some basic Islamic terms and concepts.
All in all, Snatched would be a great addition to a Muslim family’s library. It will facilitate conversations about honesty and taking responsibility for our actions. It will also provide a role model for youngsters who are likely to be inspired by Omar’s courage and determination to make amends for his unwise decision.
Laura El Alam is a freelance writer and editor and the author of the book Made From the Same Dough, as well as over 100 published articles. A wife and mother of five, Laura lives with her family in Massachusetts. You can visit her online at www.seaglasswritingandediting.com.