by R S Khan
I don’t remember crying at picture books as a child or witnessing any adults being moved to tears whilst reading them. However, as an adult I have been overwhelmed with emotion more than once and have had to pause during stories to explain my tears to my young children.
This rhyming book by R S Khan moved me to tears. It relates the true story of ‘Umar ibn ul-Khattaab who intended to slay the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) until he heard the Qur’an and went on to to become a Muslim and a Caliph/Khalifah alhamdulillah.
Masha’Allah in her delivery of the story, R S Khan repeats a refrain about the intentions of ‘Umar ibn ul-Khattaab which I found stirred my emotions and built a crescendo of tension. Then, at the highest point of tension, she uses rhetorical questions so that I felt an urgency about finishing the story.
Since the story is in rhyme – which invites readers and listeners to think ahead and predict the end of a sentence, following sentences, and subsequent narrative – I felt geared up to imagine the book’s ending. As an adult who knows the story, my memory was triggered rather than my imagination and so I was in tears before I reached the ending, subhanallah.
Masha’Allah the rhyming structure of the text and the concluding twist in the refrain invite me to wonder what came next in the history of ‘Umar ibn ul-Khattab. Insha’Allah I intend to do some research before I share this book with my children so I am prepared for the questions I anticipate they will ask about what he did after the story ends.
The illustrations by N Pilavci are engaging, with a pleasing emphasis on the drapery of clothing and a strict abstention from revealing facial details as if to depict the likeness of companions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Some pictures have a sense of being map-like, inviting readers to reflect on the journey of the protagonist, but also to consider how differently contemporary images of Makkah compare.
Perhaps the strict lack of personal detail in the pictures makes the colours and subtle contrast in last two spreads especially beautiful; I love them masha’Allah. I have resisted showing more than one image from inside the book because I have already said too much. As I write, the book is unavailable on more than one site so I recommend you get your copy of The Young Man’s Plan sooner rather than later insha’Allah.
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