Zak and His Good Intentions by J. Samia Mair, illustrated by Omar Burgess

Zak and His Good Intentions by J. Samia Mair, illustrated by Omar Burgess. The Islamic Foundation, 9780860377177, 2020

Format: Paperback

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3

Genre: Picture Book

 What did you like about the book? This story outlines the concept of good intentions as seen in Islamic culture – even if a good intention cannot be fully carried out, the thought of having a good intention is admirable. In this story, a young boy named Zak is determined to have a day filled with good deeds. His reason for this thought is that his sister Hana has already proclaimed that her day was going to be filled with good deeds. All throughout the day, Zak seems to be one step behind Hana with his good deeds. For example, Hana is taking some freshly baked cookies to a neighbor and now Zak is rushing out the door to take some treats to another neighbor. In his haste, he trips and drops all the cookies on the ground. This type of behavior continues throughout the day with Zak attempting numerous good deeds only to have these end in disaster. At the very end of the day, Zak shares his candy with his sister and that creates his first good deed. His mother then points out that even though his good deeds throughout the day did not go as planned, his intention was there and that counts for something.

The illustrations add a humorous touch to this story especially with the results of Zak’s failed attempts – this includes getting covered with tree sap, soaking his father with the garden hose, and scaring his cat out of a tree. This book does offer some important discussion points regarding making good choices, being resilient, being flexible, and to keep learning.

Anything you did not like about the book. I did not like that it seemed Zak was only doing these good deeds because he was trying to “beat” his sister at her quest for a day filled with good deeds. While reading, my thought was that his good deeds are not working for him because he is making this a contest and his intentions are not pure. It is only at the very end of the book (when he offers his sister some candy) that he is truly doing something because he wants to, not because he is in a competition with his sister.

To whom would you recommend this book? This book is perfect for children between the ages of seven and eleven years old.

Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries, social studies classrooms – shows the concept of good intentions in Islamic culture.

Where would you shelve it? Picture Books

Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Maybe, I am still distracted by Zak’s competition component of doing good deeds.

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Kristin Guay, former youth services librarian.

Date of review: March 19, 2021

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