My Dad is Always Working by Hafsah Dabiri, illustrated by Arwa Salameh

My Dad is Always Working by Hafsah Dabiri, illustrated by Arwa Salameh. Kube, 2022. 9780860378419

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 2

Format: Hardcover picture book

Genre: Realistic/religious

What did you like about the book? Abdullah hardly ever sees his dad. Dad is out of the house early in the morning, and home late in the evening. At school, his teacher talks about the concept of “Jazak-Allah Khair,” which is the Islamic concept of giving thanks. Abdullah tells his mother about it, and she helps him realize that he hardly ever sees his father because his father is working hard to take care of him, and that his father works so hard because he loves Abdullah. And so Abdullah writes a card of “Jazak-Allah Khair” for his father. Cute digital art provides a literal interpretation of the text, showing a happy, loving family in a suburban home.

Anything you didn’t like about it? Although a valiant effort, this picture book leaves much to be desired. The text is overly wordy, and tells each emotion and reaction instead of showing the reader. The concept of thankfulness is a good one, but do little kids really need to thank their parents for being parents? There is no actual story, and I think kids will be bored by a lesson without any narrative tension. And lastly, the stereotypes rehash a very conservative family structure – Mom is at home tending the children, and dad is out working, and when he tries to cook for the family, he burns everything.

To whom would you recommend this book? For ages 4-6.

Who should buy this book? Although public library librarians pride themselves on seeking out diverse books, I would give this one a pass. It’s possible that Muslim religious schools could consider a purchase, but kids won’t really get much out of it.

Where would you shelve it ? Picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: July 25, 2022

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