Farida Zaman: Aliya’s Secret

February 2, 2024

Aliya's Secret: A Story of Ramadan, by Farida ZamanWelcome to Cantastic Authorpalooza, featuring posts by and about great Canadian children’s book creators! Today’s guest: Farida Zaman. Take it away, Farida!

Aliya’s Secret published by Owl Kids is a picture book very close to my heart. Firstly, because it’s my debut picture book as an author / illustrator, and secondly because it was inspired by my own childhood experience, trying to fast just like my parents but not going beyond a couple of hours by when my tummy would roar like a lion! My parents had no idea that I was hatching the plan to fast the first time and dropped me off to school and was grumpy when I returned and of course broke it by eating something!

I always wanted to write and illustrate my own picture book and finally it happened with Aliya’s  Secret. It was an opportunity for me to write a story for children of the Muslim faith to feel represented.  This  heartwarming story of the celebration of Ramadan, food, and community is one that will hopefully appeal to those who celebrate the holiday as well as those who are learning about it.

Interior spread of Aliya's Secret

Ammi says she’s still too young too fast, but Aliya is determined. At school, she refuses her snack, her lunch—even the cupcakes Sanjay’s mom drops off for his birthday. But when she gets home, she can’t resist Ammi’s sweet, syrupy baklava. Before Aliya can stop herself, she reaches out and takes a big bite.

Aliya is disappointed in herself, but Ammi explains that there are many other ways to celebrate Ramadan besides fasting, like performing acts of kindness! Together, Aliya and her parents spend the month preparing and delivering meals to people in need. The protagonist  Aliya is determined to fast but when she can’t she finds a way to still participate in celebrating Ramadan.

Interior of Aliya's Secret

My medium for this book was a combination of watercolours and digital.  The interior of Aliya’s home looks a lot like mine!

Creating the illustration for Aliya’s Secret was an intense process, but I loved putting picture to the words.  It was pure joy going through the process of creating this book and finally holding the finished product in my hand.

Author-illustrator Farida ZamanTo learn more about Farida Zaman and her work, visit her website.

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