This Ramadan is particularly special because we are home with our families. That means, we are encouraging our children to get creative and participate in different activities, which can also include reading! It is important to teach Islam, but understand that Islam is not just limited to the Qur’an and prayer these days. Islam is our lifestyle so other things also remind us of Allah such as Daniela Ortiz’s children’s book, “Safe Car Go Car!”
Daniela Ortiz is a Latina convert to Islam and a published author. She recently launched Date Pop Publishing to publish fun Muslim children’s books, currently written and illustrated by her (مَا شَاءَ ٱللَّٰهُ) ! The stories are inspired by her love as a mother, Muslimah and convert combined with the everything that excites her children.
R. Tell us about how you were inspired to write “Safe Car Go Car?”
D. “Safe car Go car” was inspired by my son’s love for cars! He will play with almost anything that is a toy car or has a toy car on it! It grabs his attention as in so many others’.
I have always enjoyed taking my kids to the library, hand picking a stack of books based on their current interest and letting them choose their own library books since they were toddlers. The stories were fun and entertaining, but none ever reflected Muslims. Some even discussed topics that I had to explain in a light way, why we don’t do that such as celebrating certain holidays. I basically wanted to create a book that my son would gravitate toward and see himself in, without all the disclaimers.
At the same time, I wanted a book where non-Muslim kids could read and see Muslim kids enjoying the same likes as they do! Basically, a book that provides a fun library feel for our little Muslims and a book that can bridge a gap between Muslims and non-Muslims. Plus, it discusses safety in the car and on the road. I haven’t found any book like it. Currently, “Safe Car Go Car” is only available as an ebook on Kindle, but I plan to have it available as a hardcopy, too. You can join my mailing list for updates on this, إِنْ شَاءَ ٱللَّٰهُ!
R. I think that is amazing (مَا شَاءَ ٱللَّٰهُ) as an ebook because our kids these days are digital! It gives them something educational to look forward to Online other than games and social media.
How would you describe “Safe Car Go Car?”
D. “Safe Car Go Car” is a simple, rhyming story with really fun illustrations for kids, aged 2-6. Most boys love cars. Some Girls may too! They zoom, they beep! But, why? Where to? They’re everywhere on any day! A muslim family shows the way. So… buckle up, enjoy the ride. But safety first, its all inside!
R. That is such a cute and catchy line (مَا شَاءَ ٱللَّٰهُ)! Tell us a little bit about your personal journey.
D. I was born and raised in Queens, New York. My family is from Puerto Rico and they raised me catholic. I obtained my bachelor’s degree in Speech Language Communication and currently live in sunny Florida. In 2015, I converted to beautiful Islam with my husband. I love to be creative. I’m grateful to learn alongside my children the beautiful religion of Islam and aim to provide them with fun resources that provide them with a strong muslim identity amongst a diverse family and world, ٱلْحَمْدُ لِلَّٰهِ .
R. Beautifully said, مَا شَاءَ ٱللَّٰهُ. How is your Ramadan going? Do you have any family traditions you would like to share with us?
D. From a convert’s experience, we usually spend Ramadan with just our immediate family. I think Ramadan 2020 is quite different for everyone now, going through the same thing. It reminds me of the hadith that says the best of you are those who are best to your family. So, I think it’s an amazing opportunity to work on this, strengthen our family ties and extend that to our community, virtually and إِنْ شَاءَ ٱللَّٰ in-person. I pray the ummah unites after this because the sisterhood and brotherhood in Islam is truly life-changing when it’s embraced wholeheartedly.
As far as traditions go, the activities usually change based on our season of life, but we usually hang up icicle lights in our living room every year, since my mom gave them to us.
R. That sounds fun! What books/authors do you like to read?
D. Believe it or not, I used to dislike reading! It’s so crazy, سبحان الله. But since my conversion to Islam, I really enjoy reading books that help me better myself in any way such as improving health, relationships and my deen. I recommend “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman, “The Barrier from Within” by Hassan Abdul Rahim, Jr. (on Kindle), “Muhammad: How He Can Make You Extraordinary” by Hesham Al-Awadi and “Essential Matters of Tawheed for the New Muslim,” by Anu Azzubayr Shaheed Muhammad (regardless of how long ago you converted to Islam).
R. How can people keep up-to-date with your writing and book announcements?
D. I’m very active on Instagram @writingsbydaniela where I share experiences and motivation.
You can also sign up on my mailing list where I provide exclusive printables for kids relating to my books!