The Proudest Blue (Ibtihaj Muhammad, with S. K. Ali)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Proudest Blue, written by Ibtihaj Muhammad with S. K. Ali, and illustrated by Hatem Aly, a beautiful tale of sisterhood and hijabi pride.

Sisters Asiyah and Faizah (inspired by Muhammad’s own sisters) are at the shop to pick out Asiyah’s “first day” hijab. Immediately, the older sister is drawn to a bright, rich blue, one that reminds younger Faizah of the ocean on a clear day, when it meets the sky and seems endless. As the two walk to school the next morning, they both beam with pride: Asiyah donning her new hijab and Faizah in awe of how regal her sister looks (“I’m walking with a princess”). Yet when the two get to school, the reactions of the other children are mixed: Asiyah’s friends love her new look, but some – such as a young classmate of Faizah’s – are puzzled by it. Worse, several children bully and even threaten Asiyah. Faizah watches as her older sister refuses to acknowledge such ignorance and, remembering lessons their mother taught them to deal with bullies, is filled with pride for her sister all over again. She draws a picture for their mother of two princesses in hijab, and decides on the walk home that when her “first day” comes, she knows exactly what color hijab to pick: the proudest shade of blue.

Stunning. There has been some wonderful kidlit about hijab in the last few years, and this deeply personal and affirming title is a fantastic addition to the sub-genre. Multiple themes are explored, from the deep bonds of sisterhood, the difficulties of facing ostracism and bullying, hijabi and Muslim culture, and how all these can and do weave together. Several passages give bullied children, hijabi or otherwise, a good roadmap for dealing with the hurtful words of others, and the beautiful descriptions and interpretations of the blue headscarf inspire pride for young Muslim readers. The art is fittingly gorgeous, in particular the spreads in which Asiyah’s blue scarf becomes a peaceful sky or a powerful sea. The length is perfect, and JJ and I both loved it. A touching story for readers of all faiths, and a powerful love letter to young hijabi girls. Baby Bookworm approved!

Under My Hijab (Hena Khan)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Under My Hijab, written by Hena Khan and illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel, an awesome look at hijab and the women who wear it.

A young girl considers the women in her life who wear hijab – her grandmother, for instance, carefully folds her hijab to keep it out of the way while she works at a baker; at home, she wears her graying hair in a neat bun while they bake together. The girl loves the way her mother’s cheerful pink hijab contrasts her white doctor coat; at home, her long hair is braided while tending her garden. For each hijabi, the girl notes the various ways they style it to reflect their personalities – towering high with a homemade pin for her artist aunt, practical under a sun hat for her camp counselor, trendy and fashionable for her teen sister. She thinks on how she loves and admires each woman, and when she is old enough, she’ll choose to wear hijab as well – inspired by them, and as a reflection of the unique person she is under her hijab.

Awesome! A wonderful tale of hijabi pride for both Muslim and non-Muslim readers. The rhyming texts explores how the women underneath hijab are complex individual with different personalities, passions, and styles. For young Muslim readers, it’s a beautiful bit of representation and girl power; for non-Muslims, it can help to dispel many of the misconceptions about hijab (an afterward by the author further explores the details of hijab, along with when and why women choose to wear it). Jaleel’s illustrations are perfect, depicting women of all skintones and body types as warm, comforting presences, while capturing each woman’s personality and flair. The length is great, JJ loved it, and we absolutely recommend it. Baby Bookworm approved!