I am so excited about this book list; I have finally gathered enough books to share a list of picture books with Muslim characters. Some of these books are specifically about being Muslim; others are not. This is not a definitive list, there are more picture books with Muslim characters out there, I just didn’t get my hands on them yet, and I only share books I have read. Please leave a comment with a title of any book you feel should have a place on this list and I will make an effort to add it.
Cultural diversity is important, and one way to celebrate diversity is through books. Whether you are a Muslim parent searching for books that reflect your child’s experience, a teacher looking to diversify your bookshelf to include all your students, or a mom like me just hoping to read good books with a variety of experiences both reflective or new to share with your children books are an awesome option. For a more in-depth discussion about diverse books check out my post about why every child needs to read diverse books here.
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Malala Yousafzai: Warrior with Words by Karen Leggett Abouraya is the only non-fiction picture book in this list, and while Malala is not a character, she is certainly a hero. Malala was a young girl in Pakistan when she stood up for education as the Taliban was stripping rights away from people in her Pakistani village. Malala stood up for every child’s right to an education while the Taliban was banning education for girls. She inspired many and angered the Taliban, who sent a gunman to kill her. She didn’t die, and the fear the Taliban hoped would silence her didn’t quiet her, it motivated her. That is what bravery is; facing danger without showing fear. She survived and speaks out still for the rights of all children to get an education. I can’t read this book without tears flowing. Obviously, very young children will not be ready for this book, I had read it with my son when he was nine and my daughter when she was five. There is no right or wrong time to share this book, read it and chose a time when you think your child will be able to understand and appreciate the importance of Malala’s message.
One Green Apple by Eve Bunting is a treat. Sometimes learning about the world means learning about people in our own classroom. The book is not about apples really at all. Instead, it’s about Farrah, a young Muslim girl who has come to the United States from an unnamed country and her first day at school. The day is spent on a field trip to an orchard, where the children pick apples and make apple cider. I immediately related to this as my first day of work at a school in my new country was trying, although I could speak the language unlike Farrah, it was still daunting to be new in unfamiliar territory. This is a great chance to talk to your children about when they encountered something new or unfamiliar to foster a connection between them and Farrah. The melting pot analogy is turned into an apple cider one as all the children throw their apples in and work together to press it into cider, even Farrah helps.
Deep in The Sahara by Kelly Cunnane is a beautiful story of a little girl who so wants to wear a malafa, the colorful cloth that her aunt, cousin, grandmother, and mother wear in public. She notes its beauty, how it moves in the wind, how she wishes to be a lady in one soon, but in the end, it is when she tells her mother that she wishes to wear it to pray like her mother that her mother wraps her in one and they pray together. This is a beautiful book, the illustrations by Hoda Hadadi are stunning, and the intergenerational story of a loving family in West Africa will resonate with you no matter what faith you may or may not practice.
Nabeel’s New Pants: An Eid Tale retold by Fawzia Gilani-Williams is a funny tale about a family who was all too busy preparing for Eid to help Nabeel shorten his new pants. He decides to do it himself, but trouble starts when everyone else decides they aren’t too busy after all. Kids will love this book that reminds me very much of a Tomi de Paola book, not only the illustrations by Proiti Roy but the lighthearted tale too.
My Father’s Shop by Satomi Ichikawa is a funny story about Mustafa who is supposed to be learning new languages with his father so he can learn how to sell rugs to tourists at his father’s shop in Morroco, only Mustafa is off on his own adventure. Wearing an old rug with a hole in it, he goes through the market and attracts the attention of a rooster and a whole gaggle of tourists. In the end, Mustafa learns some new words but not the ones his dad was planning on teaching him. This is a funny book your kids will love.
Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns; A Muslim Book Of Colors by Hena Khan is as much a book about the basics of the Muslim religion as it is a book about colors. A little girl goes through various religious and cultural items of various colors while the rhyming text explains their significance. The test is fun to read, and the illustrations are beautiful, this is a great book to introduce simple facts about Islam to children. I also appreciated the diversity in illustrations that depicted various cultures it made the book feel like it could be set anywhere in the world not just in some “far off” country which helps our children relate to the story if they can imagine this girl walking down their street too.
Night of The Moon by Hena Khan is a wonderful book, though it’s pretty long. The story follows Yasmeen a young Muslim American girl as she prepares and then celebrates the month of Ramadan. Readers learn a lot about traditions and practices of Ramadan as Yasmeen attends parties, gets presents, watches her parents fast and of course celebrates at the Mosque. What I adore about this book is that it shows the diversity of modern day Islam in the United States, her mother doesn’t wear a hijab, but some women at the mosque do, there are Muslims of various races, and from different countries. I think this is a very important message to teach our children, that no one group or ethnicity or religion has only one single story there is diversity in everything and that richness is wonderful! I highly recommend this book.
Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan is a wonderful story about how many first generation immigrant children often have to follow the rules that their parents set out for them, even if they don’t fit the cultural norms of their new country. In this Rubina is invited to a birthday party and her mother doesn’t understand that only she is invited and forces her to take her little sister. Things do not go well, but in the end, the family adjusts to how birthday parties are celebrated in their new country, but not without some bumps.
I’m New Here by Ann Sibley O’Brien is my daughter’s favorite book right now. I bought it at the school book fair a few months ago, and she takes it to school every day in her backpack to read for independent reading. I totally get why she loves it, the story is pretty universal, even if you aren’t an immigrant. The book is a collection of three stories of children who are immigrants; Maria from Guatemala, Jin from Korea, and Fatimah from Somalia. Readers see the struggles that the children face learning a new language, feelings of isolation, and then each child gaining confidence in their new home. All children can relate to new experiences, and this book helps to go a little further and imagine not knowing the language it also shows the power of kindness children can show to someone new and how a little goes a long way. I love that the author didn’t explain Fatimah’s hijab because it left the door open for children who do not know what it is to ask without feeling like they are being rude. After reading my own daughter remembered a time when we were at a swimming pool in Chicago and a woman was wearing a hijab, this was years ago, but she didn’t want to ask at the pool because she didn’t want to be rude. That is exactly why diverse books are so powerful; they give our children a safe place to ask questions they may be too shy to ask in the moment.
Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed is a touching story about friendship in a refugee camp. Lina and Feroza meet when they each find one sandal belonging to a pair when aid workers deliver clothing to the refugee camp where they are living. Instead of one girl having both, they decide to share and their friendship blossoms. The details about how and why they are at the refugee camp are subtle, younger children may not grasp on to them but older children will and it will spark wonderful questions and discussion. The heart of this story is hope amid terrible circumstance and friendship that feeds that hope.
Do you know a title that should be on this list? Tell me all about it in comments!