Big Red Lollipop is a picture book by Rukhsana Khan and illustrated by Sophie Blackall with one of my favorite things—casual Muslim representation.
When Rubina is invited to her first birthday party, her mother (who doesn’t have any experience with American birthday parties) insists that Rubina takes her little sister, Sana, along with her. She is hesitant, but she has no choice. Needless to say, the party doesn’t go well. The rest of the story is about how the experience of that party eventually draws the sisters together.
It’s a heartwarming and relatable story about growing up with siblings, about empathy, and about uplifting others and creating allies.
I loved seeing the casual representation of Muslims and people of South Asian descent. The mother wears a hijab and a shalwar qameez. I also loved seeing my own experience with immigrant parents reflected in this book. (The mom in this story does eventually come around, by the way.) I’m glad that books that mirror this experience are available and that other kids will be able to glimpse what life might be like for some of their classmates. This story promotes similarity through differences. Although Rubina’s family may sometimes do things differently, all kids can agree that big red lollipops are wonderful and that little sisters are annoying.
The illustrations, by Sophie Blackall, are sweet and clever. She captures emotion really well, and I love the maps she integrates into the story.
This is an older book (2010) that I discovered through Muslims in Story, which is a fantastic collection of book lists for librarians and teachers. It was written by Gauri Manglik and Sadaf Siddique and was published by the American Library Association last year. The lists include “Muslim Kids as Heroes,” Inspiring Muslim Leaders and Thinkers,” “Celebrating Islam,” and “Folktales from Islamic Traditions.”
I highly recommend Big Red Lollipop for everyone who reads picture books, and I can’t wait to get to more of Rukhsana Khan’s work.