Black lives matter. They have always mattered, and they will always matter. See the link after the review for ways to get involved.
The day begins with Faizah excited—excited about school, about her light-up shoes, and about walking alongside her princess of a sister in her new blue hijab. When a friend asks about Asiya’s hijab, Faizah’s answer comes out in a whisper, and she starts to feel unsure, because “Asiya’s hijab isn’t a whisper. Asiya’s hijab is like the sky on a sunny day.” She is reassured when she asks Asiya if she’s excited about her hijab, and Asiya nods and smiles big. Faizah also takes comfort in her mother’s words: “The first day of wearing hijab is important. . . . It means being strong.” During art, she draws a picture of herself and Asiya in matching blue scarves. After the whisper, Faizah likewise deals with a laugh and a shout in the same way: by drawing on her sister’s calm strength and her mother’s words.
There is so much to love about this book. I love the way Faizah is proud of her sister. I love the way Asiyah owns her hijab and her faith and her right to be her. I love the way Faizah remembers her mother’s words while seeing Asiya’s actions, drawing strength from both of them.
The illustrations, by the talented Hatem Aly, are some of my favorite picture book illustrations ever. They are perfect: the way that Faizah and Asiya sometimes appear in front of a muted background, so that they stand out as the queens that they are; the way that unkind people appear as shadows, reflecting their unimportance; and the facial expressions that expand on the text by showing how Asiya’s friends support her.
From a craft point of view, The Proudest Hijab is brilliant. It adapts a topic about older kids for a picture book audience while showcasing the relationship between the two girls and, by extension, their mother, creating a web of female faith and strength. I can’t recommend it enough for all readers.
Striving to Be an Antiracist
The Prophet ﷺ said that when we see an evil, we should change it with our hands, and if we can’t, we should change it with our tongues. In that spirit, get to work. Go to a protest. Contact your elected officials. Donate. Sign a petition. Speak up in your community. Call out friends and family if they say something racist. Interrogate your bookshelves. Make dua. And, most importantly, if you’re not Black, educate yourself and your children.
Children’s Books Featuring Black Characters
Black Books Matter: Children’s Books Celebrating Black Boys
Broadening the Story: 60 Picture Books Starring Black Mighty Girls
Ways to help from BLM: https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/