Muslim Girls Rise

“People may tell you that you can’t do something because of the way you look, dress, or pray. Your name may sound different. Never forget that you are extraordinary. You are powerful, brave, and clever. Great things come from people like you.”

—Saira Mir

This nonfiction picture book from Salaam Reads showcases nineteen contemporary Muslim women who are doing extraordinary things.

These are the women who are featured:

  • Amanda Saab is a former cooking competition contestant as well as the founder of the Dinner with Your Muslim Neighbor initiative and her own bakery.
  • Amani Al-Khatahtbeh is the founder of the MuslimGirl website.
  • Hana Tajima is a fashion designer; she has worked with UNIQLO to make clothing for hijabi women.
  • Dalia Mogahed is a researcher and political advisor.
  • Hibah Rahmani is a flight control engineer at NASA.
  • Ibtihaj Muhammad is an Olympic fencer.
  • Ilhan Omar is a member of the US House of Representatives.
  • Ilyasah Shabazz  is a writer and activist.
  • Linda Sarsour is an activist and was a leader of the 2017 Women’s March on Washington.
  • Malala Yousafzai is the youngest person to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize; she fights for the education of girls worldwide.
  • Maria Toorpakai Wazir is a world champion in squash.
  • Maryam Mirzakhani was the first female mathematician to win the Fields Award—the highest honor in mathematics.
  • Muzoon Almellehan is a Syrian refugee who spoke about the importance of education at the UN.
  • Negin Farsad is a comedian.
  • Nura Afia is a makeup artist and advocate for beauty equality.
  • Kamala Khan is a superhero! While she is fictional, there are two amazing Muslim women behind her character: G. Willow Wilson is the author behind the comic book series, and Sana Amanat is the artist at Marvel Comics who teamed up with Wilson to create her.
  • Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy is a filmmaker.
  • Shirin Ebadi has been a judge and a lawyer, and she was the first Muslim woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Each spread includes an illustration of the featured woman at work, a quote from her, and her story. The stories focus on how the women turned their childhood interests into a way to be their most authentic selves and change the world.

The women who are included represent a range of interests and careers across the arts, sports, intellectual pursuits, and activism.

“Never take no for an answer. If a door hasn’t opened up for you, it’s because you haven’t kicked it hard enough.”

—Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy

A copy of this book belongs in every classroom and library, and while this book is intended for children, I can see it being of interest to people of all ages.

Muslim Girls Rise is out from Simon and Schuster on 10/29 and you can find it here: Goodreads | Simon and Schuster | Amazon.com | Book Depository

I received an ARC of Muslim Girls Rise from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Adventures of Laila and Ahmed in Syria

My gift to you both is a love for this Earth,
and thankfulness for all that it’s worth.
Your travels have served to open your minds
to people in places of all different kinds.

The Adventures of Laila and Ahmed in Syria is an exciting and lyrical adventure story that showcases beautiful sights in Syria using full-color illustrations. Shaped like a picture book but divided into sixteen chapters, it has pages of illustrations and pages of text in columns. It is published by the Beauty Beneath the Rubble initiative, which aims to “change the narrative of countries associated with war and conflict.”

One morning while their parents are out, Laila and Ahmed find their grandfather’s special book about his travels all over the world. Their grandfather was Ibn Battuta (yes! that one), and his book was, of course, Rihla. When they open it to look at the drawings, stories, and maps, they find a note addressed to themselves. In it, their grandfather urges them to see the world and offers them a clue to get them started on their journey. Before they can decipher the first clue, a strange light envelopes the book and it grows and grows until it is the size of a door in the wall. The door opens onto a whole new world. They walk through it and find themselves in Syria.

Throughout the rest of the book, the two children journey from city to city, seeing famous landmarks, buildings, and curiosities, all while looking for their grandfather’s next clue. I loved the celebration of all of these places. They go to a castle, the Great Mosque of Aleppo, and Souq al-Madinah. They see the waterwheels at Hama, the oasis of Palmyra, and the Church of St. Sergius. Their journey ends in Damascus.

These days, when most people think of Syria, the picture that comes to mind is the most recent shot of rubble that they’ve seen on the news. This book challenges that perception and reminds readers of the beauty of this country, which has a rich culture and history.

I do wish that the castle that was their first stop had been named: I’m sure Syria has many castles, and I’m not sure which one I read about.

I really appreciate the fact that a map appears before the story. Being able to trace Laila and Ahmed’s journey on the map was invaluable. It helped me show my seven-year-old that all of the places Laila and Ahmed visited were in Syria. He read the book on his own as soon as it arrived, and he promptly declared that it was “the best book [he] ever read.” When I prompted him for more information, he gave me a detailed synopsis of how Laila and Ahmed’s journey began. He said that they went “all over,” and he somehow missed the fact that their journey took place exclusively in Syria and not all over the world. Being able to trace Laila and Ahmed’s journey on the map helped him center their journey in Syria. As for his comment that it was the best book he ever read, he really liked reading a chapter book in picture book format.

Something that I found odd about this story is that while Laila and Ahmed recognize some of the places they visit from their grandfather’s book and from his stories, they don’t recognize much, if any, of the context from their own heritage Arab and Muslim identity. For example, Laila has to explain what the adhan is to Ahmed. How has he never heard the adhan before? It also would have been nice to see them reconnecting with familiar foods in a new context in Syria instead of approaching everything as if they were tourists.

I highly recommend this book to all parents, librarians, and teachers. This book is not only a cute story but can also be a great resource for students of geography, social studies, and current events. It is a beautiful reminder of some of what is at stake in the conflict, and I highly recommend it.

Find it here: Goodreads | Beneaththerubble.org | Amazon.com | Book Depository

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

My Favorite Ramadan Children’s Books

Alhamdulillah, we are living in a time where we have quite a few options for children’s books about Ramadan. Unfortunately, not all children’s books are created equal. In this list, I’m sharing some of my absolute favorite books about Ramadan for children 4–8.

The Jinni on the Roof

Written by Natasha Rafi

Illustrated by Abdul Malik Channa

It’s the story of Raza, who is too young to fast but wakes in the night to the smell of golden, flaky parathas being fried in the kitchen for the family’s pre-dawn meal. He just can’t wait, and he comes up with a clever and humorous way to get some parathas before the children’s breakfast. This really cute and heartwarming story is a favorite in my house, and it is the reason we stock parathas in my freezer every Ramadan. One of my favorite spreads shows how the sleeping house is filled with visiting relatives packed like sardines for Eid. It reminds me of my own childhood.

Find it here: Goodreads | Amazon.com


It’s Ramadan, Curious George

Written by Hena Khan

Illustrated by Mary O’Keefe Young

This board book is a simple but comprehensive introduction to Ramadan for young children and older ones, too. In it, our favorite curious monkey helps his friend Kareem prepare for and celebrate the month of Ramadan. I really love this one because it’s so powerful to see a familiar character that we know and love eating iftar, going to the mosque to do good deeds, and looking for the moon that marks Eid.

Find it here: Goodreads | Houghton MifflinAmazon.com | Book Depository


Ramadan Around the World

Written by Ndaa Hassan

Illustrated by Azra Momin

This picture book shows scenes of kids and families all over the world celebrating Ramadan. It not only showcases ethnic diversity but also shows children with autism, hearing impairments, and diabetes. The children fill sadaqah jars, play soccer, and gather at the mosque to pray and share food. There is kunafa, bubur lambak, and rooh afza. You’ll have to read if you don’t know what any of those are! I really love this book because it is a powerful demonstration of the ayah: “We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another.”

Find it here: Goodreads | Ramadan Around the World


A Party in Ramadan

Written by Asma Mobin-Uddin

Illustrated by Laura Jacobsen

This picture books is the story of Leena, who is excited to fast on the day her Auntie Sana is coming to iftar. When Leena’s friend invites her to a birthday party on the same day, Leena’s mom tells her that it would be alright for her to fast a different day instead. But Leena thinks she can do both. Will she be able to? I love that this picture book tackles the realities of growing up as a religious minority. Leena holds tight to her faith, and the ending shows Leena’s family and her neighbors coming together in a way that showcases the beauty of Ramadan.

Find it here: Goodreads | Penguin Random House | Amazon.com | Book Depository


Lailah’s Lunchbox

Written by Reem Faruqi

Illustrated by Lea Lyon

Lailah is excited to be fasting Ramadan for the first time, and she puts away her school lunchbox for an entire month! Lailah’s mother writes a note for her teacher, but Lailah feels too nervous to give it to her. Lailah’s family moved from Abu Dhabi to Peachtree City last year, and she is worried what her classmates and teacher will say when they discover she is fasting. As lunchtime rolls around, Lailah can’t figure out what to do. Will she tell everyone she’s fasting? And how?

I love that this book tackles the struggle of going to school as a religious minority. In this empowering story, Lailah discovers that her teacher, librarian, and classmates are allies, and she owns her Muslim identity proudly.

Find it here: Goodreads | Tilbury House Publishers | Amazon.com | Book Depository

The Tale of a Tiny Droplet

When I first saw this cute book, I thought it was about the water cycle. It’s actually not. It is the story of a tiny droplet living in a cloud. It sees a beautiful kingdom below on the ground, and it wants to live there. When it’s finally big enough to fall from the sky, it joins with a grain of sand in the air before falling into the ocean. It’s then taken in by an oyster and becomes a pearl. So, in fact, by the end of the story, it does get to fulfill its dream of living in the kingdom. It’s found by the Prince, who places it in a beautiful headdress for his mother, the Queen. View Post

Under My Hijab

Under My Hijabby Hena Khan and illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel, follows a young Muslim girl as she introduces readers to the powerhouse women in her life who wear a hijab.

In this picture book for readers 2–7, we see the narrator’s family members and friends at work and school in their hijabs and then at home without them. For example, her grandma is a baker, and “her hijab is carefully folded, like the crusts on my favorite pies.” We then see our narrator and her grandma baking cookies at home, where her grandma wears her hair in a bun. View Post