In light of recent events, we want to strongly reiterate that the Horn Book is a place for all families. Our hearts are with those affected by the new immigration ban.
We commend the important work of Kitaab World, whose “Countering Islamophobia Through Stories” campaign, beyond allowing Muslim children to see themselves in the books they read, aims to foster empathy and understanding in non-Muslim communities. I’m Your Neighbor Books: Children’s Books and Reading Projects Building Bridges Between “New Arrivals” and “Long-Term Communities” recommends books on a wide range of refugee and immigrant experiences. We also look forward to the upcoming books focusing on Muslim characters and experiences from Simon & Schuster’s new imprint Salaam Reads.
Please read (or reread) Julie Hakim Azzam’s November/December 2016 Books in the Home article “’Mommy, Do I Have White Skin?’: Skin Color, Family, and Picture Books,” about seeking out and reading mirror books with her Arab American children. For recommended books on working for social justice and inclusion, see our Making a Difference resource page.
These “mirrors and windows” books about the cultures and experiences of Muslim and Arabic world peoples — and in some cases, refugees — were recommended by The Horn Book Magazine and Guide at the time of their publication; reviews are reprinted from The Horn Book Guide Online. Grade levels are only suggestions; the individual child is the real criterion.
Addasi, Maha Time to Pray
32 pp. Boyds 2010
Trade ISBN 978-1-59078-611-6
Illustrated by Ned Gannon. In a bilingual English and Arabic text, Addasi’s narrator describes her introduction to Muslim prayer rituals while visiting her grandmother in an unspecified Middle Eastern country. The information imparted about Islam will make this book valuable for many readerships. Rich-hued illustrations with patterned borders reflect the loving familial relationship.
Alalou, Elizabeth and Alalou, Ali The Butter Man
32 pp. Charlesbridge 2008
Trade ISBN 978-1-58089-127-1
Illustrated by Julie Klear Essakalli. While making couscous, Nora’s baba (father) serves up a story from his Moroccan childhood. Sent outside to wait for the butter man, the hungry boy observes everything around him. Invitingly warm gouache folk art, in dry browns for the Morocco flashbacks and in blues, greens, and purples for the present-day scenes, beckons the reader to slow down and consider each painting’s details. Glos.
Balouch, Kristen Mystery Bottle
32 pp. Hyperion 2006
Trade ISBN 0-7868-0999-X
Notwithstanding its realistic undertones, this is a fanciful interaction between a boy in the United States and his grandfather in Iran. A bottle arrives by mail in Brooklyn, bringing a wind full of love that blows the boy across the ocean to his grandfather’s house. Collages employing whirling paper shapes and maps aptly suggest travel and movement.
Charara, Hayan The Three Lucys
40 pp. Lee & Low 2017
Trade ISBN 978-1-60060-998-5
Illustrated by Sara Kahn. Lebanese boy Luli is heartbroken by the disappearance of one of his three cats (all named Lucy) after his hometown is bombed. Soft watercolor illustrations move between warm oranges and cool blues to reflect Luli’s feelings of love and fear. Inspired by Charara’s own experiences during Lebanon’s 2006 July War (with Israel), Luli’s story is a quiet, hopeful exploration of conflict, grief, and healing.
Cunnane, Kelly Deep in the Sahara
40 pp. Random/Schwartz & Wade 2013
Trade ISBN 978-0-375-87034-7
Library binding ISBN 978-0-375-97034-4
Illustrated by Hoda Hadadi. Lalla, an Arab girl, longs to wear the traditional malafa as her mother does. She learns that the veiled garment represents faith to the women of her community. Hadadi uses textured papers and curved lines to highlight the drape and softness of the coveted dress. Cunnane gives her readers a glimpse of life in the Sahara from a child’s believable, sympathetic perspective.
Del Rizzo, Suzanne My Beautiful Birds
32 pp. Pajama Press 2017
Trade ISBN 978-1-77278-010-9
At the start of this emotional tale, Sami and his family escape their Syrian village. Upon reaching a refugee camp: “Helpful hands welcome us in. We made it. We are safe.” But Sami is still scared, and he is heartbroken over the loss of his beloved pet pigeons. Polymer clay and acrylic paint create vibrant pictures in this story in which beauty and sorrow sit side by side.
Faruqi, Reem Lailah’s Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story
32 pp. Tilbury 2015
Trade ISBN 978-0-88448-431-8
Ebook ISBN 978-0-88448-432-5
Illustrated by Lea Lyon. When Lailah, a recent immigrant from Abu Dhabi, fasts for Ramadan for the first time, she’s embarrassed to tell people at her new Georgia school. An empathetic librarian helps Lailah overcome her fear, and she shares a Ramadan poem with her class. The autobiographical author’s note could have provided more substantive information, but the story should start conversation. Loose watercolors show a very contemporary Muslim girl.
Khan, Hena Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors
24 pp. Chronicle 2012
Trade ISBN 978-0-8118-7905-7
Illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini. A child describes the religious and cultural artifacts that define Islam for her family. Her grandfather wears a white kufi; she and her dad face Mecca on a red prayer rug. The book’s strength is in the saturated colors of the stylized art and the brief introduction to Muslim culture. The rhyming text is unremarkable, but this child’s view of Islam should prove useful. Glos.
Heide, Florence Parry, Gilliland, Judith Heide and Lewin, Ted Sami and the Time of the Troubles
32 pp. Clarion 1995
Trade ISBN 0-395-55964-2
Illustrated with graceful watercolors and narrated in the first person, ten-year-old Sami’s story of his life in Beirut is one of constant fear, memories of his father lost to the violence, and a few treasured days of peace. The moving testament to the desire for peace will leave readers with a sense of hope that Sami and the other young people of the city will be able to make a difference.
Husain, Shahrukh The Wise Fool: Fables from the Islamic World
64 pp. Barefoot 2011
Trade ISBN 978-1-84686-226-7
Illustrated by Micha Archer. As explained in the informative introduction, stories about Mulla Nasruddin appear throughout the Islamic world. The twenty-two short tales presented here (in tiny font) always have a kernel of humanistic wisdom, whether the protagonist pronounces judgment upon the foolish behavior of others or even laughs at his own actions. Brightly patterned collages accompany the tales. A pronunciation guide is appended. Bib., glos.
Jahanforuz, Rita The Girl with a Brave Heart: A Tale from Tehran
40 pp. Barefoot 2013
Trade ISBN 978-1-84686-929-7
Paperback ISBN 978-1-84686-931-0
Illustrated by Vali Mintzi. In a story reminiscent of the Brothers Grimm, a girl is rewarded for her kindness to a strange old lady, but her cruel stepsister, who doesn’t “listen to her heart,” fails to earn the same magical rewards from the woman. The book successfully calls on traditional tales for tone and structure but feels fresh with elegant, color-rich gouache art and a distinctive setting.
Khan, Rukhsana Big Red Lollipop
40 pp. Viking 2010
Trade ISBN 978-0-670-06287-4
Illustrated by Sophie Blackall. When Rubina is invited to a birthday party, her sister Sana wants to go. Their Pakistani mother doesn’t understand American party customs and insists that Sana tag along. When Sana receives an invitation of her own, the tables are turned: the girls’ baby sister demands to go too. The expressive illustrations bring this simple sibling rivalry/immigrant story to life.
Khan, Rukhsana King for a Day
32 pp. Lee 2013
Trade ISBN 978-1-60060-659-5
Illustrated by Christiane Krömer. Action-filled collages of traditional fabrics, textured paper, yarn, and more display intricate sky- and cityscapes of Lahore, Pakistan, during Basant, the spring kite festival. Malik, skillfully using his handmade small kite to conquer the bully next door in the kite battle, is a real hero; that he uses a wheelchair is incidental to the story. Useful contextual information is appended.
Khan, Rukhsana The Roses in My Carpets
32 pp. Holiday 1998
Trade ISBN 0-8234-1399-3
Illustrated by Ronald Himler. This somber story describes life for a young Afghani refugee, who weaves brightly colored flowered rugs that help him temporarily escape the ugliness of the refugee camp. Himler’s restrained watercolor paintings show the pain on the characters’ faces but also leave room for hope, as does the text, which recounts grim circumstances without rendering them utterly defeating.
Khan, Rukhsana Ruler of the Courtyard
40 pp. Viking 2003
Trade ISBN 0-670-03583-1
Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. This spare tale set in Pakistan has wonderful energy and use of language. Saba fears the chickens lying in wait for her on the way to the bathhouse, but once inside she spies something truly scary — a snake. She courageously traps the snake, despite her fear. When she discovers it’s a rope, she laughs, the chickens squawk; she roars, the chickens shriek; and Saba, no longer afraid, chases them. The vibrant Picasso-esque illustrations are powerful.
Khan, Rukhsana Silly Chicken
32 pp. Viking 2005
Trade ISBN 0-670-05912-9
Illustrated by Yunmee Kyong. In an effective, even intriguing, take on “sibling” rivalry set in Pakistan, Rani believes that her mother, Ami, loves her pet hen more than she loves Rani. Kyong’s bright, richly colored illustrations are a good match for sensitive Rani’s straightforward narration. Khan always stays true to young Rani’s self-centered impressions and emotions, never injecting adult interpretations.
Nye, Naomi Shihab and Carpenter, Nancy Sitti’s Secrets
32 pp. Simon 1994
Trade ISBN 0-02-768460-1
On a trip halfway around the world, young Mona comes to love her grandmother as she learns about the daily life of the elderly Palestinian Arab woman. When she returns home, Mona writes a letter to the president, in which she describes her grandmother and asks for peace. The poetic, rich language is dotted with imagery that is often picked up in the illustrations.
McCarney, Rosemary Dear Malala, We Stand with You
32 pp. Crown 2014
Trade ISBN 978-0-553-52120-7
Library binding ISBN 978-0-553-52121-4
Ebook ISBN 978-0-553-52122-1
With Plan International. Young girls and women from around the world speak out vigorously for the right to education in an inspiring letter addressed to the youngest Nobel Prize–winning activist, Malala Yousafzai. The powerful photos come from countries including Niger, Nepal, and Paraguay (each identified in small type). Malala’s UN speech, websites for charities (including Plan International), and relevant participatory projects are included.
Roth, Susan L. and Abouraya, Karen Leggett Hands Around the Library: Protecting Egypt’s Treasured Books
40 pp. Dial 2012
Trade ISBN 978-0-8037-3747-1
When Egyptians began protesting and calling for Mubarak’s resignation in 2011, people feared for the safety of the beautiful Bibliotheca Alexandrina — the library built in 2002 near the ancient site of the Great Library of Alexandria. In this lovely tribute to the spirit of cooperation, Roth’s trademark collages exuberantly illustrate the human chain that surrounded the library to save it.
Suneby, Elizabeth Razia’s Ray of Hope: One Girl’s Dream of an Education
32 pp. Kids Can 2013
Trade ISBN 978-1-55453-816-4
Illustrated by Suana Verelst. Razia, an Afghan girl, wants to attend the new girls’ school being built in her village, but her brothers say no. By proving that education will help her family, Razia wins permission to go. The narrative ends abruptly, but the well-evoked setting, pictured in the striking mixed-media illustrations, gives a specific cultural flavor to the powerful story, inspired by a real school. Glos.
Rumford, James Silent Music: A Story of Baghdad
32 pp. Roaring Brook/Porter 2008
Trade ISBN 978-1-59643-276-5
Ali, a boy in contemporary Baghdad, loves to create the letters of Arabic calligraphy. When he has no trouble writing harb, the word for war, but struggles to draw the word for peace, readers will feel Ali’s pain for his country. Rumford’s mixed-media illustrations echo the collage work of Ezra Jack Keats and Patricia Polacco while still showcasing the calligraphy.
Ruurs, Margriet Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey
32 pp. Orca 2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-4598-1490-5
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4598-1491-2
Illustrated and photographed by Nizar Ali Badr. In this arresting book, Syrian artist Badr used ordinary beach stones to make the three-dimensional collages, arranged into human figures (and trees, etc.), that depict the harrowing journeys that many present-day Syrians undertake to escape violence. Ruurs’s free-verse text, in English and Arabic, chronicles the journey of a fictional girl, Rama. Stone by stone, step by step, it adds up to a memorable volume.
Sanna, Francesca The Journey
48 pp. Flying Eye/Nobrow 2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-909263-99-4
In a piercing first-person account, a child tells of a harrowing journey with a sibling and their mother. Sanna’s stylized illustrations are both captivating and unsettling. Specifics of the setting are never established (details in the illustrations suggest an Islamic-world origin, while fauna implies a Nordic destination), and that intentional lack of specificity adds disquiet. Still, the story is not without hope.
Williams, Karen Lynn and Mohammed, Khadra Four Feet, Two Sandals
32 pp. Eerdmans 2007
Trade ISBN 978-0-8028-5296-0
Illustrated by Doug Chayka. Lina and Feroza are Afghani girls in a Pakistani refugee camp. When used clothing is distributed, each girl grabs one of a pair of pretty sandals. They decide to alternate wearing the sandals, then become friends. Chayka’s tan backgrounds convey daily life in the crowded Peshawar camp, while his use of color in the characters’ clothing represents their bright hopes.
Winter, Jeanette The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq
32 pp. Harcourt 2005
Trade ISBN 0-15-205445-6
Winter’s picture book describes Alia Muhammad Baker’s attempt to save her library’s collection when war comes to the Iraqi city of Basra in 2003. The illustrations represent the terrors of war realistically but not graphically. This tale provides a good way to talk about war and demonstrates the quiet heroism of fighting for something important without using violence.
Winter, Jeanette Malala, a Brave Girl from Pakistan / Iqbal, a Brave Boy from Pakistan
40 pp. Simon/Beach Lane 2014
Trade ISBN 978-1-4814-2294-9
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-2295-6
This picture book introduces two Pakistani children who fought for peace and justice and suffered violence: one side is Malala Yousafzai’s story; flip it for Iqbal Masih’s. Iqbal was killed in 1995; Malala was shot by the Taliban (but survived) in 2012 “for speaking out for the right of girls to attend school.” A great place to begin a young activist’s education.
Winter, Jeanette Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan
40 pp. Simon/Beach Lane 2009
Trade ISBN 978-1-4169-9437-4
After Nasreen’s parents disappeared, the little girl “never spoke a word.” Her grandmother takes her to a secret school for girls, where for months Nasreen remains silent. Winter’s text is elegantly and eloquently spare; her reminder that education is a privilege worth fighting for is a powerful one. The accompanying acrylic paintings use many patterns and colors representative of Afghani fabrics.
Wolf, Bernard Coming to America: A Muslim Family’s Story
48 pp. Lee 2003
Trade ISBN 1-58430-086-8
Paperback ISBN 1-58430-177-5
Wolf’s photo-essay about an Egyptian Muslim family in Queens is marked by its natural juxtapositions of cultural particularities and neighborhood commonalities. The book gives attention to each of the three children in the Mahmoud family, ages eight, twelve, and thirteen, at school, at home, and with friends. The tone is low-key but optimistic; the large, mostly full-page color photos seem like those taken by a welcomed visitor.
Yoo, Paula Twenty-two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank
40 pp. Lee 2014
Trade ISBN 978-1-60060-658-8
Illustrated by Jamel Akib. This inspiring biography of Bengali “Banker to the Poor” Muhammad Yunus begins with precepts he learned in childhood. Yunus’s path to becoming an economist known for small, low-interest loans to the impoverished (“microcredit”) and to receiving the Nobel Peace Prize is back-dropped by striking chalk-pastel illustrations in vibrant colors. An afterword with more information about Grameen Banks is included. Bib.
Barnard, Bryn The Genius of Islam: How Muslims Made the Modern World
40 pp. Knopf 2011
Trade ISBN 978-0-375-84072-2
Library binding ISBN 978-0-375-94072-9
This volume surveys, via text and informative original paintings, the many technological and scientific advances made, refined, or dispersed during the “Islamic Golden Age.” The seventh through twelfth centuries saw progress in medicine, agriculture, optics, music, machinery, etc., to which Barnard devotes twelve topically divided double-page spreads. Tidily colored illustrations, accompanied by good captions, offer helpful amplification of the subtopics. Reading list.
Clinton, Catherine A Stone in My Hand
191 pp. Candlewick 2002
Trade ISBN 0-7636-1388-6
After losing her father to violence, Malaak, an eleven-year-old Palestinian, desperately wants to protect her older brother and keep him from joining the Islamic jihad. Set in Gaza City during the late 1980s, the novel provides no easy answers but effectively captures the challenges of daily life in the war-ravaged region and the immense loss shared by Malaak’s entire community.
Dumas, Firoozeh It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel
378 pp. Clarion 2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-544-61231-0
Recently moved from Compton to Newport Beach, Zomorod Yousefzadeh has started calling herself Cindy to fit in. But late-1970s world politics keep her ever aware that she’s Iranian. Dumas’s semi-autobiographical children’s-book debut is funny, affecting, and nuanced — rife with depictions of racism kids of color and immigrants still face; these serious notes are balanced with preteen antics and melodramas of which Blume would be proud.
48 pp. McElderry 2003
Trade ISBN 0-689-85264-9
Demi tells the story of the prophet Muhammad, explaining the creation of Islam and the Koran. The illustrations are surprisingly lively given the restrictions placed on them (Islamic law states that Muhammad may not be depicted; Demi overcomes this by showing him as a gold silhouette). This timely book presents the origins of Islam with great respect, illuminating the subject for children and for adults. Bib.
Ellis, Deborah The Breadwinner
170 pp. Groundwood 2001
Trade ISBN 0-88899-419-2
Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan, Parvana has been unable to go to school or leave the house without a male relative. When her father is taken away to jail, however, Parvana must seek work disguised as a boy in order to support her family. The obstacles faced by women under the repressive regime are convincingly and sympathetically portrayed as Parvana’s story unfolds. Also look for sequels Parvana’s Journey, Mud City, and My Name Is Parvana.
Ellis, Deborah Children of War: Voices of Iraqi Refugees
128 pp. Groundwood 2009
Trade ISBN 978-0-88899-907-8
In this look at young lives shattered by the Iraq War, Iraqi refugees (most living in Jordan) ranging in age from eight to nineteen tell their stories of displacement. The narratives are clear-eyed and wrenching, underscoring the damage that war inflicts on its most innocent victims, the children. A cogent introduction and a map provide context for readers. Websites. Glos.
Hashimi, Nadia One Half from the East
263 pp. HarperCollins/Harper 2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-242190-6
Ebook ISBN 978-0-06-242192-0
Bacha posh, or girls dressed in boys’ clothing and treated like boys, are a tradition in some parts of Afghanistan. Obayda — now called Obayd — is frightened of facing the boys at school. She eventually befriends brash Rahim (also a bacha posh), and the two share adventures. Hashimi lets readers see themselves in Obayda’s emotions, even as the outcomes remain true to the Afghan culture so fluently portrayed.
Khan, Rukhsana Muslim Child: Understanding Islam through Stories and Poems
104 pp. Whitman 2002
Trade ISBN 0-8075-5307-7
Illustrated by Patty Gallinger. Short stories, excerpts from the Koran, poems, and one-page topical features focus on the experience of Muslim children (mainly in Western nations). While the stories are fairly pedantic, the book provides a nonpolitical glimpse into the culture and offers Muslim children moral guidance. In addition to black-and-white drawings, repetitive sidebars explain Islamic concepts and Arabic words. A pronunciation guide is appended.
Marsden, Carolyn The White Zone
184 pp. Carolrhoda 2012
Library binding ISBN 978-0-7613-7383-4
Cousins Nouri, a Shiite, and Talib, half Sunni, describe life in Baghdad amid the second Iraq War, during which Iraqis also fought amongst themselves over religious differences. But in winter 2008, snow covered the city for the “first time in anyone’s memory,” sparking an unofficial ceasefire. Though the reader is aware that peace won’t last, this poignant wartime narrative is subtly hopeful. Glos.
Nye, Naomi Shihab The Turtle of Oman
299 pp. Greenwillow 2014
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-201972-1
Ebook ISBN 978-0-06-2233761-0
Illustrated by Betsy Peterschmidt. Aref is preparing to leave Oman for Ann Arbor, Michigan, where his family will live for three years. Though unhappy about the move, Aref is thrilled to spend his last few days going on small adventures with Sidi, his grandfather. Nye’s story about the special bond between a boy and his grandfather and their mutual love for their country is somehow both quiet and exhilarating.
Papademetriou, Lisa A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic
300 pp. HarperCollins/Harper 2015
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-237121-8
Through destiny — not luck — Kai, visiting her great-aunt in Texas, and Leila, on a family trip to Pakistan, find the same mysterious book with a life of its own. From across the world, the girls get immersed in the auto-generating book and discover new friendships while tracking down the clues it leaves them. This memorable magical tale ponders bigger questions about human interconnectedness.
Ruelle, Karen Gray and DeSaix, Deborah Durland The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews During the Holocaust
40 pp. Holiday 2009
Trade ISBN 978-0-8234-2159-6
Strong, clear writing energizes this account of Paris’s Grand Mosque serving as sanctuary for Jews fleeing the Nazis. Exquisite oil-paint illustrations display both the beauty of Paris and the stately elegance of the mosque, in addition to the danger faced by Jews and Muslim resistance fighters alike. An afterword gives more details about the historical events. Reading list. Bib., glos., ind.
Senzai, N. H. Shooting Kabul
262 pp. Simon/Wiseman 2010
Trade ISBN 978-1-4424-0194-5
Fadi’s family flees from Kabul, Afghanistan, to Fremont, California, in 2001. His six-year-old sister, Mariam, is left behind during their escape, for which Fadi wrongly feels responsible. He enters a photography contest to win a plane ticket to Peshawar so he can try to track down Mariam. The story is timely, but coincidences in the plot lessen its believability. Reading list, websites. Glos.
Senzai, N. H. Saving Kabul Corner
277 pp. Simon 2014
Trade ISBN 978-1-4424-8494-8
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4424-8496-2
Afghan American Ariana, her recent-refugee cousin Laila, and her best friend Mariam (from Shooting Kabul) investigate acts of sabotage and vandalism on both Ariana’s family’s grocery store and on a new competing store opened by a rival family. The characters’ deep love for their culture, described in rich, respectful detail by Senzai, is a distinguishing feature of the engaging California-set mystery. Reading list, websites. Glos.
Tarnowska, Wafa’ The Arabian Nights
128 pp. Barefoot 2010
Trade ISBN 978-1-84686-122-2
Illustrated by Carole Hénaff. This edition of the traditional tales will captivate older middle-grade audiences; murder and infidelity are common themes, woven together with stories of genies and magicians. The Scheherazade framework isn’t as engaging as the actual tales, and the font of those sections is difficult to read. The volume’s best feature is its lovely, detail-rich, color-saturated acrylic illustrations that incorporate traditional motifs. Glos.
Yousafzai, Malala I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood up for Education and Changed the World
230 pp. Little 2014
Trade ISBN 978-0-316-32793-0
With Patricia McCormick. Young Readers Edition. Young education activist and Taliban victim Malala Yousafzai recounts her Pakistani childhood in this deftly adapted memoir. Domestic and academic tales illustrate her unusual maturity and resilience in the face of increasing Taliban threats. Yousafzai’s moving narrative and engaging, sincere voice may provide an entryway to international awareness for middle-grade readers; a map and a thorough timeline provide additional political context. Glos.
Abdel-Fattah, Randa Does My Head Look Big in This?
360 pp. Scholastic/Orchard 2007
Trade ISBN 978-0-439-91947-0
Eleventh-grade “Australian-Muslim-Palestinian” Amal debates the pros and cons of wearing the hijab (Muslim head scarf) full-time. She is supported by her friends, and their IM chats and discussions, peppered with references to fashion, music, pop culture, and Amal’s crush, also explore practices of Islam while dismantling stereotypes. The girls’ thoughts and dreams are authentically adolescent, providing a bridge between cultures.
Abdel-Fattah, Randa Ten Things I Hate About Me
298 pp. Scholastic/Orchard 2009
Trade ISBN 978-0-545-05055-5
Wanting to be part of the in-crowd, Jamie (a.k.a. Jamilah) hides her Lebanese Muslim heritage behind bleached-blond hair and blue contacts. When her Arabic-music band is invited to play at a school dance, she fears her secret will come out. Themes of identity and self-image will resonate with teen readers, though the delivery is, at times, heavy-handed.
Abirached, Zeina A Game for Swallows: To Die, to Leave, to Return
192 pp. Lerner/Graphic Universe 2012
Library binding ISBN 978-0-7613-8568-4
Paperback ISBN 978-1-57505-941-9
Translated by Edward Gauvin. Like Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novel, Persepolis, this French import presents a girlhood under fire in the war-torn Middle East. Here the setting is 1984 Beirut. Abirached skillfully weaves flashbacks and explanatory asides into the narrative while maintaining one harrowing evening’s tension. Stark, dramatic illustrations (mostly black backgrounds with white-outlined characters and features) include repeated motifs that capture elements of the culture.
Abirached, Zeina I Remember Beirut
96 pp. Lerner/Graphic Universe 2014
Library binding ISBN 978-1-4677-3822-4
Paperback ISBN 978-1-4677-4458-4
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4677-4660-1
Translated by Edward Gauvin. Abirached revisits the Lebanese civil war setting of her previous graphic-novel memoir A Game for Swallows in a loosely connected series of sobering vignettes, each beginning with the phrase “I remember”: her family’s bullet hole–riddled car, her brother’s shrapnel collection, schools used as bomb shelters. Black-and-white geometric illustrations capture both the enormous scale of the war and its personal repercussions.
Ali-Karamali, Sumbul Growing Up Muslim: Understanding the Beliefs and Practices of Islam
214 pp. Delacorte 2012
Trade ISBN 978-0-385-74095-1
Library binding ISBN 978-0-375-98977-3
Ali-Karamali balances facts, personal experience, and thoughtful discussion in this accessible introduction to Islam, written in an easygoing, occasionally humor-sparked style. Explanations of rules and practices lead naturally into good summations of Muhammad’s life, the religion’s spread, the plurality of Muslim expression, and distinctions between universals and varieties of interpretation; this will serve for both personal reading and research. Bib., ind.
Aslan, Reza No god but God: The Origins and Evolution of Islam
167 pp. Delacorte 2011
Trade ISBN 978-0-385-73975-7
Library binding ISBN 978-0-385-90805-4
In this abridgment of his 2005 adult book, Aslan here provides an admirable synthesis of Muslim history and religious belief, paying special attention to the life and times of the Prophet. The writing is clear and engaging, and the author makes links to current concerns (jihad, the hijab) in a way that is respectful to both believers and to young readers. Timeline. Bib., glos., ind.
Budhos, Marina Ask Me No Questions
162 pp. Atheneum/Seo 2006
Trade ISBN 1-4169-0351-8
Budhos’s moving, quietly powerful novel explores the post–9/11 pressures on fourteen-year-old Nadira’s Muslim family, Bangladeshi immigrants who have lived productively but illegally in New York for eight years. When they seek asylum in Canada and her father is detained at the border, Nadira realizes it is up to her to prove his innocence and hold her family together.
Budhos, Marina Watched
266 pp. Random/Lamb 2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-553-53418-4
Library binding ISBN 978-0-553-53419-1
Ebook ISBN 978-0-553-53420-7
Muslim Bangladeshi immigrant Naeem has fallen in with a reckless high-school crowd. He lands in police custody and is presented with an unsavory choice: pay the price for his crimes and break his parents’ hearts, or spy on his own neighbors and thus betray his community. Budhos thoughtfully explores the complex and sometimes conflicting intricacies of a bicultural identity in this slow-boil tale.
Farizan, Sara If You Could Be Mine
247 pp. Algonquin 2013
Trade ISBN 978-1-61620-251-4
Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend Nasrin for years. But the girls live in Iran, where their love is illegal. Farizan imbues characters and relationships with depth and complexity. First love is the heart of the matter here; even as readers learn about an unfamiliar culture, they will recognize the universal dynamics of a struggling relationship.
Farizan, Sara Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel
296 pp. Algonquin 2014
Trade ISBN 978-1-61620-284-2
Ebook ISBN 978-1-61620-435-8
Sixteen-year-old Iranian American Leila finds herself in a secret relationship with new girl Saskia — who reveals herself to be a master manipulator. Leila turns to an old friend, Lisa; when their friendship turns romantic, Saskia threatens them as well as their friends, who rally in support of the couple. Leila’s clever first-person narrative lightens what, in less capable hands, could be an angsty story.
Karim, Sheba Skunk Girl
233 pp. Farrar 2009
Trade ISBN 978-0-374-37011-4
Nina, a Pakistani-Muslim eleventh grader living in New York State, struggles with her identity. Worse though, she’s hirsute, self-deprecatingly calling herself “skunk girl” because of a line of dark hair down her back. When a boy Nina likes reciprocates her feelings, Nina must reconcile her parents’ beliefs with her own complicated desires. Caught between two cultures, Nina’s a believable character making tough choices.
Latham, Jennifer Scarlett Undercover
311 pp. Little 2015
Trade ISBN 978-0-316-28393-9
Ebook ISBN 978-0-316-28389-2
Teen detective Scarlett investigates a possible murder (ruled a suicide by the authorities); soon she’s launched into a dangerous mystery that involves a shadowy group determined to find a mystical relic of the Muslim faith. Sarcastic yet sensitive, Scarlett’s voice drives this Veronica Mars–meets–Da Vinci Code narrative. Familiar mystery trappings are dressed up with fresh, diverse characters and settings.
Nye, Naomi Shihab 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East
142 pp. Greenwillow 2002
Trade ISBN 0-06-009765-5
Library binding ISBN 0-06-009766-3
As with much of Nye’s writing, these sixty poems — half of which are new, half of which have been published in her collections for adults — aim in sum to present a balanced yet intimate view of both the Middle East and Arab Americans. Clear and haunting, Nye’s poems are accessible to young adults, and the autobiographical element of her poetry makes them even more so.
Pinkney, Andrea Davis The Red Pencil
324 pp. Little 2014
Trade ISBN 978-0-316-24780-1
Ebook ISBN 978-1-316-24781-8
Illustrated by Shane W. Evans. The first part of this vivid verse novel, set from September 2003 to March 2004, celebrates twelve-year-old Amira’s life on her family farm in Darfur, Sudan. After a violent attack by the Sudanese militia, Amira and her family become refugees. Pinkney uses onomatopoeia, rhythm, and prismatic imagery to describe Amira’s feelings. Evans’s spare illustrations provide valuable visual context and a much-needed sense of buoyancy. Glos.
Khan, Rukhsana Wanting Mor
191 pp. Groundwood 2009
Trade ISBN 978-0-88899-858-3
After her mother’s death, Jameela’s father takes her from her rural Afghan home to war-wracked Kabul, where he abandons her. Delivered to an orphanage, Jameela flourishes, making a family of her own. Readers will sympathize with the main character and rejoice in the story’s ultimate outcome. Khan, a Pakistani-born Canadian, bases her novel on an actual child’s experience. Glos.
St. John, Warren Outcasts United: The Story of a Refugee Soccer Team That Changed a Town
226 pp. Delacorte 2012
Trade ISBN 978-0-385-74194-1
Library binding ISBN 978-0-375-99033-5
In small-town Clarkson, Georgia, half of whose population is made up of refugees from war-torn nations such as Somalia and Sudan, a young woman organizes a free soccer program for young immigrants and determines to coach her teams to success. Alternating between detailing the on-pitch and off-pitch challenges, this absorbing book is as much about the American melting pot as it is about soccer.