This 40 page glowing OWN voice book bursts with body size positivity, Bangladeshi culture, Islamic terminology, diversity, and a beautiful message. The illustrations and theme alone make the book worth your time and reveal how few body positive books are out there for our early elementary aged children. That being said, the book might require or benefit from some child led discussion. If your child is aware of various body shapes including their own, then this book is a great mirror to build them up and as a tool in emphasizing the critical importance of understanding and knowing people are beautiful just as they are. If your child doesn’t seem to be aware that society views individuals with a larger body size as being a negative, this book might take a little navigating as the theme is more focused on pushing back on fat shaming than it is on accepting all body types. The book also opens its self up to discussions about pronoun identity, what beauty means, why people tease or be mean to themselves and others, and being aware of how our words affect those around us.
The family is visibly Muslim with Zubi starting with salaam. The mom wears hijab and a sari, even at home, Dadi also has her head covered. Eid is mentioned as a time when a gift was given that is too tight to wear, and worth noting from an Islamic perspective- Zubi’s sister is dieting to look pretty at a school dance. Bangladesh is represented in the foods and some of the phrases the family says, and the clothing mentioned and depicted in the illustrations. There is a glossary at the back.
Zubi is excited for her first day of school, she slides on her dress and shirt her mom had made for her in Bangladesh and her bangles on each arm. She heads to her parents room to show off her outfit where she finds her mom in a gorgeous yellow sari complaining about her big belly. At breakfast Dadi has made flaky parathas, but Zubi’s older sister Naya is dieting and would rather have oatmeal. Dad calls the girls to take them to school when his mom asks how come he hasn’t worn the new shirt she got him for Eid. He embarrassedly admits he has put on some pounds and his size is now a large, not good.
At school she is having fun and even makes a new friend, but at recess some one yells that Alix looks fat. Alix is wearing a yellow dress that Zubi thinks is beautiful and doesn’t understand why when they are called fat in it, it comes across as negative. After each incident Zubi mulls over what she is hearing and what it means for her, once she is home though she isn’t quite ready to talk to her family about it. At dinner, it all hits her as she decides she too shouldn’t eat, that she should be on a diet to be pretty. She heads off to her room, as her family realizes the impact of their own views and words about themselves, have had on Zubi. The family works to unpack their own mistakes and be better all while making sure the message to Zubi is that you are beautifully you.
I like that the book has the dad helping the mom put on her sari, and the dad comes and chats with Zubi about what happened at school. Mom might be in the medical field, she seems to be wearing a white coat over her sari, which is subtle and impressive that she is going to work in a sari for anyone that has ever tried to wear one and simply get in and out of a car (just me maybe). I do like that the mom remarks that she should be kind to her body since it housed her daughters. I think reminding us that bodies serve a miraculous function is important. I love the diversity in the classroom and how full of life Zubi is in all aspects of her day. She is proud of her culture, and sees those around her as being bright, kind and funny, not just the shape of their bodies. Some of her self reflections after an incident do highlight that many kids, including Zubi, don’t see body size as good or bad, its just one’s body. Hopefully the adults reading the book will also be reminded and realize that is a message worth actively working to maintain, at any age.
I think some of the criticism about the book not showing healthy food choices, or overall health is that we sometimes expect one book to do it all when there aren’t a lot to chose from. The book celebrates being beautiful AND being big. It doesn’t need to address all the societal and adult baggage that comes from food choices, lifestyle, health, judgement, stereotypes, etc.. And I think if you feel really strongly and defensive about it, then focus on pushing for more books, not one book to do it all. Encourage illustrators to show a variety of body types on the pages of books in young children’s hands as well as by toy makers, cartoons, movies, tv shows, etc.. Body positivity and being confident in yourself, no matter your size, shape, appearance, benefits everyone. Celebrate being beautiful.