I really don’t know what more you could want from a 40 page brightly illustrated picture book for ages 5 and up. I felt seen, I got a little emotional, I was inspired, I smiled, I felt compassion and empathy, hope and nervousness. I was reminded of the power of role models, of getting down on a child’s level, literally. I was reassured that we all make mistakes, learn differently, and can still thrive. Suffice it to say the book is moving. The OWN voice lyricism will resonate with children of all colors, but that the messaging is from a Black Muslim boy and is so unapologetic and proud and beautiful, makes the emotions Abdul feels palpable. Every classroom bookshelf needs this book, every child needs to hear it, read it, and explore the layers contained within. Alhumdulillah.
The book starts out with absolute joy. Abdul loves to tell stories. Writing stories, however, is something else. The letters are tricky, they get turned around, they aren’t straight and crisp like the one’s the barber cuts. His pages don’t look like the neat lines of his classmates.
He decides that maybe his stories aren’t for books. It isn’t like he even sees stories like his in books: stories about the people and places that he knows.
Then one day a visitor comes to class, Mr. Muhammad, and he is a writer. He encourages the children to, “write new stories with new superheroes.” Abdul tries, but he keeps making mistakes, and then he has to erase, and before long his paper is covered in smudges and holes.
Mr. Muhammad encourages Abdul to keep trying and fix the messes later, Abdul has an idea, and with a “bismillah,” he gives it another go. There is no perfection, there is just determination. The struggles, success, and support of his peers and Mr. Muhammad, just might change Abdul’s mind about his stories.
I love that the book is Black centered and Muslim centered. There is praying salat, mention of bean pies, a classmate in hijab, and saying of Bismillah. I’ve read the book seven or so times and it has yet to get old. The characters burst with personality, even the side ones, that I’m positive it will be a favorite at story time and bedtime alike.