I love the idea of this book and I can see me reading it at story time to KG-2nd graders with great success. The illustrations are rich and detailed, the over the top bedazzling is fun and extra, the plot however, is non existent, surface level at best, the Islamic representation incredibly shallow, and the inconsistencies puzzling. I’ve read this book a lot of times trying to articulate why it just rubs me the wrong way, and I think it is because it really reduces hijab to a fashion piece. You can change the word “hijab” to hat or t-shirt or sock and the story would be EXACTLY the same. There is no connecting hijab to Islam, no showing or telling why a woman would even where it. It presents hijab as being a costume or a decoration. If you don’t read the author’s note at the end, you would have no idea that hijab is an obligation on Muslim women. Even at story time in an Islamic school I don’t know that the author’s note will make the case clear enough, and I do plan to discuss with the classes how important it is to realize that hijab means something and is an act of worship and faith, and not something frivolous. The 24 page book is cute, no doubt, but I wish it had just a bit more substance.
A few other readers have shared that they found the story “offensive” and “triggering” for the main character’s judgmental and snooty attitude of criticizing others’ fashion sense. As someone who doesn’t care much what I wear, I didn’t feel attacked, but their points are valid, so I share them. Hijab is incredibly personal and many women struggle with dressing for the sake of Allah swt with the messaging all around and pressures to compromise in one way or another, and this book for some could definitely add fuel to the fire of telling a woman how to dress.
My plot concerns mainly pivot around Hana’s mom. Why is the mom presented as irritated at the beginning and then so supportive at the end, what changed? Why doesn’t the mom remind her daughter about why one wears hijab when given the chance? At least add the word “Muslim” in the above page between “strong” and “women.” I know the book is supposed to be fun and surface level, but connecting hijab to Islam isn’t preachy, it is logical. It is a key piece to the premise of the story. Also, how does offering her services of styling solve the problem- wouldn’t it in fact make it worse?
The fun illustrations and the extreme decorations really could have made the book a little girl favorite, but as it is, I don’t know that it will be requested more than once, or lend itself to being remembered once story time is over. It draws on Fancy Nancy extremes, and thinking outside the box, but because of the faith based article at the core, it seems to miss the importance and true beauty that hijab represents. I think Muslims will pick it up and be excited on first glance, but be left wondering what the point was, and non Muslims will probably be left with more questions than answers.