Tag Archives: 2021

Count by Ibrahim Moustafa with Brad Simpson and Hassan Otsmane-Elhadu

Count by Ibrahim Moustafa with Brad Simpson and Hassan Otsmane-Elhadu


This graphic novel retelling of the classic, Count of Monte Cristo, is for middle school readers and up and is by a Muslim author and illustrator. There is nothing Islamic or cultural in the text of this 136 page sci-fi twist, and there is some kissing, a whole lot of killing, brutality and violence, but I think the swashbuckling tale will appeal to early teens and adults who enjoy fast paced reads whether they have read the original tale or not.



Commoner Redxan Samud is elevated to Captain and marries his beloved, the first few pages of happiness, however, quickly disintegrate as he is framed and wrongfully imprisoned by the jealous powers that be.  Life in the hovering prison are barbaric, but the meeting of Aseyr, provides him with a plan and means to move forward.  First he will have to survive the death battles in the prison, escape the inescapable fortress, before he can locate the Isle of Sorrow, take control of ARU and extract his revenge.  Oh, but his revenge is strong, so very, very strong.



I was admittedly hesitant to give the book a try, but when writer Shireen Hakim sent it to me, and my kids saw it, I thought I should read it first before letting them dive in.  I read it in one sitting, the story is engaging and clear.  I never was confused with who was who and why something was happening.  At times though it seemed too quick and that details were glossed over, or impact was minimized because major plot points were not given enough time to be felt.  I would have liked some answers provided of basic logistics and of character’s getting from one place to another, and how plans came to fruition shared in the story.  Additionally, some fleshing out of situations to ground the story a bit and make the revenge and extraction of revenge more cathartic, would have elevated the book and made it a popular choice in my house to be reread again and again.



Death, violence, murder, rage, kissing, torture, plotting, deceit.

Not a contender for a book club read, but I would shelve it in a middle school classroom and in the school library for graphic novel and comic book enthusiasts as well as for high school students who might be familiar with the classic it references.

The Lady or the Lion by Aamina Qureshi

The Lady or the Lion by Aamina Qureshi


I was kind of surprised how well done this YA culture rich 350 page romance story was in holding my attention.  I don’t know that I had any expectations, but I was genuinely engaged in the growth of the protagonist as she began to emerge from her naive political state, and I look forward to some resolution from the cliffhanger conclusion of this the first book in the Marghazar Trials series.  The characters are practicing Muslims who pray and mention Allah swt regularly, they also acknowledge when they make extreme departures from basic Islamic tenants such as drinking, dancing, murdering, exhibiting racist attitudes, and mixing freely with the opposite gender.  It doesn’t stop any of the characters from behaving as they wish, but at least it is noted. The Urdu words and Pakistani setting in this fictional reimagining is filled with warmth and love, and while there are some steamy scenes and outright cruelties, I think 15 year olds and up can handle the contents, and recognize the suspension of reality and moral laxities for the sake of telling a story.


The book makes clear from the onset that “In the very olden time, there lived a semi-barbaric king. . . This is not his story.” This is the story of 18 year old Durkhanai, an orphaned princess raised by her grandparents, the King and Queen of Marghazar.  Marghazar is a prosperous country that is waging war on two fronts and does not let outsiders in, ever.  When the book begins it is doing so begrudgingly to avoid war with the neighboring districts that are working to unify and have recently been attacked.  With ambassadors arriving to determine the guilt or innocence of the one district unaffected by the terrorist attacks, the foreigners are seeing the inner workings of the kingdom for the first time.  All the ambassadors are females of various ages and experience, save the one from Jardum.  Asfandyar is young, dark, and handsome, and immediately discriminated against by the Badshah for his complexion.  Additionally Shehzadi has been warned by many to stay away from Asfandyar, which naturally makes him a great character for her to be swept away by.  She holds out for a while, but with her people mysteriously getting ill, her betrothed melting in to the background, and cracks in her country making themselves obvious, Durkhanai will find herself struggling to understand her heart, her country, her family, and her future, and with the cliff hanger ending, no simple answers will be given to her, or the reader.

I love that there is a map at the beginning, and lots of supplemental offerings at the end.  There are a lot of Urdu words and phrases and while I am moving away from feeling like all OWN voice books need to include glossaries, I think non Desi readers will be appreciative in this particular book to have one available.  For someone with some knowledge of the language the inclusion of the titles and relations and phrases between the languages is expertly done and delightful. There is also an author Q & A, as well as reader discussion questions.  There is a content warning at the beginning alerting the readers to physical and sexual assault as well as racist behavior and language and makes clear that it is contained to the characters and the story and is not the reflection of the author and publisher.  I like that it is there, and I like that the princess makes a stance against the racism and the sexual assault that she witnesses.

The high school girls at our Islamic School are always wanting “halal” romance books.  Ok so really they just want romance books, but I try and keep their pickings halal, and so I am forever reading these books trying to find new titles to recommend.  The book is very 1990s Bollywood in terms of romance flags.  There is a lot of proximity and caressing of necks and longing, and familiar obligation.  There is some snuggling and kissing, so maybe 2000s Bollywood, but the characters thus far don’t cross “that” line.

I really appreciated that Durkhanai was fleshed out and relatable.  Even though the setting is long ago, and the genre is romance, she didn’t wait to be rescued, even when she was hurting or pining, she was still maintaining her obligations and moving forward.  I also love that it showed some depth to her emotions.  She recognized that Asfandyar would let her speak and would show his support by being there, but he pushed back on her and challenged her too.  Rashid on the other hand would speak for Durkhanai and would fawn over her in a very superficial way almost.  Sure neither relationship was ideal, but from her perspective at least she was able to see how various presentations made her feel.

I was a little lost in some places, but I was reading quick and had distractions so I’m not entirely sure if it is my carelessness or plot holes or if gaps will be filled in future books.  I needed more reasoning though, for why Durkhanai’s cousins, Zarmina and Saifullah, truly hated Asfandyar as much as they did, or what exactly Saifullah was plotting and how it connected to ratting out the princess.  For all that is seemingly going on, the Badshah and Wali always seem available to chat and are often just lounging around.  I know it is not their story, but the negotiations, the plotting, everything seems to be done very slowly and could really use some fleshing out to show some depth to the side characters.  Other than a few voices, the side details are lacking.

Lying, killing, racism, sexual assault, physical assault, plotting, murder, kissing, manipulation, touching, caressing, sneaking around, theft, cruelty, cursing, romance.


The book is not an Islamic story or even a moral one, it is entertainment and it could possibly be used for a book club if the participants relish in these kind of books, but it probably wouldn’t have wide enough appeal and would alienate nearly all the boys from joining.

Spirit of the Cheetah: A Somali Tale by Karen Lynn Williams & Khadra Mohammed illustrated by Julia Cairns

Spirit of the Cheetah: A Somali Tale by Karen Lynn Williams & Khadra Mohammed illustrated by Julia Cairns


This timeless 40 page tale of a young boy as he prepares for his right of passage into adulthood is rich with wisdom, culture, and tradition.  So many gentle lessons can be found in the book, as it leaves deeper understanding and connection to be felt and explored long after the book has been closed and returned to the shelf.  There are seemingly hijab wearing #muslimsintheillustrations, and the author’s name would suggest she is also a Muslim, but with the line, “Called on the spirit of Shabelle,” and talk of the “Spirit of the cheetah,” it is hard to know for sure if the main character is.

The story starts with Roblay running everywhere in preparation for an upcoming race where he hopes to place in the top three, and prove he is a man and no longer a boy.  On the day of the race he races his fastest, but he does not come out at the top.


His grandfather, his Awoowo, tells him that to be successful he needs to capture the spirit of their people and leave his thumbprint on a cheetah’s coat.  His grandfather then tells him about the cheetahs long ago and how the river is named after them.  He explains that thumbprints on a cheetah’s fur honor those that have proven themselves.

Roblay trains and searches for many days.  He wonders if it is enough to mark a cub.  But his grandfather asks him if he wants to remain a cub.  This motivates Roblay to work harder.  When a year has passed and the race is about to take place again, he finally touches his cheetah.


He lines up for the race strong, proud and sleek, and he has the chance again to prove he is a man and make his family proud.  Nope, not going to tell you how it ends.


The book starts with an Author’s notes from both authors and concludes with Notes on the Cheetah.

Moonlight Hope: A Muslim American Coming of Age Story by Nora Salam

Moonlight Hope: A Muslim American Coming of Age Story by Nora Salam

moonlight hope

This 354 page New Adult read is truly Islamic fiction, and as long as you know what you are getting in to, you probably will thoroughly enjoy it.  It is Islamic centered, it is preachy, it is idyllic, it counters many stereotypes about Muslims and various cultures, while simultaneously falling into other tropes that define the genre, it has mature framing that is not suitable for younger readers, but doesn’t detail anything that is super “haram.”  If you are looking for a potentially halal romance between YA and Adult ages with Islamic messaging this book is a solid choice.  If however, you will be annoyed by any of the aforementioned labels, this book will not hold your attention or beg to be finished.  It reminds me a lot of Umm Zakiyyah’s If I Should Speak and A Voice books where the story has its own twists and character arcs but it spends a lot of time preaching and setting itself up to tout an Islamic perspective, or concept as well.  I wanted to read two books in the “New Adult” category and see if I could spread my reviews to include them, and with this being the second,  I think I should resist the temptation, and stick to what my library background familiarized me with.


Told in alternating voices of Intisar and Majed, two individuals in New York City, at different places in their life, but finding that when they hit rock bottom, Islam is the answer.

Intisar is graduating nursing school when the story opens and has only one goal in mind, get married.  She has strict Sudanese parents and has put all of her dreams on finding freedom in the perfect spouse.  She meets a guy at a friend’s house and they secretly date, kiss, and hold hands.  When he ghosts her, she is devastated and reluctantly finds herself agreeing to marry a much older man of her parent’s choosing.  Loosing herself in the idea of marriage, she finds herself heartbroken, ostracized and falling apart.  She starts to put herself back together slowly by finding Islam, her confidence, and some much needed perspective.

Majed has a famous family: his mother a model, his father and siblings singers, and he manages their careers.  After passing out from drugs and alcohol more than once he really starts to examine his life and the road he is on.  He sneaks away to rehab and in the process stumbles on to Islam.  He is Egyptian, but the family is not religious at all, and infact stop talking to him when he converts.  The trials of being a Muslim in New York with no family are not easy, but he feels it is worth it and his journey to Hajj and through loss brings him closer to Allah (swt).

The two stories are parallel and collide slightly in the periphery, but the book ends with them finally coming together and the ever dreaded words of “to be continued,” leaving the reader hanging.


I do like that the story shows struggles when one comes (back) to Islam, it isn’t always a walk in the park, it has challenges and stresses.  The book starts each chapter with a verse from the Quran and is very open about what it is.  So, while at times, the preachiness did get to me, it was very clear what type of book it was from the beginning and I kept reading.

Some of the side characters I felt needed to be fleshed out a bit.  I didn’t understand many of the random friends, how they affected the main character often seemed off, or completely underdeveloped in what was revealed about them: particularly Izzedine, Parita, the girl that married Mansour, the uncle at the Masjid that thought Majed was a spy, etc..  I also really struggled with the presentation of Uncle Munir and his calling Majed, baby, and how he just happened to bump in to him outside the bar, and the kisses.  I’m guessing it was meant to show him as over the top affectionate, but it just read as odd.

I like that the book addresses hypocrisy, mental health, and expectations.  It doesn’t paint all Muslims as good or bad, nor society at large.  The book reads as a journey, and many characters are given a chance to correct their errors and be seen in a new light.

The majority of the book is written well, but right away the book gave me pause as Intisar and her friends chat all through the Jummah khutbah, I get that it is trying to show her disregard for intentional practice of her faith and her “boy crazy/marriage” obsession, but you cannot speak during the khutbah, it isn’t just dirty looks, you truly cannot talk for it to count, and it isn’t even remarked upon, and it made me skeptical of the book for a while.  There is a word missing from a sentence on page 161 and at one point a brother in the prayer hall aims a shoe to throw.  But you wouldn’t be wearing shoes in the room where you pray, and the mosque has hallways and a glassed off section for women, so this seemed like an obvious oversight that should be fixed.


Drugs, alcohol, lying, overdose, sneaking out, kissing, hooking up, physical affection, violence, temptation, sexual predatory behavior, it is an adult book, so I’m not going to continue listing everything. Nothing haram is overtly detailed or glorified. Ages 17 and up, could handle it.

Too mature for my book club crew, but I wouldn’t mind it on a shelf in the school library.

Jamal the Giant and the Largest Lesson by Mariam Hakim illustrated by Nesba Yoosef

Jamal the Giant and the Largest Lesson by Mariam Hakim illustrated by Nesba Yoosef


My initial thoughts of this 32 page Islamic fiction, fable-style book, is that it needed to be tested on children, lots and lots of children.  It should have been read aloud to catch all the grammar, syntax, and diction errors, and young readers and listeners should have been asked what they learned or understood from the story, BEFORE, being published.  The message is sweet, the illustrations cute, but it feels unrefined and reads underdeveloped: pictures and concepts are not enough to carry a book if the writing is poor.

I have looked forward to obtaining the book since its launch, so as soon as it was available from a US stockist (@crescentmoonstore), I didn’t even hesitate to purchase it.  I knew the book was available for free online as a read aloud on YouTube, but because I truly love supporting Muslim authors and publishers, I wanted to wait until I had a physical copy in my hand.  These opinions are my own, all my reviews are.  I mean no malicious will to anyone, I’ve spent my money on something, and once I’ve done so, I am completely justified to have an opinion.  You don’t have to like it, or agree with it, but it isn’t personal.  I’ve given reasonings for my opinions, and I stand by them.

Jamal the Giant isn’t necessarily mean, but he is careless, young, and selfish.  He scares the animals in the woods, destroys their homes, ruins farmers’ crops, and steals from the village.  One night, he wants to steal some juice and in the process overhears the community members discussing how different he is from his kind parents, and that he must be forced to leave.  He tries to mend his ways before he is driven from his home, but to no avail.  Unsure how to fix things, it is the advice of a tiny mouse that sets his reform in motion and conveys the message from the Quran, surah 11 ayat 114, “Good deeds cancel out bad deeds.  This is a reminder for the mindful.” He learns he must apologize, make amends and be kind.

The message is accurate, but I have some concerns at how it is conveyed.  Why was the responsibility on the giant to learn how to behave.  Yes if he knew better, he should do better, but it is made clear that he is the last of his kind and his parents died when he was really young.  If the villagers aren’t going to try and teach him, who is?  It isn’t necessarily victim blaming, but if you don’t know better, and have no one to teach you, you definitely are a victim of neglect in some ways.  To have them going from enabling him out of a promise to his parents to threatening to kick him out from his home, is a little abrupt.

Story-wise there are some points that gave me pause.  Why is there an owl flying off in the daytime, sure there are some diurnal owls, but most kids are taught owls are nocturnal, why not change it to a woodland bird that is active in the day, don’t confuse kids.  It doesn’t specify a timeframe that the story takes place in, but it feels like a fable with talking animals a giant and a clear message.  There is a baker, a farmer, an imam, a greengrocery, it is all very quaint, but then the imam is holding a cell-phone, wait what? I do appreciate that the farmer is female though, and that some of the women cover and some do not, it seems representative.

I’m curious who taught the giant to read, and how come he writes his “s” backwards, there seems to be a bit of disjointedness to the upbringing of the giant, his age, even in giant terms.  A lot it seems the author assumes the reader knows about giants or their stereotypes perhaps, because the book doesn’t address them, and the result isn’t a fun moral story, but one that seems to miss things.

The little mouse teaching the big giant, carries some Lion and the Mouse-Aesop fable vibes, but really it is the proof-reading of the book that is disappointing.  When you read it aloud, commas are abundantly missing (even in the online reading pauses are placed where commas are not written).  Why is the B in Baker capitalized, and if it is the Baker’s house, as in last name is Baker, then an apostrophe is missing.  Many of the lines are just awkward and halting, even if not particularly erroneous.  The diction is questionable at times, Jamal “always” thinks about that day at the lake, woah, doesn’t reflect on it, but it haunts him “always.”  Jamal “‘really’ didn’t have to steal,” seems to imply he was justified in stealing a little, this should be a black and white issue in a children’s book, no?

There are questions at the end of the book, and a whole page of information about the author and illustrator as well.  In a case like this I don’t know if the publisher didn’t do justice to the author’s work, or if the author should have refined it more, before coming to the publisher, but it is unfortunate because clearly a lot of effort went in to the illustrations and promoting of the book.

Inventors of the Golden Age (Just like) by Umm Laith and Muhammad Khaider Syafei (Proud Little Muslims)

Inventors of the Golden Age (Just like) by Umm Laith and Muhammad Khaider Syafei (Proud Little Muslims)


Usually when you purchase a personalized book, the charm is that you get to see a name of your choosing in the story, and that you can make the main character look a certain way.  So imagine my surprise when this book arrived, and yeah sure my son’s name and likeness was included, but the story and information contained was also really well done and engaging.  This book, even without the personalization, is a solid story highlighting Fatima al-Fihri, Abbas ibn Firnas, al-Zahrawi, al-Idrisi, and their skills of generosity, persistence, kindness, and adventure as they shaped the world as we know it.


The fourth wall is broken as the book speaks to the reader encouraging them to come on an adventure in to the Golden Age.  A time when scientists, engineers, explorers, doctors, and astronomers were making remarkable advancements.

The first stop is Morocco to learn about Fatima al-Fihri and how she established the first university.  Her generosity in building and creating a place of Islam and learning is what set her apart and made her so remarkable.  It is then on to Abbas ibn-Firnas in Spain and his attempts at flying.  He failed often, but his mistakes helped him as he persisted and continued to learn and understand and make flight of humans possible.


Al-Zahrawi, the surgeon, is who is detailed next, as his knowledge, skill, and inventions he made are still used today.  His regard for his patients fear and nerves and his kindness is what the book stresses before moving on to the mapmaker al-Idrisi.  Al-Idrisi was adventurous as he traveled the world making his maps and switching the poles.


The book then focuses on the reader encouraging them to be generous and adventurous, kind and persistent, in making the future better like those mentioned from the past.

The book is horizontal, the pages thick, the faceless illustrations warm and detailed and the rhyming text flowing and appropriate for preschool aged children and up.


Birmingham Boy by Kate Rafiq

Birmingham Boy by Kate Rafiq


This 36 page ‘day-in-the-life-of’ book, follows a young boy and his mom on a day out and about in his city of Birmingham, England. Told in rhyme a few Urdu words are sprinkled in as general city observations are made, fun is had, and kindness is shown. The book touches on homelessness and protests, and the illustrations take the story deeper and show support for Black Lives Matter and Palestine, multiple hijab wearing women (#muslimsintheillustrations) throughout the city (including a burkini swimming mama), storefront signs acknowledging a diverse community, street artists, and different races, religions, and cultures everywhere.


The book starts off with Birmingham Boy waking up, based on the Arabic signage in his room, I’d guess his name is Zakariya, everything is quiet and still- except for a giant that he sees outside his window.   He refers to the homeless man throughout the story as a giant, it doesn’t seem to be a negative description, nor is the boy scared, he shares food with him at one point, it is just what he refers to him as. 


He then heads downstairs for breakfast of toast and dudhu (milk), before getting in a pram and heading out in the town.  They go past the deli and the flower show, and the giant on his cardboard mat.  They see someone getting their hair cut at the barbershop and they arrive at the swimming pool.


The mom and son swim and play and Birmingham boy takes a nap in his stroller as his mom and he head off to their next location.  He wakes up to the sounds of the masjid and sees his mom praying.  He plays and then joins her in salat.


After the masjid it is off to a cafe for cakes and tea, which they share with the giant, before they head off to a rally for justice and peace.  The book carries on in this sweet style of visiting places and interacting with the community until ending with a bath and dinner and getting tucked in to bed for the night.


Being American and living in Birmingham, Alabama, my kids and I also learned about the sights of a different Birmingham and they got to learn some British words such as pram and wellies.  I loved the inclusion of Islam in their daily life and the joyful illustrations.

The Sleepy Farmer: The Farmer Who Almost Missed Fajr by Shazia Afzal illustrated by Ingy Hamza

The Sleepy Farmer: The Farmer Who Almost Missed Fajr by Shazia Afzal illustrated by Ingy Hamza

The Sleepy Farmer_

This adorable board book combines animal sounds, team work, appreciation, and getting to the masjid on time for fajr.  Oh ya, and it is silly too.


Farmer Salman stayed up late and doesn’t wake up in the morning when the rooster crows. The crowing wakes the hen who starts to cluck, the clucking wakes the horse who starts to neigh…and before you know it, it awakens the entire farm.


But, Farmer Salman still doesn’t wake up, so the animals get louder, and louder, and finally the cat in the house wakes up and meows in the farmer’s face.  The meowing wakes Salman up and he makes wudu and heads to the masjid, just in time for fajr salat.


He returns from the masjid, thanks the animals and gives them their breakfast, alhumdulillah.

The book is only 10 pages and some pages are text heavy.  I think a few more pages to reduce the text on some of the pages would really make an already fun book, incredible.

WINNERS ANNOUNCED for the Muslim Bookstagram Awards 2021

WINNERS ANNOUNCED for the Muslim Bookstagram Awards 2021

REPOST From Zainab bint Younus’ Muslim Matters Article

Announcing the Winners!

The Muslim Bookstagram Awards 2021 has been quite a rollercoaster for the judges! When the Muslim Bookstagram Awards team first announced this initiative back in October, we never dreamed that we would get such an incredible turnout. We received two hundred and fifty fives titles in nominations, spanning almost every category possible. Reading through the books, we were able to make quite a few observations about the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to Muslim publishing (you can hear about them in our podcasts with the judges!). Most importantly, we had an amazing time!

Finally, we had to make some difficult decisions – and though it was harder than we ever expected it to be – we did it! We present… the winners of the Muslim Bookstagram Awards 2021!

Best Toddler Book (0-3): The Sleepy Farmer by Shazia Afzal

We noticed that there weren’t many toddler or board books in the offering this year. Of those that were nominated, many contained more complex themes than a three year old could handle, used advanced vocabulary, or were too text heavy to keep the attention of our littlest ones. We definitely need more variety in toddler book topics – so many are about Islamic phrases. We’re ready for authors to switch it up and come up with more unique themes; which is why we loved this year’s winner for the toddler book category!

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Book synopsis:

The Sleepy Farmer is about a farmer who almost missed Fajr, and all the farm animals tried waking up the farmer by making different sounds. In this engaging tale, young readers have the opportunity to be involved in the reading by repeating the sounds each animal makes on every page. The Sleepy Farmer demonstrates how important it is to do anything to wake up your family for Fajr.

Best Early Picture Book (4-6): The World is Your Masjid by Kate Rafiq

This category had a lot of self published nominations – but what made the winner stand out was that it stayed at the level of the target audience, while providing meaningful content in a fun way.  It was new, refreshing, and well-done, with a dose of silliness that made it a hit with one of our judges’ 7 year-olds! 

Book synopsis:

Where can you pray when you can’t get to the masjid? Join Rayan and Amelia as they explore all the places they can pray and just a few places where they can’t. With vibrant illustrations and fun rhyming verses, this book is a reminder for all of us that we can find somewhere to pray wherever we are.

Best Advanced Picture Book (5-7): Halal Hot Dogs by Susannah Aziz

The sheer amount of nominations we received for this category made us think deeply about the quality of what is being produced in the Muslim kidlit scene. Honestly, most of the self-published picture books just weren’t comparable to traditional publishing when it came to standards of writing and editing. The deciding factors for choosing this category’s winner was the high quality of writing and editing, in addition to the unapologetic inclusion of Islam in the text, the vocabulary, and the illustrations. The powerful Islamic representation, and the Muslim joy featured, truly made our hearts sing!

Book synopsis:

Every Friday after Jumu’ah prayer at the masjid, Musa’s family has a special Jumu’ah treat. They take turns picking out what the treat will be, but recently the choices have been .. . interesting. Week one, Mama made molokhia. It’s perfect for sharing, but gives us molokhia teeth for days! Week two, Baba burned the kufte kebabs on the grill. Week three, Seedi made his favorite riz b’haleeb-creamy rice pudding with pistachio sprinkled on top with an unexpected ingredient. Last week, Maryam brought jellybeans. . . . Finally, it’s Musa’s turn to pick, and he picks his favorite: halal hot dogs! But actually getting to eat this deliciousness turns into a journey riddled with obstacles. Will he ever get his favorite tasty treat?

Best Early Chapter Book (6-9): The Trouble with School (the Story of Halal Money) by Hafsa Ahsan

The Early Chapter Book category was a difficult one for us, and caused us more than a little stress! Some of the well-written books lacked any meaningful Islamic content – barely even a salaam or alhamdulillah. Though we don’t require that every Muslim story center Islam as the story, we want to see Islamic elements of daily life normalized in Muslim childrens’ stories. We encourage Muslim writers to be more thoughtful and intentional in including Islam within stories for this age group!

The winning book for this category took on a topic that is not often seen in early children’s books, made it relatable, funny, and provided strong Islamic lessons, referencing the Qur’an. 

Book synopsis:

When Musa’s teacher asks him what humans need to live, he blurts out the first thing to come to mind – food, drink, air… and money! Hilarity ensues, and young Musa’s entertaining shenanigans turn out to be a great opportunity for hilarious hijinks and thoughtful discussions about the concept of rizq, halal income, sadaqah, and a healthy spiritual relationship with money. This book is unique in that it tackles big ideas in an age-appropriate way for younger Muslim readers.

Best Middle Grade Chapter Book (8-12): Huda & Me by H. Hayek

All the judges were impressed with the Muslim representation and Islamic content of the middle grade selection for this year – including, surprisingly, mainstream published titles. This category’s winner is a book for everyone, but Muslim kids will especially relate to the anxiety of making wudu in a public restroom and mistaking a nun for a hijabi! Hilarious and full of heart from beginning to end, readers will feel a true sense of kinship with the Muslim family featured in this story.

Book synopsis:

When their parents have to travel to Beirut unexpectedly, twelve-year-old Akeal and his six siblings are horrified to be left behind in Melbourne with the dreaded Aunt Amel. Things do not go well, and Akeal’s naughty little sister, Huda, hatches a bold plan to escape. After stealing Aunt Amel’s credit card to buy plane tickets to Lebanon, Huda persuades her reluctant favourite brother to come with her. So begins Huda and Akeal’s hair-raising and action-packed journey to reunite with their parents half a world away, in a city they’ve grown up dreaming about but have never seen.

A fresh and funny story of sibling love, adventure, and courage, Huda and Me is one of a kind.

Best Middle School Book (12-15): Unsettled by Reem Faruqi

The middle school category blew us away! Both the traditionally published and self-published nominations presented stories and characters that young Muslims can relate to, and be inspired by. 

The winning book raised the bar for the whole industry by presenting an authentic ‘Own Voices’, coming-of-age read. The lyricism, hope, and small but genuine details will move readers deeply. No one can help being inspired by Nurah’s success, touched by her hardships, and disappointed in her mistakes.

Book synopsis:

When Nurah’s family moves from Karachi, Pakistan, to Peachtree City, Georgia, all she really wants is to blend in, but she stands out for all the wrong reasons. Nurah’s accent, floral-print kurtas, and tea-colored skin make her feel excluded, and she’s left to eat lunch alone under the stairwell, until she meets Stahr at swimming tryouts. Stahr covers her body when in the water, just like Nurah, but for very different reasons.

But in the water Nurah doesn’t want to blend in; she wants to stand out. She wants to win medals like her star athlete brother, Owais—who is going through struggles of his own in America—yet, when sibling rivalry gets in the way, she makes a split-second decision of betrayal that changes their fates.

As Nurah slowly begins to sprout wings in the form of strong swimming arms, she gradually gains the courage to stand up to bullies, fight for what she believes in, and find her place.

Best Young Adult Book (16+): Huda F Are You by Huda Fahmy

Over 20 YA books published in 2021 fit our original criteria, but unfortunately, only two ended up being content that we would comfortably recommend for the 16+ age group. Although we recognize that older teenagers can handle more mature themes, we were very disappointed at the lack of clean fiction. We don’t expect perfect Muslim characters, but we also want to see Islam as a lived experience for teenage Muslim characters, instead of just an identity label cast off in order to justify haraam desires. 

Huda Fahmy continues to be an outstanding Muslim writer who uses humor as an effective tool for exploring Islamic identity, personal challenges, and learning and growing along the way. 

Book synopsis:

Huda and her family just moved to Dearborn, Michigan, a small town with a big Muslim population. In her old town, Huda knew exactly who she was: she was the hijabi girl. But in Dearborn, everyone is the hijabi girl.

Huda is lost in a sea of hijabis, and she can’t rely on her hijab to define her anymore. She has to define herself. So she tries on a bunch of cliques, but she isn’t a hijabi fashionista or a hijabi athlete or a hijabi gamer. She’s not the one who knows everything about her religion or the one all the guys like. She’s miscellaneous, which makes her feel like no one at all. Until she realizes that it’ll take finding out who she isn’t, to figure out who she is.

Best Adult Book: Tied between Better, Not Bitter by Dr Yusef Salaam and Don’t Forget Us Here by Mansoor Adayfi

Originally, we weren’t sure whether to divide the adult category between fiction and non-fiction or not, but it turned out that we mostly received memoirs! In the end, it was impossible for us to choose one winner, and we settled on a tie between two incredibly powerful books.

Better, Not Bitter and Don’t Forget Us Here are both timely and carry universal messages: the journeys of two innocent Muslim men, mercilessly overpowered by oppressive political systems, and the role of Islam and their connections to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) in guiding them through the dark path to their final freedom.

We encourage readers to follow and support the ongoing work of both Dr. Yusef Salaam, and brother Mansoor Adayfi, who is affiliated with the organization CAGE

Book synopsis:

Better, Not Bitter by Dr. Yusef Salaam is the first time that one of the now Exonerated Five is telling his individual story, in his own words. Yusef writes his narrative: growing up Black in central Harlem in the ’80s, being raised by a strong, fierce mother and grandmother, his years of incarceration, his reentry, and exoneration. He connects these stories to lessons and principles he learned that gave him the power to survive through the worst of life’s experiences. He inspires readers to accept their own path, to understand their own sense of purpose. With his intimate personal insights, Yusef unpacks the systems built and designed for profit and the oppression of Black and Brown people. He inspires readers to channel their fury into action, and through the spiritual, to turn that anger and trauma into a constructive force that lives alongside accountability and mobilizes change.

Don’t Forget Us Here: Lost and Found at Guantanamo by Mansoor Adayfi tells us about how a Yemeni teenager on a cultural mission to Afghanistan disappeared and never returned home. Kidnapped by warlords and then sold to the US after 9/11, he was disappeared to Guantánamo Bay, where he spent the next 14 years as Detainee #441. Don’t Forget Us Here tells two coming-of-age stories in parallel: a makeshift island outpost becoming the world’s most notorious prison, and an innocent young man emerging from its darkness. With unexpected warmth and empathy, Mansoor unwinds a narrative of fighting for hope and survival in unimaginable circumstances, illuminating the limitlessness of the human spirit.

Best Children’s Non-Fiction Book: Stories of 20 Mighty Muslim Heroes by Tamara Haque

Self-published books did exceptionally well in this category! We loved seeing the unique takes and creativity represented in children’s non-fiction books. It was a little hit-and-miss at times, with the good books being incredible, while the others struggled in execution. Remember: any non-fiction, no matter how basic, must be fact-checked, age-appropriate in content, and with engaging illustrations. 

Tamara Haque’s winning Stories of 20 Mighty Muslim Heroes won our hearts with its inclusion of both men and women, and its emphasis on Islam being the primary distinguishing quality of each person chosen! This book is an inspirational resource for readers young and old alike. 

Book synopsis:

Do you know the story of the first nurse? The man who developed the first antiseptics? The woman in charge of the royal library? The female navy commander who defeated the Dutch army…twice! The man who travelled to nearly 40 countries in the 14th century? They all had two things in common – they were Muslim, and they wanted to make a difference.

These are just some examples of thousands of Muslim heroes who helped change the world over the centuries. This book hopes to inspire you with the stories of 20 such Muslim heroes from the 7th-19th Century.

Best Holiday Book: There was an Old Auntie Who Swallowed a Samosa by Asmaa Hussein

This category is meant to highlight all books Ramadan, Hajj/ Umrah, and Eid related! We were delighted at the variety of titles, and we may have spent a lot more time debating on this category than any of the others combined! After weeks of trying to persuade each other, and often ourselves, we went with a book that really just made us smile, and that our children ask for over and over, all year round.

This winner is an original, clever, laugh-out-loud story for preschool to early elementary, and one that parents and caregivers won’t dread reading over and over again! With its funny rhymes, expressive illustrations, religious framework, and hilarious conclusion, this book’s universal appeal will make it a firm favorite. 

Book synopsis:

Auntie Sophia is making her special out-of-this-world samosas for the mosque iftar. But what this samosa pro doesn’t know is that her kitty, Serrano, has some sneaky plans to alter her recipe! What will happen when she accidentally swallows a far too spicy pastry WHOLE?

Most Unique Book: Around the World with Alif and Jeem: An Islamic Scratch Book

Some books were so unique that we had to create a special category just for them, including personalized titles. However, this special book became a quick favorite with all the judges – and more importantly, our kids, who made it hard for us to wrestle the book away from! Scratch art, stickers, and education, all rolled into one – what else could a parent (or a kid!) ask for?

The world’s first Islamic scratch book is crammed with Islamic pictures that you scratch at to reveal a burst of colour, comes with stickers, multiple activity sheets, and educational tidbits about Makkah, Madinah, Al-Aqsa, Zam-Zam, Salah, Quran and Jannah.

The Reader’s Choice Awards: ‘Tis the Night Before Eid, by Yasmin Rashidi

To make the awards a little more exciting, we decided to give readers a voice! In a bid to control the chaos, we had them vote on the handful of titles that the judges were busy trying to convince each other of. With a little (or a lot…) of competitiveness, and much laughter, a victor was declared! 

Book synopsis:

‘Tis the Night Before Eid by Yasmin Rashidi is a delightful, visually rich gem that celebrates the excitement and bittersweet-ness of the night before Eid. The sweet rhymes and detailed illustrations – which show a mixed-race Muslim family, blending together East and West, in a diverse masjid – even featuring a female Qur’an teacher (who incidentally looks a lot like Shaykha Haifaa Younis!) -, creates a joyful reading experience. The book perfectly captures the love for Ramadan, the anticipation of Eid, and the many beautiful acts of worship and traditions involving both.

Judges’ Final Thoughts!

After sifting through over two hundred titles by Muslim authors, we were able to recognize recurring patterns, themes, and issues in Muslim publishing. One observation that really stood out to all of us was how well traditional publishing has stepped up with Muslim content. In both picture books and middle grade categories, we were amazed by the unapologetic Muslim rep – what a beautiful sight to see!

However, there is still quite a ways to go in terms of internalized Islamophobia towards conservative Muslims/Islam, and problematic vs. clean content in the YA/Adult fiction books. For self-published and Muslim-published titles, we urge authors and publishers to invest in producing high-quality content with attention paid to editing, writing quality, and story development. There is so much talent in the Ummah, and we want to elevate the standards of literature that we produce! Ultimately, our goal is to celebrate the field of Muslim literature, in all its genres.

Finally, we strongly encourage readers to check out the Instagram pages of each Muslim Bookstagram Awards judge! You will find detailed reviews of the winning titles, to ensure which books are the right fit for you and your family. Don’t forget to stay tuned for upcoming interviews with the rest of the Muslim Bookstagram Awards judges, where we’ll be talking all things Muslim bookish!

If you are a writer interested in nominating your book for the Muslim Bookstagram Awards 2022, please reach out to @MuslimBookReviewers!

Muslim Kids Book Nook: @muslimkidsbooknook

Islamic School Librarian: @islamicschoollibrarian

Shifa Saltagi Safadi: @muslimmommyblog

Zainab bint Younus: @bintyounus 

My World of Hamd: A Reflective Book on Gratitude by Lateefah Binuyo

My World of Hamd: A Reflective Book on Gratitude by Lateefah Binuyo


This thick hardback 46 page book is a great next step after teaching your kids to say “Alhamdulillah” to helping them to understand what it truly means.  Meant for second graders and up, this book is text heavy and encourages deeper thought, reflection, and practice.  It is not a quick read, and some children may struggle to sit through the entire book, but any time spent, I think, will be incredibly beneficial as it strives to move from the habit of just saying “Alhamdulillah” to being intentional in our appreciation and gratitude.  The thick inside pages, warm large illustrations, and colorful reflections are well done and enjoyable.  I only wish the cover better conveyed the content within.


The book begins with ayat 18 from Surah Nahl stating: “If you tried to count Allah’s blessings, you would never be able to number them.  Indeed, Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful. With the tone set, the fictionalized story begins with Ibraheem and his mum having breakfast.


Ibraheem is a curious boy that is only ever quiet when he is sleeping or eating.  When his mum reminds him to say Alhamdulillah after he finishes eating, he gets to wondering, “What does Alhamdulillah mean?”


Mum explains that the hamd in Alhamdulillah means praise and gratitude, and it is for Allah swt alone.  Ibraheem then wants to know how can he feel “hamd all the time?”  He and his mum discuss that hamd has to be felt within the heart, and it isn’t just saying it after a meal, but appreciation that you have food to eat.  Appreciation when you wake up in the morning, because many do not, etc.  The two discuss small and large aspects in a day that provide opportunities to truly appreciate the gifts of Allah swt.


The book covers topics such as: sneezing and appreciating your muscles, getting dressed and recognizing the blessing of clothing, awards at school, losing your backpack, happy times and sad times too.  Along the way mum passes on information about how when we are grateful Allah swt gives us more, about how even in sad times we have so much to learn about patience and asking Allah for help, that we can fill our days with hamd.


The book touches on never feeling sad in Jannah, Allah’s name Al-Hameed, and explaining how we have to still thank people and show appreciation to them because Allah sends his blessings through people as well.

The book concludes with teaching duas about hamd one word at a time, a glossary, and tips for using the book.  There are a lot of hadith and ayats explained on a child’s level and overall really answers and provides insights about saying Alhamdulillah and feeling Hamd.