This 32 page book is incredibly adorable and silly, and yet so vague in the answer that is the whole premise of the book, that it really has me wondering why we are so afraid (in children’s books and possibly in our daily lives) to say that we wear hijab because Allah swt commands it? The book articulates that we are Muslim and that hijab defines us, which I love, it just seems that while the rest of the book is incredibly direct and funny, the answer is fuzzy and lyrical. It is by no means wrong, it just at the end presents what hijab means, the benefits of wearing it, and one’s personal feelings toward it, while skirting the answer the girl keeps asking of why? It seems to be a common approach lately, and I wish that more picture books about hijab would clearly articulate that the commandment to cover is in the Quran. It isn’t for any other reasons. It may have perks of keeping your ears warm, fashion, or hiding your earbuds, but that isn’t why Muslim women wear hijab. Perhaps the trend has me more frustrated than this book on its own warrants, it really is sweet and I don’t regret purchasing it and having it sent from the UK. It allows for a serious conversation about hijab to occur after, and it intentionally pushes the humor, which I definitely think we need more of in Muslim centered books.
The book starts with Noor identifying what her Ammu’s hijab is and isn’t, how she wears it and how she doesn’t. The next page shows Noor’s bustling family and she compares how her Ammu’s hijab is not the same as her Nanu’s or Dadu’s or Aunt’s or even her sister’s, but she doesn’t know why any of them wear it. Yes, I’m sure there is some pointed criticism I should make about how can a child her age not know, but I think for the sake of it being a book and being comically done, I am willing to let it slide. I do wish that the spread had the women and their style of wearing a scarf shown. I appreciate that they are in the dining room at home and thus not wearing a scarf, Nanu is because Dada is in the picture, authenticity which I love seeing, but children need a little more hand holding to see which person the text is talking about. Yes I know there is a family tree on the inside cover, but at story time, it is cumbersome to flip back and forth.
Back to the story, Noor starts by asking her sister, the coolest hijabi she knows, if she wears it to hide her snacks in, or hide her big ears, but Affa brushes her off with a, “not now, Noor” and she is off to the next family member to ask. Each time the rationale gets more outrageous: hide the eyes on the back of your head, prevent you from getting nits, etc.. And each time the person she asks sends her on her way with a “not now, Noor.”
When Noor finally gets to her mom it is she who answers with poetic lyricism, “We are Muslim women, my Noor, Unapologetic and true. We are believers. We are dreamers. We are thinkers. We are leaders. We can wear our hijabs on our heads like our hearts on our sleeves. Whether you choose to or not, my Noor,, we are so many things…and we are more than enough.” On the next page it continues, “My hijab is not just a scarf. It means more to me. It is a reminder of who I am, where I’m from, and where I’m going to be. And perhaps one day you’ll understand what I mean. Because, most of all without my hijab, my Noor, I don’t feel like me.”
A flowery sentiment, but little Noor and the reader never got the answer as to why Muslim women wear hijab, and I think that it is unfortunate. The book is beautifully illustrated, the size is great to be shared, the text funny, the voice playful, the joy contagious but the answer for me, just missed the mark, not by a lot, but by enough that I think an adult would need to supplement the overall takeaway message.