This heartwarming book centers kindness, family, and friendship in an inclusive way; and while the tagline says “A Story of Hijab and Friendship” I think the hijab angle is a bit of a stretch. The authors are Muslims that wear hijab, the older sister and older females in the family wear hijab, but there is nothing in the story or text that connect hijab to Islam or to something Muslim women wear as part of religion. I don’t want to compare the first book in the series, The Proudest Blue, to this book, but hijab really was centered in that book and the Author’s Note mentioned that hijab is an Islamic act. This book does not make those same connections, which is fine, I just want consumers to be aware. This book is beautiful and the messaging endearing, and the tone and heart over 40 pages ideal for preschool to early elementary children. It works as a standalone, but with the same characters and sisterly love, I think most people will enjoy keeping them together.
The book starts with Mama passing on Asiya’s dress to Faizah, that had been Mama’s even before that. It is picture day, and the girls are helping each other get ready. At school Faizah and her friend Sophie twirl in their pretty dresses before heading in to class to discuss what kind of world they want.
Faizah wants a kind world, where there’s always a friend nearby, where everyone helps. At recess, Sophie and Faizah combine their visions, superheroes and kindness, to help other kids on the playground. When picture time arrives the class is full of smiles, but when it is time for sibling pictures, Faiza and Asiya realize they don’t match.
Faizah is sad, and Sophie notices, can the kindness be passed along like the dress to help the sisters? To make Faizah happy too? I’m not going to give away the conclusion, but it is sweet and idyllic and shows how lovely the world can be if we all just share some kindness.
I love the illustrations and the hijab wearing super hero that presumably Sophie drew is powerful. I think the book does wonders to normalize hijab, even if I do wish it articulated why one would wear hijab. It seems that the industry trend is to keep hijab superficial and I recognize I am in the minority that wants religious centering for religious tenants. So yes, I’m fully prepared for the backlash when people want to point out that it is joyful and that I’m a naysayer, but I deal with people on a daily basis that do not know that my own hijab is a reflection of me being Muslim. With as connected as the world is through technology, I think those in diverse environments take for granted the understanding of basic Islamic principals in the general population. However, not everyone has those real life connections and rely on books and media to fill the gaps, so when books about hijab, don’t actually connect hijab to faith, I feel obligated to point it out.