Those days right before the first day of school are filled with so much excitement and hope and possibilities. Your family goes to buy the school supplies and the backpack and of course, you need that really special outfit to start off feeling like you are your very best self on that amazing day of beginning. Everyone knows that feeling of roller coaster excitement as the cars climb up to the top of the hill and wait for a mini-second before dropping down into that thrilling plunge. That's the plunge of the first day of school and you want to bring your very best.
Faizah and her older sister, Asiya and her mother are standing in the hijab shop looking for that first day hijab. This hijab can't be ordinary. It needs to be a "first day" hijab and that means extraordinary. They spot it. There it is. It's exactly the sort of amazing they were looking for. It's the color of the blue of the ocean "if you squint your eyes and pretend there's no line between the water and the sky."
The first day of school comes and Faizah in her new light-up shoes and Asiya looking like a princess in her beautiful ocean blue hijab, reach for each other's hand and walk to school together filled with happiness and pride.
Asiya walks her sister to her line at school and leaves her to join the kids in the sixth-grade area. That's when it happens. The girl in line behind Faizah whispers to her, "What's that on your sister's head?"
As the first day goes along for Faizah, she hears a laugh ring out, sees a finger point and feels her first day change into something not as beautiful as the ocean blue.
Talk about powerful. Talk about standing in someone else's shoes. Is there anyone among us who hasn't felt the sting of being laughed at? Felt the feeling of being different? Been confused as something so meaningful and precious to you and yours is devalued and ridiculed by someone who is filled with fear and perhaps some weakness?
So, how is Faizah going to feel after her first day of school? How is Asiya handling her day and her extraordinary hijab? The wonder of this book is that we get to follow Faizah through her day and watch how she handles it and how the children around her respond to her. We get to walk for a few minutes with the lovely Asiya and experience her inner strength as well. That's a gift.
This will be an incredible book to read aloud on the first day of school. It's being published in October of 2019 which means it will miss that opening bell in August or September this one year. But for years after, it could be the book that is shared to set the tone of acceptance and understanding and to send the message that no two of us are the exactly the same. There are a lot of religions and foods and languages and clothing styles on this planet. There is room for all to be respected, honored and accepted without fear. All boats rise on the tide of acceptance.
So wonderful to feel the dignity, the pride, the everyday normalcy of wearing the hijab in this story. Faizah is finding her "strong." Asiya can be a big sister to millions of children to need to see themselves through her strength and understand she is them. Gorgeous story.
40 pages 978-0316519007 Ages 4-8
Recommended by: Barb Langridge, abookandahug.com
Read alike: Under My Hijab by Hena Khan
About the Author: Ibtihaj Muhammad is a fencer and the first Muslim American woman in hijab to compete for the United States in the Olympic Games. She is also the first female Muslim American to medal at the Olympic Games, winning bronze in the women's saber team event. An activist, speaker, and entrepreneur, Ibtihaj has written a memoir, Proud, and inspired the first hijabi Barbie in her likeness. She invites you to visit her online at ibtihajmuhammad.com.
A powerful, vibrantly illustrated story about the first day of school--and two sisters on one's first day of hijab--by Olympic medalist and social justice activist Ibtihaj Muhammad.
With her new backpack and light-up shoes, Faizah knows the first day of school is going to be special. It's the start of a brand new year and, best of all, it's her older sister Asiya's first day of hijab--a hijab of beautiful blue fabric, like the ocean waving to the sky. But not everyone sees hijab as beautiful, and in the face of hurtful, confusing words, Faizah will find new ways to be strong.
Paired with Hatem Aly's beautiful, whimsical art, Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad and Morris Award finalist S.K. Ali bring readers an uplifting, universal story of new experiences, the unbreakable bond between siblings, and of being proud of who you are.--from the publisher