Contemporary Muslim tween reads to enjoy

image of girl with black hair and glasses in jean jacket giving thumbs up inside green circle. box underneath reads Miss Mahee's Booklist. light blue background around white.
Booklists for you

Hi everyone, this first week we’ll be dipping into a book list of seven reads celebrating Muslim tweens. The tweens in this book list are mostly young girls who showcase unique personalities along with a rich and diverse Muslim culture. I hope you enjoy this booklist as I had to do a bit of research to find stories that included tweens from different locations around the world. Enjoy your reading!!

large background of brick wall. sign above shop window in middle. sign has pink lettering 'The Hijab Boutique.' window has three panels with images of ladies wearing different coloured hijabs. flowers along bottom of window and has blue panel above.
A sweet read

This first read, The Hijab Boutique by Michelle Khan, takes us to a private girl’s art school where we meet young Farah. She enjoys her life there until the day she’s given an assignment to bring in something representing her mother to talk about for “Inspirational Women’s Day.” Compared to her friends’ glamorous actress, makeup artist and tap-dancing mothers, Farah doesn’t think her modest hijab-wearing mother possibly has something that would be worth sharing with her classmates. This adorable story, all five chapters of it, comes with a very powerful message about the choices that Muslim women make. I learned so much from this short book about Islam and its role for women. I know that it’s really a peaceful religion and doesn’t have that many strict rules about head covering. What I didn’t know was that girls can choose when to start wearing the hijab. That was something new to me!! For a debut chapter book by Indo-Canadian writer Michelle Khan, this was a lovely story with some great characters. 

The Green Bicyclle letters written in white chalk outline on blue sky background young Arabic girl with black hijab and cloak in jeans bicycles next to her
An interesting read

My next title, The Green Bicycle by Haifaa Al Mansour is one that I’ve reviewed before. In this read we’ll be traveling to Saudi Arabia and meeting with eleven-year-old Wadjda. She desperately wants a bicycle so that she can race her friend Abdullah. But in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, it’s considered improper for girls to ride bikes. Her parents will never buy her one, so Wadjda decides to earn the money for her dream bike by selling mix tapes of banned music and passing notes from her classmates to neighbourhood boys. But when she’s caught Wadjda is forced to turn over a new leaf (sort of), or risk expulsion from school. Still Wadjda keeps scheming, and with the bicycle so closely in her sights she will stop at nothing to get what she wants. Based on Haifaa Al Mansour’s award-winning film Wadjda, this is the first kids book I’ve read that’s based on a film by an Arabic woman!! An eye-opener of a story of the life of a young girl in a Muslim world whose rules are male-dominated and restrictions for everything for women. Wadjda’s character is one ‘spunky and adorable’ girl. I really liked the love-hate relationship she has with Abdullah, especially when he’s around his friends. If you want a story that challenges your thinking, this is one such book, and I would recommend it for older kids!!

The next three are actually by the same author, Hena Khan. 

image of Indian girl in side profile clasping hands to chest in light pink top and flowing dark brown hair. orange background with patters and white letters above reading Amina's Voice.
A lovely read

These first two are actually about the same young girl, Amina, and her life in middle school in America. In the first read, Amina’s voice, Amina is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more ‘American.’ Amina is not sure if she should start changing or hiding who she is to fit in.  While Amina grapples with these issues, her local mosque is vandalized, and she is devastated. In Amina’s Voice, readers will witness the power of a young girl using her voice to bring people together. I thought this was a beautiful story!! Not only was it relevant to the times but just the perfect blend of fiction and reality to it!! I learned quite a bit about the everyday lives of Muslim families living in the US. A great little book about tolerance, acceptance despite racial and cultural differences and the power of community and what they do when they unite. 

Indian girl in yellow blouse and dark brown hair with blue background with patterns. light blue-white letters above her reads Amina's Song.
Sequel to Amina’s Voice

The second one, Amina’s song, takes us on vacation to Pakistan where Amina has loved every minute of it. The food, the shops, the time she’s spent with her relatives – all of it holds a special place in Amina’s heart. But the school year is starting again, and while she’s sad to leave, Amian’s excited to share with her friends how wonderful Pakistan is. But once Amina is back home, it seems like Soojin, Emily and Rabiya don’t want to hear about her trip. And when she decides to do a presentation on Pakistani hero Malala Yousafzai, her classmates only focus on the worst parts of the story. How can Amina share the beauty of Pakistan when no one wants to listen. In this sequel to Amina’s Voice, Amina once again uses her voice to bridge the places, people and communities she loves – this time across continents. This sequel takes us to Pakistan on vacation with Amina and describes daily life in Lahore. I enjoyed the scenes where Amina and her brother play games with their cousins. It took me back to my own childhood when we’d do similar things in Sri Lanka. I enjoyed this story as we get to see a more mature version of Amina as she struggles with her identity as a young Pakistani girl growing up in America. I loved how this book portrayed the aspect of community service and how the young people embraced it wholeheartedly. A really great read!!

image of four young Indian girls in different hair styles looking up from bed of colourful sarees. white letters across top reads More to the story.
A gorgeous read

This next one by Hena Khan, More to the story, is one of a kind. We get to meet four young Muslim girls from the Mirza family. Jameela Mirza wants to be an award-winning journalist  like her late grandfather and is thrilled to be selected as features editor of her school newspaper, a huge honor for a seventh grader. Then Jameela, along with her three sisters, is devastated when her father accepts a job offer overseas that will take him away from their cozy Georgia home for six months. But when her younger sister’s help declines, Jameela’s world turns upside down. And as her eagerness for recognition and awards looks like it might cost her a blossoming friendship, Jameela questions what matters most and whether she’s cut out to be a star reporter after all. I fell in love with the whole Mirza family as each chapter unfolded!! Written from Jameela’s point of view we see the journey of one young Pakistani girl as she navigates middle grade and overcomes some unexpected obstacles. The diverse aspect of it shines through in the greetings, descriptions of gorgeous outfit.s and customs of the Muslim life. I loved the relationship Jameela has with her sisters and especially the one with her dad. I really felt her pain when her sister Bisma got ill and was captivated by how the community rallied around their family. The fact that Hena Khan paid homage to Alcott’s Little Women in this novel is a testament to the excellent writing skills she possesses. Having read that at the end acknowledgement I then read the story a second time and found quite a few parallels so awesome of her returning a loved classic weather gorgeously unique Muslim feel to it!

image has young boy holding soccer ball under right arm on middle of road. right side has houses with blue sky and left side has rubble and burning building with dark smoke around. large white letters across top reads World in Between.
An engaging read

This next one is actually from the early 1990’s, during the Yugoslav war. World in between by Kenan Trebinċević & Susan Shapiro is based on a true refugee story. Keenan loves drawing and playing soccer with his friends. He dreams of being a famous athlete, and gets into fights with his big brother who’s too busy and cool for him lately. Sometimes his parents drive him crazy, but he feels loved and protected – until the war arrives on the doorstep and ruins everything. Soon, Keenan’s family is trapped in their home with little food or water, surrounded by enemies. Ten long months will pass before they finally make it out of the country alive, with help from friends and strangers. And that’s only the beginning of their journey. A riveting story of a Muslim boy’s exile from war-torn Bosnia to the U.S., World in between celebrates the power of community and resilience, hope and kindness. What an inspiring read this was!!  I had forgotten the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia was a religious cleansing of sorts and found that this read explained it all out in exquisite detail. I loved hearing about Keenan’s life both before and after the war began. His family’s struggle to escape Bosnia and make a home in the United States is described well and the impact it had on Keenan’s life was expertly crafted. I felt sad for Keenan when he’s always wondering who are truly his friends or enemies. The fact that this is completely autobiographical makes it even more poignant and heartfelt.

cover image of young girl surfing on yellow board wearing Indian outfit. large white letters at top left reads Samira Surfs.
A lovely lyrical tale

The last title is another one from a recent conflict in the present-day Myanmar. Samira surfs written by Rukhsanna Guidroz and illustrated by Fahmida Azim is told entirely in verse. Samira thinks of her life as before and after: before the burning and violence in her village in Burma, when she and her best friend would play in the fields, and after, when her family was forced to flee. And now, months after rebuilding a life in Bangladesh with her family, there’s before Samira saw the surfer girls of Cox’s Bazar, and after, when she decides she’ll become one. This sparkling novel in verse follows a Rohingya girl’s journey from isolation and persecution to sisterhood, and from fear to power. What a gorgeous read this was!! Entirely in verse with accompanying illustrations this read transported me to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh and into the lives of the refugee Rohingya Muslim children that have been displaced there. It was this read that has now opened my eyes to the truth of their plight. Each and every worse has impacted me and I felt so moved by the imagery and description. Even the dialogue is lovely. I had no idea that Muslim girls had restrictions on swimming and surfing. It makes me think of the differences between their culture and mine. Although we don’t have the same, there are similarities. I enjoyed the descriptions of the English and surfing lessons. A lovely story of the courage and resilience that these young girls faced then and today. I love how it’s loosely inspired by pro surfer Masima Akter’s life story, the first Rohingya female surfer from Cox’s Bazar. 

I hope you all enjoyed these selected reads. I know that there are more out there on the lives of young Muslim tweens and I look forward to hearing your thoughts of any suggestions.

Stay safe and keep reading

Miss Mahee

five-grid box. top left image of shop front with red brick wall and blue and white canopy over shop window. grey plaque with pink letters read The Hijab Boutique. top right image of young girl in Indian dress on yellow surfboard surfing waved with white letters reading Samira Surfs above. right bottom large image of boy holding soccer ball on road. one side has houses while other side has black burning building with flames. large white letters above him reads World in between. bottom left image of Arab girl in jeans standing near green bicycle and white worlds above her reads The Green bicycle. left middle image of Indian girl in yellow blouse with white letters above reading Amina's song.
A selection of Muslim tween reads

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