It’s the first day of school, and Faizah’s older sister Asiya, a sixth grader, has started wearing hijab in a brilliant, proud shade of blue. It’s “like the sky on a sunny day... special and regular” and reminds Faizah of “the ocean waving to the sky... always there, strong and friendly.” When a playground bully, portrayed by Aly (the Unicorn Rescue Society series) as a smudgy silhouette, taunts Asiya (“I’m going to pull that tablecloth off your head!”), Faizah fumes, glaring at the child and looking for “whispers, laughs, and shouts.” But when she sees how Asiya and her diverse friends, who share an easygoing confidence, dismiss the bully and get on with their fun, her sense of what’s “regular” is both restored and expanded. Hijabi U.S. Olympian Muhammad and YA author Ali (Love from A to Z) have created a lovely blend of emotional lyricism and closely observed everyday life. And Aly’s digitally enhanced ink and pencil scenes alternate between dreamy meditations of strength and empowerment, and snapshots of two sisters who are very much in the world—and mean the world to each other. Ages 4–8. Authors’ agents: Greg Ferguson, Full Fathom Five (for Muhammad) and John Cusick, Folio Jr. (for Ali). Illustrator’s agent: Robbin Brosterman, the Bright Agency. (Oct.)
Praise for The Proudest Blue:
"Inspiring... The lovely, playful illustrations by Aly capture the spirit of imagination and sisterly solidarity in the face of bullying." New York Times Book Review
* "Memorable and inspiring... Triumphant and true." Kirkus Reviews, starred review
* "A lovely blend of emotional lyricism and closely observed everyday life." Publishers Weekly, starred review
* "Aly's ink-wash-and-pencil illustrations settle and soar along with the language.... This story, as both window and mirror, inevitably educates, but more important, it encourages pride in and respect for hijab through a tale of two sisters, their bond strengthened by faith." Booklist, starred review
* "This excellent story about identity, visibility, and confidence, touches on rites of passage, bonds between sisters, and bullying and is unapologetic in tackling misconceptions and demanding equality." School Library Journal, starred review
"Hatem Aly's ink-wash and watercolour illustrations perfectly complement the lyricism of Muhammed and Ali's moving text." The Globe and Mail
K-Gr 4—Faizah is excited for her first day of school but even more excited for her older sister, Asiya. Asiya is starting sixth grade with her brand-new blue hijab. As Faizah walks to the school in her new light-up shoes and backpack, she admires her sister who looks like a princess in her blue head scarf. At school, some students celebrate with her, some are ambivalent, and some faceless, nameless characters taunt her. Their mother has prepared the girls with wise words. When the kids in the school bully Asiya, she remembers her mother's advice to not carry hurtful words as "they are not yours to keep. They belong only to those who said them." The illustration and the colors are just as powerful as words conveying the passionate message of how to be proud of one's culture, individuality, and religion and how to stay strong and keep one's faith. This is an empowering book for young readers who can see themselves in Asiya or know someone like her. The touching and celebratory illustrations complement the quiet strength of Asiya as she steps into a beautiful and celebrated coming-of-age rite. VERDICT This excellent story about identity, visibility, and confidence, touches on rites of passage, bonds between sisters, and bullying and is unapologetic in tackling misconceptions and demanding equality.—Noureen Qadir-Jafar, Syosset Library, NY
A young girl admires her older sister's "first-day hijab" in this team effort by hijabi Olympian Muhammad (Proud, 2018) and YA novelist Ali (Love From A to Z, 2019).
Mama takes Asiyah and Faizah to the hijab shop so that Asiyah can pick out her "first-day hijab." Mama likes pink, but Asiyah picks out "the brightest blue." Faizah has a new backpack and light-up shoes for the first day of school, but when Asiyah walks out in her blue hijab, "It's the most beautiful first day of school ever. / I'm walking with a princess." Once they arrive at school, the reactions of other children alternate with spreads depicting Faizah's thoughts about Asiyah's hijab, which are paired with Mama's words. A girl whispers, asking Faizah about the hijab. But "Asiyah's hijab isn't a whisper"; according to Mama, "It means being strong." These spreads show Aly's close-up illustrations of a smiling Asiyah, with her blue hijab extending into an image of "the sky on a sunny day" or "the ocean waving to the sky." Faizah triumphs over the misunderstandings and bullying she witnesses, her pride in her sister still intact. This sensitive representation of family relationships that provide a loving coat of armor against the world's difficulties is memorable and inspiring. Bullies are depicted as faceless shadows, emphasizing the importance of discounting what they say. Faizah's family is black; the other schoolchildren are multiracial.
Triumphant and true. (Picture book. 4-10)