Mommy’s Khimar (Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Mommy’s Khimar, written by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow and illustrated by Ebony Glenn, a lovely story of family and love.

A little girl watches her mother closely as the woman affixes her khimar – a flowing scarf that covers her head and hair – with fascination. Her mommy has a whole closet of khimars in seemingly every color and pattern in the rainbow – including the girl’s favorite color, yellow. The girl tries on the too-large scarf and revels in the way it makes her feel: like a queen, a shining star, a nurturing mama bird, and a mighty superhero. Her mother helps her put it on properly, and the girl is comforted by the familiar scent of her mother’s beauty products on the garment. At mosque, her Arabic teacher calls it a “hijab”, and many of the other ladies, also in khimars, compliment her look. When her Christian grandmother stops by to visit after Sunday service, she sweeps the girl up in a bright hug and proclaims “Sweet Jesus!”. At the end of the day, her mother helps her remove the headpiece, and the girl lays down to bed, dreaming of a cozy nest of yellow, and her mother’s warm embrace.

Lovely. As much a celebration of hijabi pride, this tender story is about the connection between a mother and daughter that is relatable across cultures; what little girl didn’t try on her mommy’s coat or shoes or necklaces and feel a just a bit closer to her? But it is a celebration of the khimar as well, and dispels the myth that these headscarfs are symbols of oppression rather than culture or faith; wearing the khimar helps the girl feel empowered, beautiful, and free, rather than the opposite. With the addition of the beautiful, colorful illustrations, these elements fold together beautifully to tell a story that is a gift of representation for Muslim families and a touching story of mother and daughter for readers of any faith. The length was great, JJ loved it, and this one is emphatically Baby Bookworm approved!

Brave Ballerina: The Story Of Janet Collins (Michelle Meadows)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Brave Ballerina: The Story Of Janet Collins, written by Michelle Meadows and illustrated by Ebony Glenn, the true story of the remarkable dancer who became the Metropolitan Opera’s first black prima ballerina in 1951.

Born in 1917 in New Orleans, Janet Collins found a passion for dance at an early age. Her tradesmen parents paid for her ballet lessons by making costumes for recitals, and Janet worked hard to improve her craft each day. Yet despite her obvious talent, each ballet academy turned her away at the door, refusing to accept a black student. Continuing to train, mastering new styles and learning from any instructor who would teach her, Janet was finally accepted to a ballet company – only to be told that she would need to paint her skin white to match the other dancers. Janet refused, continuing to work and train and perform where she could until finally, a company saw her skill and talent. Earning her place as prima ballerina at the Met in 1951, Janet Collins was able to step out on stage as herself and do what she was born to – dance.

Powerful. I admit to never having heard Collins’ story before, and it’s a testament to Meadows’s rhyming text and Glenn’s artwork that, by the time the story was through, the reader feels as though they have joined Collins in her journey. The passion for dance bursts from her face and form in each illustration of her in motion; the frustration and shame of the prejudice leveled against her is palpable; the glorious final spread of her beaming onstage before a cheering audience is triumphant. The text is succinct enough to keep the story moving at a brisk pace, yet never glosses over or rushes – each beat feels important and necessary. A beautiful story of perseverance, determination, and pride, and we loved it. Baby Bookworm approved.

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)