The Proudest Blue (Ibtihaj Muhammad, with S. K. Ali)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Proudest Blue, written by Ibtihaj Muhammad with S. K. Ali, and illustrated by Hatem Aly, a beautiful tale of sisterhood and hijabi pride.

Sisters Asiyah and Faizah (inspired by Muhammad’s own sisters) are at the shop to pick out Asiyah’s “first day” hijab. Immediately, the older sister is drawn to a bright, rich blue, one that reminds younger Faizah of the ocean on a clear day, when it meets the sky and seems endless. As the two walk to school the next morning, they both beam with pride: Asiyah donning her new hijab and Faizah in awe of how regal her sister looks (“I’m walking with a princess”). Yet when the two get to school, the reactions of the other children are mixed: Asiyah’s friends love her new look, but some – such as a young classmate of Faizah’s – are puzzled by it. Worse, several children bully and even threaten Asiyah. Faizah watches as her older sister refuses to acknowledge such ignorance and, remembering lessons their mother taught them to deal with bullies, is filled with pride for her sister all over again. She draws a picture for their mother of two princesses in hijab, and decides on the walk home that when her “first day” comes, she knows exactly what color hijab to pick: the proudest shade of blue.

Stunning. There has been some wonderful kidlit about hijab in the last few years, and this deeply personal and affirming title is a fantastic addition to the sub-genre. Multiple themes are explored, from the deep bonds of sisterhood, the difficulties of facing ostracism and bullying, hijabi and Muslim culture, and how all these can and do weave together. Several passages give bullied children, hijabi or otherwise, a good roadmap for dealing with the hurtful words of others, and the beautiful descriptions and interpretations of the blue headscarf inspire pride for young Muslim readers. The art is fittingly gorgeous, in particular the spreads in which Asiyah’s blue scarf becomes a peaceful sky or a powerful sea. The length is perfect, and JJ and I both loved it. A touching story for readers of all faiths, and a powerful love letter to young hijabi girls. Baby Bookworm approved!

How To Feed Your Parents (Ryan Miller)

Hello, friends! Our book today is How To Feed Your Parents, written by Ryan Miller and illustrated by Hatem Aly, a fun flip-flopped tale of a family learning to try new foods.

Matilda Macaroni absolutely loves to try new foods whenever she can, but it’s usually only ever at friends’ or family’s homes. That’s because her parents only eat the things they know they like: chicken nuggets, pizza, hamburgers, grilled cheese, mac & cheese, and sugar cereal. Because of their reluctance to expand their palates, Matilda figures that if she wants to try new foods at home, she will need to cook it herself. Always safely under the supervision of her grandma or babysitter, Matilda devours all the information about cooking and recipes she can, soon mastering some tricky dishes all on her own. Wanting to share her gifts with her picky parents, Matilda plans them a meal, even making one of their go-to favorites with a little Matilda flair. But still, her parents are apprehensive – will they find the courage to try something new?

Very, very cute. Sometimes these role-reversal storylines can get a bit muddled, but this one absolutely works for a lesson in culinary curiosity. The parents’ juvenile attitudes towards food was a little annoying at times, but it’s all for comedic effect, and there’s a nice moment that shows that their love for Matilda and how proud they are of her efforts are why they decide to try something new. It’s a great way of putting younger picky eaters into their parents’ shoes, and quite clever. The illustrations are adorable, displaying both cartoonish wackiness and the genuine warmth of a well-used kitchen. The length is great, JJ loved all the foods, and there’s even a quiche recipe to try in the back. A feast of fun, and Baby Bookworm approved!

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