Children’s books, picture and chapter books, with Muslim characters show representation, open kids’ eyes to new cultures, and build empathy.
We still need more books with Muslim characters. Hopefully. publishers will realize that readers like us want to see more diversity and continue to offer more books with diverse characters.
The books on this list celebrate the Muslim faith as well as cultures within this faith community such as Egyptian, Pakistani, and Somali.
Read these picture and chapter books with your kids and students; they’re really good, well-written stories that you’re going to love.
Picture Books with Muslim Characters
This picture book narrates a loving, tender bond between two sisters. It’s a relatable, sweet story that shows the importance of the hijab in the Muslim faith and feeling pride in who you are. The little sister, Faizah, looks up to her big sister, Asiya, and when her big sister wears a beautiful, blue hijab for the first time, other students make fun of her. But Asiya remains strong and unaffected.
Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, illustrations by Ebony Glenn
The little girl feels loved, safe, brave, and imaginative when she plays dress up with her mommy’s colorful khimars which are headscarves. Her playful joy with the scarves celebrates her family’s culture and beliefs.
Under My Hijab by Hena Khan, illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel
The significant women in this girl’s life wear hijabs and also, sometimes don’t. They inspire her with all that they do and who they are. It’s an important slice-of-life story featuring strong, inspiring Muslim women.
Riding a Donkey Backwards Wise and Foolish Tales of Mulla Nasruddin retold by Sean Taylor and the Khayaal Theatre, illustrated by Shirin Adl
Mulla Nasruddin stars in hilarious short stories that will appeal to children of all cultures, although he’s well-known already in many different Muslim countries. He’s goofy, witty, endearing, tricky, and wise…you can’t help but adore him. The collage illustrations capture the emotion (and goofiness) of Mulla with a delightful humor of their own.
Like the Moon Loves the Sky by Hena Khan, illustrated by Saffa Khan
Transcendent illustrations of inky blues, reds, and oranges capture the mood of this parental prayer for a child…Each page starts with the word Inshallah which means “if God wills” in Arabic. Inshallah that the child shall feel safe, be kind, seek knowledge, and stand strong. “Inshallah you count all your blessings and graces.” Gentle and filled with loving wishes, this is a memorable, soothing book.
Peg & Cat The Eid al-Adha Adventure by Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson
Peg and Cat visit their friends Yasmina and Amir to celebrate the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. Besides singing and dancing, they celebrate by giving to others.
Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets: A Muslim Book of Shapes by Hena Khan, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini
Lavish, richly colored illustrations fill this beautiful book of shapes celebrating Muslim culture. “Hexagon is a tile, / bold and bright, / painted with an ayah / I love to recite.” Learn about geometric shapes like circles, squares, and octagons from daily life and architecture.
The Arabic Quilt: An Immigrant Story by Aya Khalil, illustrated by Aaait Semirdzhyan
A wonderful story that shows the value of being bilingual and sharing your language and culture with others! Kanzi’s family moves to a new school. Luckily, her new teacher values Kanzi’s culture and language. She helps Kanzi share her Egyptian culture and Arabic language with her classmates which builds bridges and friendships with her new classmates.
One Green Apple by Eve Bunting
Farah struggles with living in new in a country where she doesn’t understand the language or culture. But a field trip to an apple orchard helps her find common ground with her new classmates.
I’m New Here by Anne Sibley O’Brien
Back home, Jin and Fatimah knew their languages and were included in their classes. Being new, they now feel lonely and confused. This book gently shows how it feels to be new and the process of making friends from the perspective of children from different cultures and countries.
Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai
When she was younger, Malala dreams of the things she’d do if she had a magic pencil. She’d erase war, poverty, and hunger. Then she would draw girls and boys together as equals. Soon she begins writing about her beliefs. Even after bad men tried to stop her, Malala writes, using her words as the magic to spread a message of hope. Beautifully illustrated and inspiring, this biographical story shares Malala’s ideals with the youngest of readers.
Bilal Cooks Daal by Aisha Saeed, illustrated by Anoosha Syed
Bilal tells his friends all about daal. Together, they carefully prepare the ingredients and wait as the flavors mix together. This story makes me want to eat daal, too — it’s a savory introduction to this lentil dish from South Asia as well as a warm-hearted example of sharing traditional foods with friends from other cultures.
Beginning Chapter Books with Muslim Characters
Meet Yasmin! by Saadia Faruqui, illustrated by Hatem Aly
Yasmin is an exuberant girl who is interested in everything from exploring to building to fashion. Each book in this series shares short stories from Yasmin’s life, all in chapters with lively, full-color illustrations. Each story shows Yasmin as a creative problem solver even when things get hard. Her Pakistani American culture is embedded throughout the story such as the foods Yasmin’s family eats like naan or how she calls her father Baba.
Playful writing, whimsical illustrations, and rich Pakistani-American culture…One of the best things about Omar is his HUGE imagination! He uses his imagination to deal with moving, starting a new school, bullying, and racism.
When Amirah’s neighbor gives her an old cookbook titled The Power of Sprinkles, Amirah knows it’s the perfect cookbook for her upcoming birthday cake. But when she uses it, she’s transported to the Magical Land of Birthdays where she meets kids with the exact same birthdate. Together they have an exciting, magical adventure that includes finding a missing B-Bud girl, parties, unicorns, and of course, cake.
Disney’s Daring Dreamers Club: Milla Takes Charge by Erin Soderberg
These girls relate their lives to Disney princesses for a class assignment and build strong bonds of friendship. I liked that it was told from the perspectives of five different friends yet the diversity of the group which includes a Muslim character and a girl with two moms felt a bit contrived.
Wishtree by Katherine Applegate
Many people love this warm-hearted story of kindness and connection to others narrated by wise old oak tree named Red. He, after all these years, decides to intervene to help a lonely girl named Samar, a Muslim girl, who is new to the neighborhood and whose family was the intended recipient of the word, “LEAVE” on Red’s trunk. Before he is cut down (executed), he helps Samar find a friend.
Power Forward by Hena Khan
Filled with Urdu and Pakistani culture, this is a short beginning chapter book about a boy who loves basketball. Unfortunately, he skips violin lessons and lies to his parents in order to go to extra basketball practices. Zayd learns some hard lessons both about honesty and communication with his family which, in the end, makes his life better.
Middle Grade Chapter Books with Muslim Characters
Jameela is one of four girls in a Pakistani-American family and she’s passionate about journalism but in her enthusiasm, she hurts a new friend when she writes something he isn’t comfortable sharing with the world. While she digests these hard-earned lessons, she learns that her beloved little sister has lymphoma. Khan skillfully weaves a story of family, culture, community, and social justice.
Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga
Written in evocative verse, follow a young girl from her home in Syria as she moves with her mother the United States. Jude’s journey is one of growing up, being brave, and discovery. Kids will see how Jude navigates her new situation as she relates to other ESL students in their safe classroom space, finds new friends, and performs in the school play. Her insights on life in America readers understand her immigrant experience.
The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Experience Amira’s life in Sudan before and after her village is attacked. After the attack, she must walk for days to get to the safety of a refugee camp. In her grief, she also finds hope in the form of a precious pencil as she sees its possibilities.
Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard by Rick Riordan
Magnus is a smart, snarky kid who is thrust into a crazy situation — the mythological Norse world because his dad is the god Frey. When Magnus dies, he’s taken to Valhalla, one of the Norse afterlife locations. There, he learns he must find a sword to prevent the end of the world (Ragnarok).Lucky for Magnus, he has friends who can help– an ex-Valkyrie Islamic girl named Samirah Al-abbas, an elf named Hearthstone, and a dwarf named Blitzen who are well-developed, interesting side-kick characters.
Written in a diary as letters to her Mama, Nisha shares how her life is turned upside down when the British rule of India ends in 1947, splitting the country into two — the Muslim north where she lives becomes Pakistan and the Hindu south remains India. Even though Nisha’s mom was Muslim, Nisha, her brother, her doctor Papa and her grandmother are forced to leave their home in the north because they are Hindu. There’s violence everywhere; nowhere is safe, not even the trains. It’s a harrowing journey and confusing time.
Amina’s struggling when her friend, Soojin, wants to change her name to be more American and be friends with other kids. Her troubles are put into perspective though when Amina’s mosque is attacked, dimming her worries about middle school drama. In a heartening turn of events, the community, including her friend Soojin, supports the mosque by providing a place for everyone to gather and helps them rebuild.
Nowhere Boy by Katherine Marsh
Marsh writes a stunning novel about two young boys from very different backgrounds — one is a refugee from Syria while the other is an American who has just moved to Belgium. Interwoven in this timely, poignant story are the big issues of refugees, prejudice, fear, friendship, and kindness. To avoid the overcrowded refugee centers, Ahmed hides in the basement of the house of Max’s house. When he’s discovered by Max, the boys develop a friendship and they enroll Ahmed in Max’s school. But it can’t last forever…
It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas
Although it may sound like a heavy book, this is a funny, realistic story about growing up and living in a culture that is not your own. It’s the late 1970s and Zomorod (Cindy) and her family are back in the U.S. from Iran –again. Nevertheless, she’s desperate to fit in with the other kids despite facing both family pressures and anti-Iranian prejudice.
Amal’s life is turned upside down when she offends a regional Pakistani overlord and is forced to leave her home and school to work in his home as a servant — indefinitely. She finds her inner strength and fights back, freeing herself and the other household slaves. The author deftly sets the scene of rural Pakistan. Readers will feel transported, feel the injustice personally, and cheer for Amal’s bravery.
Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai
Miriam gets left behind when her family flees Afghanistan. Her brother Fadi feels responsible and hopes to find Miriam by winning a photography competition that will take him to India and then he can travel to find her. The author gives readers a strong sense of Afghani culture in this timely book.
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