The Proudest Blue

The Proudest Blue

The Proudest Blue
Ibtihaj Muhammad

Andersen Press Ltd

ISBN 9781783449712

A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER AND AN AMAZON BEST BOOK OF 2019! Asiya's hijab is like the ocean and the sky, no line between them, saying hello with a loud wave. It's Faizah's first day of school, and her older sister Asiya's first day of hijab - made of a beautiful blue fabric. But not everyone sees hijab as beautiful. In the face of hurtful, confusing words, will Faizah find new ways to be strong? This is an uplifting, universal story of new experiences, the unbreakable bond shared by siblings and of being proud of who you are, from Olympic medallist Ibtihaj Muhammad.

Librarian's Book choice

The Proudest Blue is a beautifully written and illustrated book, which shows the story of Asiya's first day at school wearing hijab, as seen through the eyes of her younger sister, Faizah.

Faizah adores her big sister and is excited, cartwheeling-excited about everything, from choosing the right shade of blue (the colour of where the ocean meets the sky) to watching her sister, the princess, enter the playground. The illustrations perfectly capture the playful nature of Faizah's excitement and wonder.

Faizah is so proud of her sister and the love between the two girls is palpable and beautifully expressed in very few words. Both are tested when one group of boys (depicted as a grey blur unlike the vivid detail of the other children) shout mean things, but they remember their mother's words, 'Stay strong'..drop the hurtful words, they are not yours to keep', and do not let the unkind behaviour impinge upon their wonderful day, supported by their friends and teacher.

The Proudest Blue is an uplifting, joyous story, which celebrates growing up, sibling bonds, and the importance of being strong and proud of who you are. It will be an excellent book for girls about to wear their first hijab, as well as for their non-Muslim friends and classmates.

Picture book / Ages 4+ / Reviewed by Carol Carter, school librarian


Reviews

The Proudest Blue4/5

The Proudest Blue

Ibtihaj Muhammad

Review

The Proudest Blue is the simple story of a girl choosing her first hijab and wearing it to school for the first time, accompanied by her adoring little sister. There might not be a story at all, were it not for the ugly truth of Islamophobic bullying that wearing hijab can unleash. The authors, Olympic fencing medallist Ibtihaj Muhammad and SK Ali, can speak of this from experience but their book is subtle, not angry.

The simple illustrations and story-telling style give the story an air of innocence, while confronting the prejudices faced by Muslim girls. Told from the perspective of the younger sister, Faizah, the preconceptions behind the 'whispers, laughs and shouts' are understated. Instead, the tone is set by the title: The Proudest Blue. The language remains resolutely positive.

Faizah's descriptions of Asiya's hijab show the admiration of the younger child for her glamorous, grown-up older sister. It is beautiful, 'the brightest blue, the colour of the ocean, like the sky on a sunny day' and 'strong and friendly'. In it, Asiya becomes a 'princess'.

Faizah's actions show that she is unnerved by the hurtful questions and reactions of other children at school. She finds herself whispering without realizing why. She needs to find her sister for another hug and a smile. She runs from the boy who yells that he will pull that tablecloth off your head. But the situation is redeemed by Asiya's serene confidence (at least, that's all we see). She acts as a strong role model for her younger sister and for other Muslim girls wearing hijab in unsympathetic circumstances.

Children I teach report troubling encounters with Islamophobic behaviour when they aren't protected by school. There is a need to be open about this and to educate for understanding and tolerance of hijab. I would thoroughly recommend this book as a starting point that would fit perfectly into PSHE and RE lessons. I've used it successfully in a reading club with children in Years 1 and 2 but it would resonate, I think, with children throughout primary schools.

I'll finish with one golden nugget of advice, useful for any children on the end of any unkind comments, that I've found myself quoting often since reading the book: 'Don't carry around the hurtful words that others say. Drop them. They are not yours to keep.' Calm, practical and soothing in the way it releases the child from the insult, it also exudes quiet strength - like The Proudest Blue.

Picture book / Ages 5+ / Reviewed by Louisa Farrow, teacher

Reviewed by: Louisa Farrow