Written by: A.E. Ali
Illustrated by: Rahele Jomepour Bell
For ages: 4-8 years
Language: English, some Arabic, Hebrew, and Spanish.
Topics Covered: School, Friendship, Holidays, Judaism, LGBTQ Families, Islam, STEM, BIPOC Protagonists.
This story follows a young Black Muslim boy named Musa when he starts school, but doesn’t know anyone. Musa is assigned to a table with 3 other boys- Mo, Kevin, and Moisés. When their teacher says everyone will become best friends and get to know each other well, Musa is a bit skeptical. When their first show and tell is talking about their favorite holiday, everyone perks up! Throughout the school year Musa and his friends share and celebrate different special holidays.
This book is really sweet, and I’m obsessed with the illustrations! The story progresses just like the school year, and is written in a way that doesn’t make it seem like a buffet of cultures or tokenism. Like I mentioned above, I’m absolutely on love with the illustrations! The classroom and families portrayed are very diverse, and I love Kevin’s tiny ponytail so much. It’s wonderfully refreshing to see a teacher of color, and not have Christianity centered as Musa’s favorite holiday (there are so so many books that do this already out there). This book is a wonderful mirror for Muslim families, and holidays that aren’t religiously affiliated are also mentioned (being a person who grew up with no religious beliefs or education, I really appreciate this aspect). There are interracial and LGBTQ families within the book, and all 4 boys have a very sweet friendship and excitement for each other. This story would be a great beginning of the school year book to read!
This book was sent to us by Simon & Schuster, but all opinions are our own!
A. E. Ali is a writer based in California. Her favorite day of the year is Eid al-Fitr.
Rahele is originally from Iran and saw the war in her home country when she was just eight years old. Two things could make her black and white world colorful. One was all-night family gatherings at her Grandma and Grandpa’s house every Friday. Her Grandma would tell Rahele fairy tails told her by her mother that was told to her by her mother. Stories she has never found in any book. The other was traveling through books full of images of life and nature made by illustrators from all around the world, such as Zdeněk Miler, Fyodor Khitruk, Bani Asadi, and Farshid Mesghali. She is happiest creating illustrations that make the imagination travel, take a new look at old ideas, and reaffirm the viewer of their natural place in this world.
Rahele came to the United States in 2011 to pursue her dream of being a free international artist and graduated with an MFA in Integrated Visual Arts from Iowa State University in 2015. She now lives in the beautiful tiny city of Ames, Iowa, with her husband and her little girl Darya, and works as a full-time freelance illustrator in her home studio.
She has been an active member of SCBWI since 2012 and has worked with Cricket Media, children magazines since 2016. Her Illustration work was selected as a finalist for the SCBWI Bologna 2016 and shortlisted for the SCBWI Bologna 2018. She has illustrated seven books published by an Iranian publisher in Tehran. She is the recipient of 2018 Illustration Mentorship Awards from We Need Diverse Books #WNDB. In August 2018, she won the portfolio showcase grand prize award at the SCBWI LA National Conference. She also was the winner of the 2018 SCBWI Social Media Mentorship for Illustrators at the LA National Conference. Laurent Linn and Debbie Ohi were her excellent mentors.