My Name is Bilal by Asma Mobin-Uddin, Illustrated by Barbara Kiwak

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bilal

The other book I discussed during my Story Time theme of bullying was, My Name is Bilal, by Asma Mobin-Uddin,  The book is an AR 3.5 so I summarized parts when reading it aloud, but at bedtime one-on-one my five-year-old was able to grasp what the characters were going through and how best to handle “mean” people.

The premise of this 32 page, fairly content heavy picture book, is a new family starting at a new school.  The main character Bilal does not stand up to some boys teasing and pulling off his sister’s hijab, and then chooses to tell people his name is Bill instead of Bilal so that no one knows he is Muslim.  Fortunately, Bilal has a Muslim teacher who doesn’t jump in to “save” Bilal, but instead shares with him a book about Bilal Ibn-Rabah, the slave who was tortured by the people of Mecca in their attempts to get him to renounce Allah (swt) and Islam.  Young Bilal, finds strength in this story to stand up to the bullies as well as compassion in giving them a second chance.  He even finds there are more Muslim’s around him and being true to yourself is something even those different than you can understand and respect.

Yes, the book is to neat and tidy and it all works out in the end.  But, I think it is a good introduction to being proud of who you are and not backing down.  I like that the kids essentially handle things on their own and that no one is painted singularly as “good” or “bad,” both Bilal and the other kids are flawed and figuring things out. When I read this during Story Time we talked about it from the “bullies” point of view of what a better way to handle someone or something that you don’t understand would be, a scarf in this case, and how asking questions is always more respectful than teasing. We also talked about being the different one in a new environment and how to be prepared if someone does give you a hard time.  The characters in the book are older presumably than 4th or 5th grade allowing this to be a gateway into discussing bullying a bit abstractly, inshaAllah not once it has already begun.

The illustrations are colorful and realistic, not detracting from the seriousness of  the subject matter.  Overall the book serves a purpose and tells a good story.  Plus, the reader learns a little about Bilal and how the early Muslim’s struggled and encourages them to seek out what their own names mean and represent.

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