Poetry Month Kid Lit Review of “Under My Hijab” by Hena Khan

An Author’s Note in this book tells us that Islam asks its followers to dress in a modest way. A hijab is the common name for the headscarf that Muslim women wear to cover their hair. Khan writes:

“They may choose to dress in the hijab to reflect their faith, to feel closer to God, or because they believe their religion requires them to keep these parts of the body private.”

Many Muslim women take off the hijab in the privacy of their homes, and many Muslim women choose not to wear it at all. It all depends, Khan writes, on a person’s individual taste and culture.

You may wonder why anyone who is not Muslim cares whether a Muslim woman wears a head scarf or not. This book doesn’t provide that answer, because there isn’t really one besides fear and hatred. Instead, this book shows all the ways in which women and girls might wear the hijab, in a poetic format with bright appealing pictures by Aaliya Jaleel, and in a tone of pride and celebration.

The young girl in the story, who is pointing out the variety in the ways the headscarf is worn, includes examples of all kinds of Muslim women in different settings who have not been limited by wearing it.

For example, she describes her artistic aunt who has hair streaked with pink and purple:

“Auntie works hard in her studio.
She’s always dressed funky and cool!
Her silky hijab towers up high,
Pinned with a handmade jewel.”

She shows her older sister in high school, who “wraps her hijab a cute way,” and expresses admiration for a Muslim women athlete whose sporty hijab always stays in place.

When not out in public, women may opt not to wear the hijab.:

“When she’s at home in her kitchen,
Grandma fixes her hair in a bun.
We mix up some chocolate cookies
And share a sweet treat when they’re done.”

The little girl declares:

“Under my hijab, in a headband,
Or a clip with butterfly wings,
My hair shines bright – like my future.
I can’t wait to see what it brings.”

Illustrator Aaliya Jaleel has created bright and pleasing pictures of this multiracial family and community enjoying all sorts of activities. The format reflects Jaleel’s background in animation.

In an interview the author stated:

“I wanted to write a book that celebrates the women I know who choose to wear hijab, and presents them as they are: strong, independent, educated, successful, and fashionable individuals who are talented in a multitude of ways and not limited by their headcovers. I hoped it would serve to answer very basic questions as well as to represent women and girls who wear it and aren’t very visible in children’s literature.”

Evaluation: Khan successfully demonstrates that those who wear the hijab “are not solely defined by a piece of cloth.” The simple rhymes will appeal to the intended age group of 4 to 8.

Rating: 4/5

Published by Lee & Low Books, 2019

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1 Response to Poetry Month Kid Lit Review of “Under My Hijab” by Hena Khan

  1. BermudaOnion says:

    I love that there’s a book out about this personal decision for Muslim women. This sounds wonderful!

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