My Name Is Bilal


Bilal worries about being teased by his classmates for being Muslim. He thinks maybe it would be better if people don't know he is Muslim. Maybe it would be best if he tells kids his name is Bill rather than Bilal. Then maybe they would leave him alone. Mr. Ali, one of Bilal's teachers and also Muslim, sees how the boy is struggling. He gives Bilal a book about the first person to give the call to prayer during the time of the Prophet Muhammad. That person was another Bilal: Bilal Ibn Rabah. What Bilal learns ...

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Bilal worries about being teased by his classmates for being Muslim. He thinks maybe it would be better if people don't know he is Muslim. Maybe it would be best if he tells kids his name is Bill rather than Bilal. Then maybe they would leave him alone. Mr. Ali, one of Bilal's teachers and also Muslim, sees how the boy is struggling. He gives Bilal a book about the first person to give the call to prayer during the time of the Prophet Muhammad. That person was another Bilal: Bilal Ibn Rabah. What Bilal learns from the book forms the compelling story of a young boy wrestling with his identity.

When Bilal and his sister transfer to a school where they are the only Muslims, they must learn how to fit in while staying true to their beliefs and heritage.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The classrooms and playgrounds of Average Town, U.S.A., are the backdrop for this picture book about religious prejudice and tolerance. When Bilal and his sister Ayesha arrive at a new school, Bilal is sure that he and Ayesha are the only Muslim kids around, and some of the boys have already bullied Ayesha because of her traditional dress. Bilal wants so badly not to stand out in his new environment, that he initially introduces himself as "Bill." Lucky for him, his teacher is also Muslim (and a family friend) and provides some support-along with an interesting book about a famous Muslim hero whose name was also Bilal. Soon Bilal reconnects with his pride in his religious identity and also makes new friends. Mobin-Uddin, making her picture-book debut, tackles a timely topic and raises some true-to-life situations, but Bilal's struggle is all-too-neatly and quickly resolved. Still, the book does a good job of presenting encouraging, positive images that contemporary Muslims in particular can embrace. Kiwak, also a newcomer to children's books, uses an earthy watercolor palette for a series of moving portraits. Ages 6-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Starting in a new school is difficult enough, without being obviously "different." Bilal and his sister Ayesha seem to be the only Muslims in their new school, and already on the first day he feels helpless when other students tug off Ayesha's head scarf. Fortunately, Bilal's teacher, a Muslim, helps him to take pride in his heritage instead of hiding it. He defends his sister against a bully, makes a new Muslim friend, and feels at peace with himself. Although the solving of Bilal's problems seems a bit too easy, the story is an important one for raising awareness in both Muslim and non-Muslim students. Kiwak's naturalistic watercolor illustrations tell the visual story in scenes like snapshots in an album. The text contains human interactions tinged with tension, but the pictures tend to be overly controlled, with little of the emotional content of the confrontations. The impression that Muslims like Bilal are peace-seeking people is evident. The author has added notes on Muslim prayer and other information. 2005, Boyds Mills Press, Ages 5 to 8.
—Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Children's Literature - Robin Overby Cox
Would that the world worked as Asma Mobin-Uddin wishes it would, with prejudiced white boys quickly discarding their middle school hatred of kids who are different, specifically Muslim. Nevertheless, this kind of book has a place in our libraries and serves to educate the reader about the daily habits and practices of Muslim teenagers. Bilal finds it easier to blend into an American classroom as Bill Al until a sympathetic teacher shares the biography of a famous Muslim slave also named Bilal who stood up to religious persecution. While the hostility of ignorant classmates was not as violent a scenario as that faced by the Bilal of Abyssinia, the Bilal of this story does find a way to restore his own dignity by defending himself, his sister, and their faith practices. Watercolor illustrations by Barbara Kiwak give the story added depth, as Muslim and inner city lives are contrasted. Educators who want to help young people develop cultural awareness and understanding will find this book to be a helpful tool.
School Library Journal
Gr 3-6-A well-done treatment of a subject not often seen in children's picture books. Bilal transfers to a school where he and his sister are the only Muslim children. After an incident in which a boy pulls off Ayesha's headscarf, Bilal decides to hide the fact that he is Muslim until an understanding teacher, who is also Muslim, gives him a biography of Bilal ibn Rabah, a black slave who became the very first muezzin because of his steadfastness in the face of religious persecution. Attractive watercolor illustrations emphasize the parallels between the persecution faced by Bilal ibn Rabah and that faced by the American boy. This is an important book for most libraries as it will enhance discussions of cultural diversity and understanding.-Kathleen E. Gruver, Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJ Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In this message-driven episode, a Muslim child tries to hide his identity after seeing his big sister harassed on their first day in a new school, but regains his footing thanks to help from a Muslim teacher and a book. At first, Bilal introduces himself to his class as "Bill," but after reading about early Muslim hero Bilal Ibn Rabah, he gains the confidence to face his sister's bully down, and even to invite him into a basketball game after school. Drab illustrations and book design reinforce the overt purpose here, but as Bilal isn't just a two-dimensional figure, and the setting is far less scary than that in Hristo Kyuchukov's My Name Was Hussein, illus by Allan Eitzen (2004), this may be useful in sparking discussions with younger audiences about prejudice. (afterword) (Picture book. 7-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590781753
  • Publisher: Highlights Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2005
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 1,444,989
  • Age range: 6 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 570L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 10.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Dr. Asma Mobin-Uddin is a pediatrician and an active member of her local Muslim community. She decided to write about the Muslim-American experience because she had difficulty finding good books on this subject to read to her children.

Barbara Kiwak is a commercial illustrator whose clients have included Time-Life, Readers Digest, Highlights for Children, and The World Wildlife Fund. She has had numerous showings of her fine art in the Baltimore/Washington area, where she makes her home.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2006

    protecting the identity

    This is an ttempt to connect with the Muslim chidren and with the others. A student trying to protect his identity as a muslim in his school, seems a simple meaning but I think it is more of a pointing out to the issue of the Muslims in general who live in a society of diversity. Alot of stories seem to be defnsive when talk about Muslims, but the theme here is that Muslims can be proud of whom they are, and in the same time they accept the others. I would encourage positive attempts to draw clearer image of the Muslims, this story is the first step.

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