Top Middle-Grade Books Featuring Muslim Lead Characters From Muslim Authors

I started school as an ESL student. Then in second grade, my teachers moved me to the advanced reading group. I was terrified. Even at 8, I felt like a fraud. It didn’t help that the chapter books I was assigned felt so distant from my life as a Bangladeshi Muslim immigrant. But those characters, Laura, Matilda, Anne, Margaret, showed me a complex and beautiful American culture.

What if our children saw all cultures and religions as complex and beautiful? How many chapter books or novels have your kids read with a non-white protagonist?  How many have you?
In the last several years, traditional publishing addressed its diversity problem.

In 2016, Simon & Schuster launched an imprint for Muslim children’s books called Salaam Reads. In a statement Salaam Reads shared they are “the first imprint at a major publisher focused on Muslim characters and stories.”

The kids (like me) that once felt invisible became editors at big publishing houses. They are also writers, illustrators, agents, and librarians. Thanks to them, I am sharing a list of middle-grade chapter books that feature a Muslim protagonist and are written by Muslim authors.

A Thousand Questions By Saadia Faruqi

  • Publisher : Quill Tree Books (October 6, 2020)
  • Reading level : 8 – 12 years

Mimi is not thrilled to be spending her summer in Karachi, Pakistan, with grandparents she’s never met. Secretly, she wishes to find her long-absent father, and plans to write to him in her beautiful new journal. The cook’s daughter, Sakina, still hasn’t told her parents that she’ll be accepted to school only if she can improve her English test score—but then, how could her family possibly afford to lose the money she earns working with her Abba in a rich family’s kitchen?”

A Place At The Table By Saadia Faruqi & Laura Shovan

  • Publisher : Clarion Books (August 11, 2020)
  • Reading level : 10 – 12 years

Sixth graders Sara and Elizabeth could not be more different. Sara is at a new school that is completely unlike the small Islamic school she used to attend. Elizabeth has her own problems: her British mum has been struggling with depression. The girls meet in an after-school South Asian cooking class, which Elizabeth takes because her mom has stopped cooking, and which Sara, who hates to cook, is forced to attend because her mother is the teacher…”

Zayd Saleem Chasing The Dream By Hena Khan

  • Publisher : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers; Bind-Up Edition (August 25, 2020)
  • Reading level : 7 – 12 years

Zayd Saleem has serious hoop dreams. He’s going to be a basketball star. A legend. There are only a few small things in his way. For starters, Zayd’s on the scrawny side and gets stomach aches when he’s nervous. He has to convince his coach that he has what it takes to join his best friend Adam on the elite Gold Team. His mom and dad want him to practice his violin way more than his jump shot…”

Amal Unbound By Aisha Saeed

  • Publisher : Puffin Books; Reprint Edition (January 7, 2020)
  • Reading level : 10 and up

Twelve-year-old Amal’s dream of becoming a teacher one day is dashed in an instant when she accidentally insults a member of her Pakistani village’s ruling family. As punishment for her behavior, she is forced to leave her heartbroken family behind and go work at their estate. Amal is distraught but has faced setbacks before. So she summons her courage and begins navigating the complex rules of life as a servant, with all its attendant jealousies and pecking-order woes…”

More To The Story By Hena Khan

  • Publisher : Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers; Reprint Edition (September 3, 2019)
  • Reading level : 8-12

When Jameela Mirza is picked to be feature editor of her middle school newspaper, she’s one step closer to being an award-winning journalist like her late grandfather. The problem is her editor-in-chief keeps shooting down her article ideas. Jameela’s assigned to write about the new boy in school, who has a cool British accent but doesn’t share much, and wonders how she’ll make his story gripping enough to enter into a national media contest.”

Other Words For Home By Jasmine Warga

  • Publisher : Balzer + Bray; 1st Edition (May 28, 2019)
  • Reading level : 8 – 12 years

Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives. At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven’t quite prepared her for starting school in the US—and her new label of “Middle Eastern,” an identity she’s never known before…”

Meet Yasmin! By Saadia Faruqi

  • Publisher : Picture Window Books; Illustrated Edition (August 1, 2018)
  • Reading level : 5 – 8 years

Meet Yasmin! Yasmin is a spirited second-grader who’s always on the lookout for those “aha” moments to help her solve life’s little problems. Taking inspiration from her surroundings and her big imagination, she boldly faces any situation, assuming her imagination doesn’t get too big, of course! A creative thinker and curious explorer, Yasmin and her multi-generational Pakistani American family will delight and inspire readers.”

Amina’s Voice By Hena Khan

  • Publisher : Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (March 14, 2017)
  • Reading level : 8 – 12 years

Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized.”

Peace & Salam,

Natasha