In my search for children’s books with Muslim characters, I encountered the lovely volume Extraordinary Women from the Muslim World. Written by Natalie Maydell and Sep Riahi, the book contains brief biographies of 13 Muslim women, accompanied by Heba Amin’s rich paintings. The authors affirm a wish to provide an introduction to the contributions of Muslim women, and acknowledge that these biographies are but a sampling of diverse accomplishments.
Each story highlights the positive impact a women made in her community, beginning with Khadija bint Khuwaylid, the first wife of the Prophet Muhammad and the first muslimah. Women from Turkey, Indonesia, India, the Arabian peninsula, Iran, and North Africa are included, with accomplishments in the fields of the arts, spirituality, and politics. These women are strong leaders who embody piety, compassion, and learning. For me, perhaps most exciting was the story of Nana Asma’u of Nigeria, a 19th-century scholar, community leader, and pioneer of women’s education whose work was previously unknown to me.
The book’s pages are bordered with beautiful patterns that reflect the natural world and the geometric design common to Islamic art. Artful calligraphy of quranic verses accompanies the stories of Khadija bint Khuwaylid and Aisha bint Abu Bakr.
Published in 2008, Extraordinary Women from the Muslim World has received numerous awards. It fills a need for quality English-language children’s books about the contributions of Muslim women from diverse cultures. This book would make a beautiful gift, as well as a helpful addition to a library at home, school, or in the community.
Disclosure: This review is freely given, based on a book in my personal library.