Middle-grade books with Muslim characters are a rarity. If you have a Muslim reader who yearns to see themselves in books, these middle-grade books with Muslim characters are a good start. They, of course, also make for excellent windows into the lives of others, though different from ours.
In this list, I’ve included books featuring practicing Muslims or those belonging to Muslim families, both living in or out of the US. You’ll also find male and female Muslim characters as well. I’ve done my best to ensure that all the books on this list are by Muslim authors, i.e. Own Voices. Where the author is not Muslim, I have marked the title as “Not #OwnVoices.” Beyond practicing Islam though (which is a small fraction of these books’ contents), these stories cover a wide range of themes from sports to immigration to food and friendship.
Let’s get started. Click on the images to go straight to their Amazon page. I’ve marked Kindle Unlimited titles with an asterisk(*), and indicated when a book is part of a series.
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Best Middle-Grade Books With Muslim Characters
Here are 22 of the best middle-grade books with Muslim characters:
Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal’s Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she’s busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when–as the eldest daughter–she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn’t lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens–after an accidental run-in with the son of her village’s corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family’s servant to pay off her own family’s debt.
Life at the opulent Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle for Amal–especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal’s growing awareness of the Khans’ nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realizes she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams.
A Pakistani-American Muslim girl struggles to stay true to her family’s vibrant culture while simultaneously blending in at school after tragedy strikes her community in this “compassionate, timely novel” (Booklist, starred review) from the award-winning author of It’s Ramadan, Curious George and Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns.
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.
Ahmed Aziz’s Epic Year
Ahmed Aziz is having an epic year—epically bad.
After his dad gets sick, the family moves from Hawaii to Minnesota for his dad’s treatment. Even though his dad grew up there, Ahmed can’t imagine a worse place to live. He’s one of the only brown kids in his school. And as a proud slacker, Ahmed doesn’t want to deal with expectations from his new teachers.
Ahmed surprises himself by actually reading the assigned books for his English class: Holes, Bridge to Terabithia,and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Shockingly, he doesn’t hate them. Ahmed also starts learning about his uncle, who died before Ahmed was born. Getting bits and pieces of his family’s history might be the one upside of the move, as his dad’s health hangs in the balance and the school bully refuses to leave him alone. Will Ahmed ever warm to Minnesota?
More to the Story
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.
Jameela, along with her three sisters, is devastated when their father needs to take a job overseas, away from their cozy Georgia home for six months. Missing him makes Jameela determined to write an epic article—one to make her dad extra proud. But when her younger sister gets seriously ill, Jameela’s world turns upside down. And as her hunger for fame looks like it might cost her a blossoming friendship, Jameela questions what matters most, and whether she’s cut out to be a journalist at all…
Other Words for Home
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.
But this life also brings unexpected surprises—there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is.
It’s the last few days of her vacation in Pakistan, and Amina has loved every minute of it. The food, the shops, the time she’s spent with her family—all of it holds a special place in Amina’s heart. Now that the school year is starting again, she’s sad to leave, but also excited to share the wonders of Pakistan with her friends back in Greendale.
After she’s home, though, her friends don’t seem overly interested in her trip. And when she decides to do a presentation on Pakistani hero Malala Yousafzai, her classmates focus on the worst parts of the story. How can Amina share the beauty of Pakistan when no one wants to listen?
It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel*
Zomorod (Cindy) Yousefzadeh is the new kid on the block . . . for the fourth time. California’s Newport Beach is her family’s latest perch, and she’s determined to shuck her brainy loner persona and start afresh with a new Brady Bunch name—Cindy. It’s the late 1970s, and fitting in becomes more difficult as Iran makes U.S. headlines with protests, revolution, and finally the taking of American hostages. Even mood rings and puka shell necklaces can’t distract Cindy from the anti-Iran sentiments that creep way too close to home. A poignant yet lighthearted middle grade debut from the author of the best-selling Funny in Farsi.
The Garden of My Imaan
It’s hard enough to fit in without also having to decide whether to fast for Ramadan and wear the hijab.
Aliya already struggles with trying to fit in, feeling confident enough to talk to the cute boy, or brave enough to stand up to mean kids—the fact that she’s Muslim is just another part of her life. But then Marwa, a Moroccan girl who shares Aliya’s faith, if not her culture, moves to town.
Marwa’s quiet confidence leads Aliya to wonder even more about who she is, what she believes, and where she fits in. In a series of letters to Allah she writes for a Sunday school project, Aliya explores her dreams and fears, hoping that with hard work and faith, something beautiful will grow in the garden of imaan—the small quiet place inside where belief unfolds, one petal at a time.
This award-winning novel from author and educator Farhana Zia captures the social and identity struggles of middle school with a fresh, new voice.
Twelve-year-old Nimra Sharif has spent her whole life in Islamic school, but now it’s time to go to “real school.”
Nimra’s nervous, but as long as she has Jenna, her best friend who already goes to the public school, she figures she can take on just about anything.
Unfortunately, middle school is hard. The teachers are mean, the schedule is confusing, and Jenna starts giving hijab-wearing Nimra the cold shoulder around the other kids.
Desperate to fit in and get back in Jenna’s good graces, Nimra accepts an unlikely invitation to join the school’s popular 8th grade boy band, Barakah Beats. The only problem is, Nimra was taught that music isn’t allowed in Islam, and she knows her parents would be disappointed if they found out. So she devises a simple plan: join the band, win Jenna back, then quietly drop out before her parents find out.
But dropping out of the band proves harder than expected. Not only is her plan to get Jenna back working, but Nimra really likes hanging out with the band — they value her contributions and respect how important her faith is to her. Then Barakah Beats signs up for a talent show to benefit refugees, and Nimra’s lies start to unravel. With the show only a few weeks away and Jenna’s friendship hanging in the balance, Nimra has to decide whether to betray her bandmates — or herself.
A Long Pitch Home (Not #OwnVoices)
Ten-year-old Bilal liked his life back home in Pakistan. He was a star on his cricket team. But when his father suddenly sends the family to live with their aunt and uncle in America, nothing is familiar. While Bilal tries to keep up with his cousin Jalaal by joining a baseball league and practicing his English, he wonders when his father will join the family in Virginia. Maybe if Bilal can prove himself on the pitcher’s mound, his father will make it to see him play. But playing baseball means navigating relation-ships with the guys, and with Jordan, the only girl on the team—the player no one but Bilal wants to be friends with. A sensitive and endearing contemporary novel about family, friends, and assimilation.
Fadi never imagined he’d start middle school in Fremont, California, thousands of miles from home in Kabul—and half a world away from his missing six-year-old sister, Mariam.
Adjusting to life in the United States isn’t easy for Fadi’s family, and as the events of September 11 unfold, the prospects of locating Mariam in war-torn Afghanistan seem slim. When a photography competition with a grand prize of a trip to India is announced, Fadi sees his chance to return to Afghanistan and find his sister. But can one photo really bring Mariam home?
Based in part on Ms. Senzai’s husband’s own experience fleeing Soviet-controlled Afghanistan in 1979, Shooting Kabul is a powerful story of hope, love, and perseverance.
Piece by Piece: The Story of Nisrin’s Hijab
Nisrin is a 13-year-old Bangladeshi-American girl living in Milwaukie, Oregon, in 2002. As she nears the end of eighth grade, she gives a presentation for World Culture Day about Bangladesh while wearing a traditional cultural dress. On her way home, she is the victim of a hate crime when a man violently attacks her for wearing a headscarf.
Deeply traumatized by the experience, Nisrin spends the summer depressed and isolated. Other than weekly therapy, Nisrin doesn’t leave the house until fall arrives and it’s time for her to start freshman year at a new school. The night before class starts, Nisrin makes a decision. She tells her family she’s going to start wearing hijab, much to their dismay. Her mother and grandparent’s shocked and angry reactions confuse her—but they only strengthen her resolve.
This choice puts Nisrin on a path to not only discover more about Islam, but also her family’s complicated relationship with the religion, and the reasons they left Bangladesh in the first place. On top of everything else, she’s struggling to fit in at school—her hijab makes her a target for students and faculty alike. But with the help from old friends and new, Nisrin is starting to figure out what really makes her happy. Piece by Piece is an original graphic novel about growing up and choosing your own path, even if it leads you to a different place than you expected.
The Turtle of Oman
This accessible, exquisite novel shines with gentle humor and explores themes of moving, family, nature, and immigration. It tells the story of Aref Al-Amri, who must say good-bye to everything and everyone he loves in his hometown of Muscat, Oman, as his family prepares to move to Ann Arbor, Michigan. This is acclaimed poet and National Book Award Finalist Naomi Shihab Nye’s first novel set in the Middle East since her acclaimed Habibi.
Aref Al-Amri does not want to leave Oman. He does not want to leave his elementary school, his friends, or his beloved grandfather, Siddi. He does not want to live in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where his parents will go to graduate school. His mother is desperate for him to pack his suitcase, but he refuses. Finally, she calls Siddi for help. But rather than pack, Aref and Siddi go on a series of adventures. They visit the camp of a thousand stars deep in the desert, they sleep on Siddi’s roof, they fish in the Gulf of Oman and dream about going to India, and they travel to the nature reserve to watch the sea turtles. At each stop, Siddi finds a small stone that he later slips into Aref’s suitcase—mementos of home.
Naomi Shihab Nye’s warmth, attention to detail, and belief in the power of empathy and connection shines from every page. Features black-and-white spot art and decorations by Betsy Peterschmidt.
The Red Pencil
Finally, Amira is twelve. Old enough to wear a toob, old enough for new responsibilities. And maybe old enough to go to school in Nyala— Amira’s one true dream.
But life in her peaceful Sudanese village is shattered when the Janjaweed arrive. The terrifying attackers ravage the town and unleash unspeakable horrors. After she loses nearly everything, Amira needs to dig deep within herself to find the strength to make the long journey— on foot— to safety at a refugee camp. Her days are tough at the camp, until the gift of a simple red pencil opens her mind— and all kinds of possibilities.
Rumaysa: A Fairytale
‘Rumaysa, Rumaysa, let down your hijab!’
For as long as she can remember, Rumaysa has been locked away in her tower, forced to spin straw into gold for the evil witch, unable to leave. Until one day, after dropping a hijab out of her small tower-window, Rumaysa realises how she might be able to escape….
Join Rumaysa as she adventures through enchanted forests and into dragon’s lairs, discovers her own incredible magical powers and teams up with Cinderayla and Sleeping Sara!
Rumaysa: A Fairytale is a magically fresh, empowering and funny debut, which retells three classic fairytales – Rapunzel, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.
A Place at the Table
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. The girls form a shaky alliance that gradually deepens, and they make plans to create the most amazing, mouth-watering cross-cultural dish together and win a spot on a local food show. They make good cooking partners . . . but can they learn to trust each other enough to become true friends?
Related: Best Middle-Grade Books About Food
A Thousand Questions
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?
Although the girls seem totally incompatible at first, as the summer goes on, Sakina and Mimi realize that they have plenty in common—and that they each need the other to get what they want most.
When her family moves from Pakistan to Peachtree City, all Nurah wants is to blend in, yet she stands out for all the wrong reasons. Nurah’s accent, floral-print kurtas, and tea-colored skin make her feel excluded, until she meets Stahr at swimming tryouts. And in the water, Nurah doesn’t want to blend in. She wants to win medals like her star athlete brother, Owais — who is going through struggles of his own in the US.
Yet when sibling rivalry gets in the way, she makes a split-second decision of betrayal that changes their fates. Ultimately, Nurah slowly gains confidence in the form of strong swimming arms, and also gains the courage to stand up to bullies, fight for what she believes in, and find her place.
Once Upon an Eid
Once Upon an Eid is a collection of short stories that showcases the most brilliant Muslim voices writing today, all about the most joyful holiday of the year: Eid! Eid: The short, single-syllable word conjures up a variety of feelings and memories for Muslims. Maybe it’s waking up to the sound of frying samosas or the comfort of bean pie, maybe it’s the pleasure of putting on a new outfit for Eid prayers, or maybe it’s the gift giving and holiday parties to come that day. Whatever it may be, for those who cherish this day of celebration, the emotional responses may be summed up in another short and sweet word: joy. The anthology will also include a poem, graphic-novel chapter, and spot illustrations.
The full list of Once Upon an Eid contributors include: G. Willow Wilson (Alif the Unseen, Ms. Marvel), Hena Khan (Amina’s Voice, Under My Hijab), N. H. Senzai (Shooting Kabul, Escape from Aleppo), Hanna Alkaf (The Weight of Our Sky), Rukhsana Khan (Big Red Lollipop), Randa Abdel-Fattah (Does My Head Look Big in This?), Ashley Franklin (Not Quite Snow White), Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow (Mommy’s Khimar), Candice Montgomery (Home and Away, By Any Means Necessary), Huda Al-Marashi (First Comes Marriage), Ayesha Mattu, Asmaa Hussein, and Sara Alfageeh.
Escape from Aleppo
Nadia stands at the center of attention in her parents’ elegant dining room. This is the best day of my life, she thinks. Everyone is about to sing “Happy Birthday,” when her uncle calls from the living room, “Baba, brothers, you need to see this.” Reluctantly, she follows her family into the other room. On TV, a reporter stands near an overturned vegetable cart on a dusty street. Beside it is a mound of smoldering ashes. The reporter explains that a vegetable vendor in the city of Tunis burned himself alive, protesting corrupt government officials who have been harassing his business. Nadia frowns.
It is December 17, 2010: Nadia’s twelfth birthday and the beginning of the Arab Spring. Soon anti-government protests erupt across the Middle East and, one by one, countries are thrown into turmoil. As civil war flares in Syria and bombs fall across Nadia’s home city of Aleppo, her family decides to flee to safety. Inspired by current events, this novel sheds light on the complicated situation in Syria that has led to an international refugee crisis, and tells the story of one girl’s journey to safety.
Yusuf Azeem Is Not a Hero
Yusuf Azeem has spent all his life in the small town of Frey, Texas – and nearly that long waiting for the chance to participate in the regional robotics competition, which he just knows he can win.
Only, this year is going to be more difficult than he thought. Because this year is the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, an anniversary that has everyone in his Muslim community on edge.
With “Never Forget” banners everywhere and a hostile group of townspeople protesting the new mosque, Yusuf realizes that the country’s anger from two decades ago hasn’t gone away. Can he hold onto his joy – and his friendships – in the face of heartache and prejudice?
Meet Yasmin! (Chapter Book Series)
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.
Need books for an older crowd? 15 Best Muslim YA books.
There they are: 22 of the best middle-grade books with Muslim characters! Yes, yes, I squeezed in a chapter book too. I hope you find one (new to you) title on this list! I’m especially fond of books by Saadia Faruqi and Hena Khan (More to the Story was one of my favorites last year!), so feel free to start there, as well as any of the books I’ve reviewed on this list. What are your favorite middle-grade books with Muslim characters?
*This list has been updated to exclude Farah Rocks Fifth Grade which was originally listed in error.