Sister Friend

Written by: Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

Illustrator: Shahrzad Maydani

Publisher: Abrams Books for Children (May 7, 2024)

ISBN13: 9781419767210

A Junior Library Guild Selection

 

Inside the Book

 

Sister Friend

Ameena feels invisible. It’s been that way since she started at her new school. But now there is another new girl in class. Ameena sees her brownness and her hijab, even though the other kids do not.

Ameena wants to be her friend, but she can’t seem to find the right words or do the right things. Until one day, they find them together: “Assalamu Alaikum, Sister. Welcome.”

From the Author: Story Behind the Story

“No one saw her. No one heard her. Or maybe they did. They just didn’t show it. She wasn’t sure.”

Ameena’s story is loosely based on the beginning of first grade for me as a little girl and one of my first experiences with racism. I started a new school and for some reason, I immediately became invisible there. No one would talk to me and it was very hard to get others to play with me. After a few weeks, I resigned myself to always playing by myself or staying in my teacher’s class to color during recess.

One day, my teacher sent me to another classroom to give something to another teacher. In this class, the students were having free time and all the kids were talking except for one girl. I immediately noticed that she looked so lonely – just like me. And I suddenly understood that our loneliness was for the same reason. We both had hair with little braids and twists, and we both had dark skin when no one else in our classrooms did. I didn’t have the language to describe what that was, but I understood.

My parents took me out of that school shortly thereafter to go to one more diverse, but I always wondered what it would have meant if I had been given the chance to form a friendship with this other girl. Sometimes when I visit schools, I see a lone non-white child in the class, and I wonder what their experience might be. I wonder if other kids might be urged to see how they make others feel invisible in their classrooms. All of that serves as the inspiration for this book.

 

Reviews

“Thompkins-Bigelow’s words resonate deeply and convey feelings of isolation, exclusion, and joyful acceptance.” – Kirkus, STARRED Review

“[G]racefully acknowledging the complexity of communications and relationships, while the illustrations capture every nuance of the characters’ emotions in this moving picture book.”―Booklist

A Junior Library Guild Selection

 

Inside the Book