My Own Special Way
Retold by Vivian French
Translated by Fatima Sharafeddini
Hamda is the youngest member of the family and she's desperate to try to catch up with her older sisters. Perhaps by wearing the veil she can show everyone that she's a big girl too. But how do you wear it – and how do you keep it from falling off? It seems that all her sisters have their own ways. Can Hamda find hers?
What we like about it
It's naturally inclusive - the emphasis isn't on being a Muslim or wearing a veil.
It's about the universal subject of growing up - and keeping up with siblings.
The simple, accessible text and appealing illustrations.
Questions and learning points
Does the word 'special' in the title mislead the reader into thinking that this is an issue book?
Fen: Over the years, only a handful of English-language children's books have come our way depicting girls/women wearing the veil. Within the context of this small collection, I found this one, by Emirati author Mithaa Alkhayyat very refreshing. Wearing the veil is, here, a rite-of-passage rather than a religious practice What we have is a celebratory, bright and uplifting story about a girl who is desperate to grow up and, as part of this, finds her own unique way of wearing the veil. The title is, of course, designed to be affirming and positive, although I agree that it does risk suggesting that wearing the veil in itself is a special 'issue' – a misrepresentation of the book. Indeed, it's worth noting that the books' characters spend almost the entire book with their hair uncovered (they are at home). My only other criticism is I found the sort of cultural 'femininity' in this book a little cloying; the huge eyelashes, the lacy, flowery fabrics, and the sisters' activities – shopping, making necklaces, baking... But then I also think this was undercut by the bold facial expressions, Alya's almost glass-bottle spectacles, Mama's unruly ginger beehive and Fatima's delightful railtrack-brace grin. I would love to know how this book was received on its UAE publication. As well as being very successfully casually inclusive, it is also exactly the sort of book I would give to a girl growing up in a context within which the veil is worn.
Maitha Al Khayat (author): First of all, allow me to introduce myself; Maitha Al Khayat author of the book My Own Special Way. I would like to thank you for a great review. When I wrote this book, people thought I was mainly marketing the idea of the scarf, whereas it was only a context I use due to our culture. It's more like what you observed; encouraging independence especially when girls at this age need to start to find believing in themselves and trust their choices even if they fail to succeed from the first time. In the UAE market, I believe this is the most selling of all my books because it tackles a universal message in a subtle way.
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