• Thalia Kehoe Rowden

Picture Books with Muslim Representation

In the wake of the horrific attacks against Muslim worshippers in Christchurch, many parents and teachers are looking for picture books with Muslim characters, to make sure Muslim New Zealanders can see themselves in our books, and so all New Zealand kids see Muslim people in everyday contexts. We've put together a beginner's library of picture books with Muslim representation: some from Aotearoa, and some from overseas.

Of course with picture books, just about any human character could be Muslim - there are infinite ways a Muslim person can look.

In some of these picture books, there is someone in hijab - one of the only visual signifiers available to illustrators. Others are set in Muslim-majority countries or explicitly talk about Islam.


The first of these picture books with identifiably Muslim characters is one of our Books of the Year in 2018, Oh, So Many Kisses!, by Maura Finn, illustrated by Jenny Cooper, from Scholastic - as are four out of the five New Zealand books.

The great thing about this book is that any kind of family can see itself in these warm, cuddly pages. There's a māmā with moko kauae, another in hijab, babes with disabilities, and a variety of clothing from different cultures and religions.

Oh, So Many Kisses!

By Maura Finn, illustrated by Jenny Cooper

Published by Scholastic New Zealand

RRP $18.00

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This is a bilingual singalong book from June Pitman-Hayes, illustrated by Minky Stapleton. It's explicitly about everyone belonging and being welcome in Aotearoa.

Kia Ora: You Can Be a Kiwi Too

By June Pitman-Hayes and Ngaere Roberts, illustrated by Minky Stapleton

Published by Scholastic New Zealand

RRP $20.00

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The third book we've noted is one that just happens to have a mum in hijab, with a bubba in a sling, walking down a street behind the main characters while they're on their quest to find a kiwi. That's great! This book just sends the mess for granted all sorts of people are on New Zealand streets.

We’re Off to Find a Kiwi

By Juliette MacIver, illustrated by Kate Wilkinson

Published by Scholastic New Zealand RRP $18.00

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This winner of the 2017 picture book award is a tour de force in every respect, from the virtuoso rhyming (how many words could you rhyme with hippopotamus?) to the inclusiveness in the illustrations.

A class of children with ancestors from all over the world embarks on a hippo search. There are adults in hijab in the background, and it's easy to imagine that several of the kids might come from Muslim families.

That's not a Hippopotamus!

By Juliette MacIver, illustrated by Sarah Davis

Published by Gecko Press

RRP $20.00

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This winner of the Joy Cowley manuscript award tells the story of New Zealand from colonisation onwards, through the users of a wooden building. All kinds of people come and go.

Wooden Arms

By Sarah Johnson

Published by Scholastic New Zealand

RRP $20.00

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Hats of Faith is one of my four-year-old daughter's favourite board books. It's a simple series of colourful portraits of a range of people wearing religious headwear, from a rasta hat to hijab.

Hats of Faith

By Media Chan, illustrated by Sarah Walsh

Published by Little Hare Books RRP $18.00

Buy now


Jeannie Baker's Mirror presents a day in the life of a Moroccan family and an Australian family, side by side. It's stunning and absorbing.


By Jeannie Bake

Published by Walker Books RRP $46.00

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Razia's Ray of Hope tells the true story of the childhood of a pioneer of girls' education in Afghanistan. Razia's family doesn't think she should go to the newly opened school, but she eavesdrops on her brothers' lessons and eventually proves the worth of her learning.

Razia's Ray of Hope

By Elizabeth Suneby, illustrated by Suana Verelst

Published by Hachette RRP $24.00

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Join Carmelita as she walks through the city with her dog, saying hello - in nine languages! - to everyone she meets. Adorable.

Say Hello!

By Rachel Isadora

Published by Penguin