Lion on the Inside: How One Girl Changed Basketball

Kids Can. (CitizenKid). Sept. 2023. 40p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781525310034.
K-Gr 3–This moving picture book memoir showcases the struggles and triumphs of activist Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir. The coauthor learned how to play basketball at an early age. It wasn’t long before she was besting her older brothers on the court. A practicing Muslim, she started wearing a hijab while shooting hoops in high school, often with pushback. That didn’t stop her from breaking records at the state and national levels. When it was time to play international professional basketball, however, she was once again denied because of her faith. She had to give up her lifelong dream. Instead, she fought hard to overturn the biased rules. Abdul-Qaadir now advocates for Muslim women and girls in sports through her nonprofit, Muslim Girls Ball Too. The first-person narration lends immediacy and vulnerability to the work. The simple but lyrical text captures the real-life fight of many young people who have to confront biases because of their marginalized identities. The digital art is bright with lots of whites and blues throughout. The characters’ faces are expressive, and the basketball scenes are filled with movement, putting readers right in the middle of the action. Also highlighted Abdul-Qaadir’s intersectional identities as is a dark-skinned Muslim woman and how these parts of herself were both the source of peoples’ prejudices and her strength. A longer bio, further reading, discussion questions, and a photo of Abdul-Qaadir are included in the back matter.
VERDICT Part of the “Citizen Kid” collection, this rousing entry will inspire kids to stand up for what they believe in and advocate for others.

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