Abdul's story

Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

Book - 2022

Abdul loves telling stories but thinks his messy handwriting and spelling mistakes will keep him from becoming an author, until Mr. Muhammad visits and encourages him to persist.

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Children's stories Pictorial works
Picture books
New York : Salaam Reads [2022]
Main Author
Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow (author)
Other Authors
Tiffany Rose (illustrator)
First edition
Physical Description
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 27 cm
Ages 4 to 8.
Grades K-1.
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

This engrossing story has a compelling message for kids struggling with writing, as well as for all kids stuck in a "mistakes are bad" mindset. Abdul is a Black boy (and presumably Muslim, although it is never explicitly stated) living in an American big city. He loves regaling the other kids at school with stories about what goes on in his diverse neighborhood, but when it comes to writing these stories down, the "scribbly, scratchy, scrawly" ABCs he writes go backwards or won't stay on the line, leaving him feeling frustrated, ashamed, and convinced that writing stories is not for him. Then a professional writer named Mr. Muhammad visits class and urges the students to "write new stories with new superheroes." Abdul makes so many mistakes that he rips up his writing and ends up hiding under his desk. When Mr. Muhammad shows Abdul his own incredibly messy notebook, Abdul is inspired to change his approach from trying for perfection to trying a process of writing "a mess" and then "a less messy mess." Rose's bright digital illustrations are wonderful at depicting out-of-control letters and erasures, even showing Abdul's legs being erased at his low point. At the end, Abdul reads his story to his very receptive class and realizes that he is, indeed, a writer. Inspiring for all students.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Horn Book Review

Gregarious Abdul loves to tell stories to his classmates -- as long as he does not have to write them down. Letters are confusing, and figuring out how to spell words is frustrating. Not to mention that the books he reads at school do not feature people who look like him or the people in his neighborhood: "Some stories are for books, Abdul decided, but not his." Then an author named Mr. Muhammad comes to visit his class. By encouraging the boy to focus on his ideas instead of on mechanics, Mr. Muhammad helps Abdul to unleash the writer inside of him. Abdul, who is Black and Muslim, is a relatable character not typically represented in similar narratives, and Mr. Muhammad, who is also Black, Muslim, and neurodivergent, offers encouragement as the caring adult who has learned to manage his own writing challenges. This is a story within a story, not just about the tales Abdul wants to write but also about his journey as a learner; exploring the topic of learning disabilities can be challenging, especially the social-emotional fallout for children who are struggling, but Thompkins-Bigelow accomplishes the task. Rose's lively and colorful illustrations are eye-pleasing and showcase diversity. This is an engaging story that not only offers empowerment but also models understanding and acceptance of learning differences. Monique Harris March/April 2022 p.(c) Copyright 2022. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

A young Black boy struggles with writing--until a special guest visits his class. Abdul loves to tell stories about the people in his neighborhood, and his friends at school love hearing them. But whenever he tries to write down his stories in a notebook, spelling rules confuse him, and his "scribbly, scratchy, scrawly letters" never stay on the lines. Abdul decides that his stories are not for books. One day, a visitor comes to Abdul's class; Mr. Muhammad--a Black man with a flattop haircut like Abdul's and whose sneakers, like Abdul's, have "not a single crease or scuff"--is a writer who urges the students to "write new stories with new superheroes." Abdul feels motivated to give writing another shot, but again he ends up with endless erasure marks and smudges. Mr. Muhammad shows Abdul his own messy notebook, and Abdul, who is left-handed, decides to try writing without erasing. He makes a mess but searches through the clutter for sentences he loves. He rewrites and rewrites and works on his mistakes until he forms a story he likes, proudly claiming the title of writer. Bright, full-color, textured digital illustrations depict a racially diverse, joyful community. This story offers an honest portrayal of learning differences and demonstrates the importance of role models who reflect kids' own backgrounds. It is a lovely addition to the shelf of meaningful children's books portraying Black Muslim Americans in everyday situations. (This book was reviewed digitally.) A real treasure of a book for any child who has struggled to learn a skill. (Picture book. 4-8) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.