Today’s post comes to us from Australian children’s book author, Hazel Edwards O.A.M. Thank you Hazel for sharing this lovely story!
As an author, I’m a fan of librarians, especially after our ‘Hijabi Girl’ launch at Craigieburn Library, in Victoria (Aus). This area has 160 languages in the municipality and often IN the library.
Muslim librarian Ozge Alkan, illustrator Serena Geddes and I have collaborated on a funny but culturally respectful book for readers of 8 plus, boys & girls. All due to one innovative, children’s librarian: Ozge.
Speaking at a literary event in 2012, I met Ozge as a librarian-educator in the audience. Her enthusiasm and breadth of reading intrigued me. It wasn’t just that she was a fan of my cake-eating hippo books. She convinced me to visit her Islamic school as their first author. Unable to fulfill a student’s request for a young girl character in a hijab to dress up for their Book Parade, Ozge asked,
‘Could you write one? We’re tired of using Little Red Riding Hood’.’
I suggested she write her own book, as she knew the culture. I was intrigued by how many hijabs she possessed. ‘ Multiples, just like your scarves!’ she teased me.
It’s hard to say ‘no’ to Ozge so I agreed to co-write. After 41 rejections of our proposal, I decided to self publish. Each time there was media hype about Islamic issues, it made our book proposal less attractive to fearful publishers.
I can pronounce Ozge now, but suggested she shorten her author surname to Alkan so we could all fit on the front cover. This is Ozge’s first book and my 201st.
Illustrator Serena Geddes and I have learnt about making illustrations culturally appropriate and lengthening sleeves and skirts. And I’ve learnt about food and hijabs and Aussie Rules football.
Our fiction predictions are coming true. Now there is a Hijabi Barbi and footy club colour-coded hijabs for fashionistas. Footy fan Ozge wears a red and black hijab in the footy season. Girls are playing football in hijabs.
Sometimes a funny book can make a serious difference. And we autographed the entire first print run at the launch. Thanks to innovative librarians.
What is ‘Hijabi Girl’ about?
‘Hijabi Girl’ is about friendship in a mainstream , multi-cultural Australian school .Imaginative problem-solving where diversity is a strength.
Melek wants to win best dressed at the book character parade. She also dreams of starting an Aussie Rules Girls’ Footy team . Zac prefers soccer. Tien likes drawing. Unable to find a hijabi book girl , the characters write and illustrate their own book. So did the real co-authors Ozge and Hazel.
What are your hopes for the book?
- That ‘Hijabi Girl’ will be a mirror for Muslim girls and a cultural window for other readers.
- Next book parade , students dress-up as characters from ‘Hijabi Girl’.
- Our free classroom playscript will be used in Book Weeks.
- That ‘Hijabi Girl’ becomes a series, on TV.
Literature, not propaganda is the new anti-bullying, anti-FEAR device.
About the Authors:
Librarian Ozge Alkan is currently on maternity leave from Boorandara Public Library and Hazel Edwards is better known as the author of ‘There’s a Hippopotamus on our Roof Eating Cake’. Illustrator Serena Geddes worked for Disney Australia and is the illustrator of the LuluBell series. Bookpod published ‘Hijabi Girl’