cover image We Are Big Time

We Are Big Time

Hena Khan, illus. by Safiya Zerrougui. Knopf, $21.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-5934-3048-4

Khan (Drawing Deena) and Zerrougui team up to deliver a distinguished attestation to the power of sport. Upon moving from Tampa to Milwaukee, Pakistani and Indian American high school freshman Aliya Javaid enrolls in Peace Academy, an Islamic school, and joins the basketball team, hoping to make friends while playing a game she loves. Initial losses spur intensive training before the team begins to triumph. Local media soon take notice, but reporters’ interests lie less in the team’s performance and more in their hijab uniforms. The girls endeavor to take control of the narrative: “If they ask random things, bring it back to basketball. This is a basketball story.” Khan provides contextualizing information for non-Muslims via the girls’ interactions with Puerto Rican coach Jess, as Jess in turn educates opposing coaches about the team’s uniforms, and prioritizes religious practices, allowing a break during practice for Maghrib; vividly saturated artwork invites readers into the evening prayer in a wordless spread that transitions to diagonal panels indicating movement and connection in the following gametime action. It’s an uplifting graphic novel that celebrates female Muslim athletes and highlights how the teens’ faith, sport, and relationships intersect. Ages 8–12. Author’s agent: Matthew Elblonk, DeFiore & Co. Illustrator’s agent: Paloma Hernando, Einstein Literary Management. (Aug.)