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by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

Hi Tara! Thank you for having me on your blog today and hosting the cover reveal of ABDUL’S STORY, a picture book written by me and illustrated by Tiffany Rose (with art direction by Tom Daly).

ABDUL’S STORY is about a young boy who has many stories to tell about his community in Philadelphia. However, during writing period in his class each day, he never writes these or any stories because he’s ashamed of how he writes. His handwriting is sloppy. He misspells many words. Sometimes, he even writes some letters backward.

On top of these struggles, he also doesn’t see the stories of his community as being welcome because the stories read in his classroom are about people and communities that are not like the ones he knows.

Mr. Muhammad, a writer who looks like Abdul and tells stories like Abdul’s, visits his class and helps him to change his view. Abdul learns that the story he has to tell is valuable even if he struggles with writing, and even if his story is different.

The Story Behind the Story

The idea for ABDUL’S STORY came out of my work as a writer working in Mighty Writers community centers for kids. My main job was often to help kids see themselves as writers. I once taught a workshop for children, called “Get Published, Kids!” The goal was to help kids write stories for publication in magazines. There, I met a student (I’ll call him H) in this workshop who wrote one sentence in his writer’s notebook and told me he was done.

When I encouraged H to write more, he gestured to the other kids busily writing at his table with full pages in their notebooks and said, “I can’t be a writer like them.” H was only maybe six or seven years old at the time. It troubled me that a child so young could see himself as already incapable of doing something. The more I talked with him about his story, the more I realized that H lacked confidence because he couldn’t write neatly and had trouble spelling words. Still, I pushed him to write much more and to see value in the things he wrote.

At the end of our workshop session, H proudly showed his father the many pages he wrote that day. He did something he thought he was incapable of and was smiling from ear-to-ear. While that was gratifying, I thought a lot about other kids similar to H who don’t have empowering experiences with writing. What is a story that could help them?

Words of Advice for Aspiring PB Authors

My advice for PB authors is the same advice I would give to Abdul in my story and H: Remember that there is value in the story that you have to tell. Mine your experiences for the best material, and don’t dismiss your experiences just because they aren’t represented in books. Often the stories that are missing  are the best stories. Additionally, don’t underestimate yourself just because you need to grow as a writer. Keep trying. Keep doing the work. You never know what you might be capable of.

And now…the cover reveal!

ABDUL’S STORY releases March 29th, 2022 from Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster. Pre-order a copy today online or from your local independent bookstore.

And Jamilah will be giving away a signed copy of ABDUL’S STORY once it releases.

Leave one comment below to enter.

A random winner will be selected soon.

Good luck!


Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow is a Philadelphia-based educator and award-winning children’s book author. A curriculum writer and former English teacher, she has educated children and teens in traditional and alternative learning settings for over 15 years. Her picture books and middle-grade fiction center young Black Muslim protagonists and have been recognized as the best in children’s literature by Time Magazine, Read Across America, and NPR. Her books include Mommy’s Khimar and Your Name is a Song, an Irma Black Honor book. Her upcoming books include ABDUL’S  STORY (2022), HOLD THEM CLOSE (2022), and SALAT IN SECRET (2023).

Find Jamilah online at jamilahthewriter.com, on Twitter @jtbigelow, and on Instagram @authorjamilah.

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My Picture Books

COMING SOON:


BLOOP
illus by Mike Boldt
HarperCollins
July 2021

ABSURD WORDS
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks eXplore
November 2021

"PRIVATE I" SERIES #3
illus by Ross MacDonald
Little, Brown
2022

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