Bilal worries about being teased by his classmates for being Muslim. He thinks maybe it would be better if people don't know he is Muslim. Maybe it would be best if he tells kids his name is Bill rather than Bilal. Then maybe they would leave him alone. Mr. Ali, one of Bilal's teachers and also Muslim, sees how the boy is struggling. He gives Bilal a book about the first person to give the call to prayer during the time of the Prophet Muhammad. That person was another Bilal: Bilal Ibn Rabah. What Bilal learns from the book forms the compelling story of a young boy wrestling with his identity.
Gr. 4-7. Bilal and his sister, Ayesha, who are Muslim, start school in a new city. At first Bilal tries to blend into the largely non-Muslim environment, calling himself Bill and ducking out of sight when two boys try to pull off Ayesha's head scarf. Encouraged by a sympathetic teacher and his own faith, Bilal finds the courage to stand up with his sister the next time the boys tease her. Bilal and Ayesha point out to their adversaries that they too were born in America and that being American means that they can wear what they want. By standing up for his sister, Bilal earns the boys'respect and takes the first step toward a possible friendship. The story is told in picture-book format, though the text is longer than that of most picture books. In the illustrations, the students appear to be in middle school, but the book is accessible to younger children as well. Appearing on nearly every double-page spread, large-scale watercolor paintings clearly portray the actions and attitudes of the characters. A good starting place for discussions of cultural differences, prejudice, and respect for the beliefs of others.