Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

My Name Is Bilal

Kiwak, Barbara (Illustrator)
Boyds Mills Press 2005. 32 pages
First published: 2005
ISBN: 9781590781753 (hardcover)
Original language: English
Book type: Picture Book

Text Elements:

character, characterization, point of view

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

Cross-cultural communication and understanding is the theme of this informative story, useful for Muslim and non-Muslim readers alike. At his new school, Bilal ignores the bullying his sister is experiencing and denies his own name: “‘Al is my middle name,’ he stammered. ‘My first name is Bill.’”

Clear language integrates basic information about Muslim customs and the tale of Muhammad’s first muezzin, Bilal Inb Rabah, who was also persecuted by fellow townsfolk. Inspired by his namesake’s example, Bilal finds the strength to be himself at school.

Soft-edged illustrations in watercolour effects realistically portray the heat-drenched sands of ancient Mecca and the cool colours of the school hallways. One spread shows Bilal defending his sister by the lockers. Another shows a game of pick-up basketball in the park, where Bilal makes an overture to his erstwhile bully, which is accepted.

The book’s message of judgment-free, intercultural cooperation is highlighted when one of the older players takes a break to pray: “Bilal stared at the boy in surprise. ‘You don’t mind…?’ ‘Nope, It gives me more time to practice,’ the boy answered” The final image shows a quiet patch of park lawn, as Bilal joins a new friend at prayer.

  •  

    Discuss the significance of our names. How might our parents’ culture influence their name choices for us? After reading, reflect on the significance of the name Bilal.

  •  Why does Bilal introduce himself as Bill? What are the challenges he faces as part of a religious and cultural minority at his new school?
  •  Create character maps for Mr. Ali, Scott, Ayesha and Bilal. What do their actions suggest about their character traits?
  •  How can schools eradicate racism and bullying of minority students? Include examples of positive actions the characters in the story took.
  •  

    Discuss the significance of our names. Were you named after someone? How might our parents’ culture influence their name choices for us? After reading, reflect on the significance of the name Bilal.

  •  

    Why does Bilal introduce himself as Bill? What are the challenges he faces as part of a religious and cultural minority at his new school? What other challenges might some students face?

  •  

    Draw a timeline of the story for Bilal, Ayesha, Scott and Mr. Ali. Include how the character traits and feelings change throughout the story.

  •  

    At your school, are there students facing particular challenges? What does your school do to avoid racism and bullying? What can you do to help?

  •  

    Examine the first two illustrations. Turn and talk about these with a neighbour. Write a short text to accompany each illustration.

  •  

    Complete a T-chart with the headings Before and After. In the first column, list words that describe how Bilal was before he met his teacher, Mr. Ali. In the other column, list words that describe how he changed after he met Mr. Ali.

  •  

    What is currently done at your school to welcome new students? Create a checklist, adding ideas of your own. Find a way to share this information with those who attend, work or volunteer in your school.

  • To construct his/her identity
  • To cooperate with others
  • To solve problems
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Ethics and Religious Culture
  • Personal Development