Lion on the Inside: How One Girl Changed Basketball

By Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, Judith Henderson
Illustrators Illustrated by Katherine Ahmed Edition

Hardcover edition

Publisher Kids Can Press Imprint Kids Can Press ISBN


Lion on the Inside: How One Girl Changed Basketball

In stock

A Muslim American basketball star is forced to make a difficult choice in this true story about breaking barriers. Bilqis was born to play basketball. At three, she has her own hoop. By seventeen, she's the star of her varsity team and soon headed to college on a full scholarship, where she will be the first woman to play in a hijab in NCAA history. She is even invited to play basketball with President Obama at the White House. But at key points in her basketball career Bilqis faces rules that require her to choose between her Muslim faith and playing on the court. When international headgear regulations force her to make the heartbreaking decision to give up the game, Bilqis leads a full-court press to have the rule reversed, advocating for Muslim girls and all girls and women in sport. A modern hero: kids will be thrilled by her skill and inspired by her conviction.

A Muslim American girl at the top of her game makes a difficult choice in this powerful and beautifully told true story about breaking barriers.

Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir was born to play basketball. At three, she has her own hoop. By seventeen, she’s the star player on her school’s varsity team. On the day of the playoffs, though, the referee says she can’t play while wearing her hijab. Her teammates refuse to play, the crowd shouts its support and the referee relents. With that game, Bilqis becomes the all-time lead scorer in Massachusetts State history and goes on to play college ball, where she is the first woman to play in a hijab in the NCAA - she even plays basketball with President Obama at the White House!

The story follows Bilqis into adulthood and her heartbreaking decision to walk away from a professional basketball career when the rules once again won’t allow her to wear a hijab. Bilqis becomes an activist, fighting for years on the international stage advocating for young Muslim women, and eventually the rule is overturned. Written in free verse in a voice that captures the cadence of the game, this picture book biography, coauthored by Bilqis and award-winning writer Judith Henderson, is both a love poem to the sport of basketball and an inspiring story about how one person can effect change. Richly colored illustrations by Katherine Ahmed add further emotional depth to the story.

This book will spark discussions about respect, beliefs, values, culture and discrimination. Back matter includes biographical information, photos and a list of sources for further exploration. Lion on the Inside is the first book in the CitizenKid collection that is geared to younger readers ages 5 to 8.

“Meet Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir,” with photographs. “Let’s Talk.” Suggestions for further information. Full-color illustrations were rendered digitally in Procreate.


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Praise & Reviews

School Library Journal

K-Gr 3—This moving picture book memoir showcases the struggles and triumphs of activist Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir. The coauthor learned how to play basketball at an early age. It wasn't long before she was besting her older brothers on the court. A practicing Muslim, she started wearing a hijab while shooting hoops in high school, often with pushback. That didn't stop her from breaking records at the state and national levels. When it was time to play international professional basketball, however, she was once again denied because of her faith. She had to give up her lifelong dream. Instead, she fought hard to overturn the biased rules. Abdul-Qaadir now advocates for Muslim women and girls in sports through her nonprofit, Muslim Girls Ball Too. The first-person narration lends immediacy and vulnerability to the work. The simple but lyrical text captures the real-life fight of many young people who have to confront biases because of their marginalized identities. The digital art is bright with lots of whites and blues throughout. The characters' faces are expressive, and the basketball scenes are filled with movement, putting readers right in the middle of the action. Also highlighted Abdul-Qaadir's intersectional identities as is a dark-skinned Muslim woman and how these parts of herself were both the source of peoples' prejudices and her strength. A longer bio, further reading, discussion questions, and a photo of Abdul-Qaadir are included in the back matter. VERDICT Part of the "Citizen Kid" collection, this rousing entry will inspire kids to stand up for what they believe in and advocate for others.—Shelley M. Diaz

Sports Elementary Plus (Grades 2-6)

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Sports Elementary Plus (Grades 2-6)

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