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I'm Kellie, an avid reader and school librarian who loves sharing and talking about books.As a middle school librarian I get to spend my days doing just that, while also enjoy discovering the perfect books to share with my friends. Ms. Burke's Books is a continuation of that, a place where I can offer my honest opinions on the books I read and hopefully help match you to your new favorite book!

What To Read Next

Barakah Beats by Maleeha Siddiqui


Nimra is beginning public middle school for the first time, after years in a small Islamic school. Overwhelmed, she is also confused as to why her best friend Jenna is acting so different, ignoring Nimra and ruling over her popular group of friends. While praying out loud during lunch, a group of popular boys overhears her and recruits Nimra to join their Muslim boy band, Barakah Beats. Thrilled to find friends and wanting to get Jenna's attention, Nimra agrees. The only problem is her family believes playing music goes against Islam; Nimra is now lying to her family and her new friends. When she breaks and tells them the truth, Nimra is afraid of losing both her parents' respect and her friends.

My Thoughts

Barakah Beats is an excellent portrayal of a strong female finding her voice and of a Muslim girl who is strong in her beliefs. Nimra struggles with fitting in with Jenna but beyond singing in the band is firm in her own Islamic values and beliefs. As a middle grade book, I loved that she was presented as being both unsure and unwavering. When Jenna makes a comment regarding Nimra wearing the hijab to school, Nimra is annoyed and questions her friendship with Jenna, not in wearing the hijab. She is secure in her faith, which I find commendable as it's hard to be secure in anything in middle school (at least for me it was)! 

Nimra finds her true friends in her fellow Muslim students but Siddiqui makes a point to show the diversity within Islam of practices and beliefs. The backgrounds of the group varies: Nimra's family is Pakistani, Khadijah and Bilal's are Somali, and Matthew Cohen's family has converted. Nimra and Khadijah pray daily during lunch; the boys do not but do respect the girls very much for doing so. Nimra does not believe it is Islamic for her personally to sing but offers no judgement on the others for performing music. They in turn accept Nimra's beliefs with no question. This is an accepting and loving friendship group, which is really what all middle schoolers are wanting to find.

Another aspect I liked was the portrayal of Jenna and her friends as they were not a caricature of "mean girls". Jenna and Nimra have moments of bonding still, which makes it understandable why Nimra wanted to salvage their friendship. At the same time there are early warning signs that she's maybe not the friend Nimra thinks she is, in particular with understanding Nimra's religion. One of the other girls, Julie, starts off being somewhat hostile to Nimra and ignorant but is also shown to be deeply insecure. By the end of the book the two girls are friendly and have a little more of an understanding of each other. All of these situations rung true to me, remembering my own middle school interactions and I think middle grade readers will also connect to their own experiences.

Book Information

Author: Maleeha Siddiqui
Publisher:  Scholastic Press
Publish Date: October 19, 2021

Genre(s): realistic fiction
Recommended for: middle school
Themes: friendship, staying true to yourself, faith
Protagonist Description12 year old girl, Pakistani-American, Muslim
Trigger Warnings: None, though some of the characters experience bias/prejudice.

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