Yusuf Azeem Is Not a Hero

by Saadia Faruqi (Author)

Yusuf Azeem Is Not a Hero
Reading Level: 4th − 5th Grade

At a time when we are all asking questions about identity, grief, and how to stand up for what is right, this book by the author of A Thousand Questions will hit home with young readers who love Hena Khan and Varian Johnson--or anyone struggling to understand recent U.S. history and how it still affects us today.

Yusuf Azeem has spent all his life in the small town of Frey, Texas--and nearly that long waiting for the chance to participate in the regional robotics competition, which he just knows he can win. Only, this year is going to be more difficult than he thought. Because this year is the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, an anniversary that has everyone in his Muslim community on edge. With "Never Forget" banners everywhere and a hostile group of townspeople protesting the new mosque, Yusuf realizes that the country's anger from two decades ago hasn't gone away. Can he hold onto his joy--and his friendships--in the face of heartache and prejudice?

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Publisher's Weekly

Quiet, bespectacled, robot-loving Pakistani American Yusuf Azeem, who is almost 12, is excited to start the sixth grade—until a series of ominous notes appears in his locker. Yusuf’s family is one of 11 Muslim families in the small town of Frey, Tex., and the Islamophobia, xenophobia, and racism the family has faced have only intensified in the weeks leading up to the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Ethan Grant is Yusuf’s nemesis: he’s a vicious bully and the son of a white nationalist who opposes the construction of a town mosque. Yusuf tries to keep his head down, but when Ethan accuses him of carrying a bomb in his backpack—actually a micro:bit “virtual cat”—and Yusuf suffers repercussions, he gathers his friends to take on Ethan and his hateful father. Faruqi (A Thousand Questions) effectively intersperses Yusuf’s narrative with his maternal uncle’s journal entries from 2001; these epistolary interludes, written when Yusuf’s uncle was 12, are particularly powerful, capturing the raw emotions of American Muslims at the time and serving to reinforce the importance of learning unwhitewashed histories in this timely, hopeful middle grade novel. Ages 8–12. Agent: Kari Sutherland, Bradford Literary. (Sept.)
Saadia Faruqi
Saadia Faruqi was born in Pakistan and moved to the United States when she was 22 years old. She writes the Yasmin series and popular middle-grade novels such as Yusuf Azeem Is Not a Hero. Besides writing books for kids, she also loves reading, binge-watching her favorite shows, and taking naps. She lives in Houston with her family. Ani Bushry graduated from the University of West England with a background in graphic design and illustration. She grew up listening to stories her mom used to tell her and always wanted to tell her own. She lives in the Maldives with her husband and cat, Lilo, whom she loves to spoil.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Quill Tree Books
Publication date
September 07, 2021
BISAC categories
JUV039060 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Friendship
JUV023000 - Juvenile Fiction | Lifestyles | City & Town Life
JUV039120 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Prejudice & Racism
JUV030110 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | Middle East
Library of Congress categories
United States
Family life
Middle schools
September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001

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