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Rumaysa: A Fairytale

Published: 1 Apr 2021

Paperback / softback, 240 pages

Recommended for age 7+

By Radiya Hafiza

Illustrated by Areeba Siddique and Rhaida El Touny

Published by Pan Macmillan

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This title features in our Reading Gladiators™ selection.

Step into a Once Upon a Time where anything is possible.

Radiya Hafiza's enchanting and funny debut weaves together three stories, spinning the classic fairytale to show that anyone can be a hero. 'Rumaysa, Rumaysa, let down your hijab!' For as long as she can remember Rumaysa has been locked away in her tower, forced to spin straw into gold for the evil Witch, unable to leave. Until one day, after dropping a hijab out of her small tower-window, Rumaysa realizes how she might be able to escape .

Join Rumaysa as she adventures through enchanted forests and into dragon's lairs, discovers her own incredible magical powers and teams up with Cinderayla and Sleeping Sara! Rumaysa: A Fairytale is a magically fresh, empowering and funny debut,  filled with S. Asian culture –an Eid celebration, feasts with samosas, kheer and handesh, which retells three classic fairytales - Rapunzel, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty - with beautiful inside illustrations by Rhaida El Touny and cover illustration by Areeba Siddique.

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Reviewed by Rumena Aktar

Rumaysa by Radiya Hafiza is a twist on three traditional fairytales. With strong female, Muslim protagonists, this book is a must-have if you are seeking to diversify your shelves.

It tells the story of Rumaysa, who is trapped in a tower, by the evil witch, Cordelia. She escapes with the help of her faithful friend, an owl called Zabina, and is determined to find her parents from whom, Cordelia stole her as a baby.

Rumaysa is guided by a glowing pendant, which leads her to our other heroines, Ayla and Sara, who are also in need of help, needing to escape a nasty stepfamily and a Dragon-Man.

These are all variations on the stories of Rapunzel, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, with the usual magic, royalty and villains. But it is filled with S. Asian culture –an Eid celebration, feasts with samosas, kheer and handesh, and a play with Layla and Majnu, rather than Romeo and Juliet. It was so refreshing to read a book where the characters weren’t typically white and seeking love but instead questioning the traditional stereotypes, “Did you ever think that maybe Layla could just break herself out?” Ayla questions Prince Harun.

Like most girls, my sister and I were drawn to fairytales when we were younger, and despite being a very rough tomboy, I too dreamt of being whisked away by a dashing hero for quite some time. It wasn’t until my late teens that I started to question the stereotypical damsel in distress story and ask why women were not allowed to determine their own fate, instead of being dependent on a knight in shining armour. This book questions those tropes and provides an opportunity for children to realise that their dreams are made from their own doing rather than being fixed by a magic wand or a male saviour.

This book, perfect for children aged 7+ is ideal to not only help children challenge stereotypes from an early age, but to also show Asian girls as heroes of their own stories.

I am a Primary School Librarian, who is passionate about getting the right books into the hands of children. I strongly believe that we need to be reading books that represent people from all walks of life, to ensure that we create a fairer and more empathetic world. I live in Birmingham with my husband and four children. When I'm not reading, buying or talking about books, I enjoy writing, baking and creating art and crafts with my children.

The BAME authors set