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Barakah Beats

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For fans of The First Rule of Punk and Save Me a Seat, Barakah Beats is a sweet, powerful, and joyous novel about a Muslim girl who finds her voice on her own terms... by joining her school's most popular boy band. Twelve-year-old Nimra Sharif has spent her whole life in Islamic school, but now it's time to go to "real school." Nimra's nervous, but as long as she has Jenna, For fans of The First Rule of Punk and Save Me a Seat, Barakah Beats is a sweet, powerful, and joyous novel about a Muslim girl who finds her voice on her own terms... by joining her school's most popular boy band. Twelve-year-old Nimra Sharif has spent her whole life in Islamic school, but now it's time to go to "real school." Nimra's nervous, but as long as she has Jenna, her best friend who already goes to the public school, she figures she can take on just about anything. Unfortunately, middle school is hard. The teachers are mean, the schedule is confusing, and Jenna starts giving hijab-wearing Nimra the cold shoulder around the other kids. Desperate to fit in and get back in Jenna's good graces, Nimra accepts an unlikely invitation to join the school's popular 8th grade boy band, Barakah Beats. The only problem is, Nimra was taught that music isn't allowed in Islam, and she knows her parents would be disappointed if they found out. So she devises a simple plan: join the band, win Jenna back, then quietly drop out before her parents find out. But dropping out of the band proves harder than expected. Not only is her plan to get Jenna back working, but Nimra really likes hanging out with the band-they value her contributions and respect how important her faith is to her. Then Barakah Beats signs up for a talent show to benefit refugees, and Nimra's lies start to unravel. With the show only a few weeks away and Jenna's friendship hanging in the balance, Nimra has to decide whether to betray her bandmates-or herself.


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For fans of The First Rule of Punk and Save Me a Seat, Barakah Beats is a sweet, powerful, and joyous novel about a Muslim girl who finds her voice on her own terms... by joining her school's most popular boy band. Twelve-year-old Nimra Sharif has spent her whole life in Islamic school, but now it's time to go to "real school." Nimra's nervous, but as long as she has Jenna, For fans of The First Rule of Punk and Save Me a Seat, Barakah Beats is a sweet, powerful, and joyous novel about a Muslim girl who finds her voice on her own terms... by joining her school's most popular boy band. Twelve-year-old Nimra Sharif has spent her whole life in Islamic school, but now it's time to go to "real school." Nimra's nervous, but as long as she has Jenna, her best friend who already goes to the public school, she figures she can take on just about anything. Unfortunately, middle school is hard. The teachers are mean, the schedule is confusing, and Jenna starts giving hijab-wearing Nimra the cold shoulder around the other kids. Desperate to fit in and get back in Jenna's good graces, Nimra accepts an unlikely invitation to join the school's popular 8th grade boy band, Barakah Beats. The only problem is, Nimra was taught that music isn't allowed in Islam, and she knows her parents would be disappointed if they found out. So she devises a simple plan: join the band, win Jenna back, then quietly drop out before her parents find out. But dropping out of the band proves harder than expected. Not only is her plan to get Jenna back working, but Nimra really likes hanging out with the band-they value her contributions and respect how important her faith is to her. Then Barakah Beats signs up for a talent show to benefit refugees, and Nimra's lies start to unravel. With the show only a few weeks away and Jenna's friendship hanging in the balance, Nimra has to decide whether to betray her bandmates-or herself.

30 review for Barakah Beats

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

    Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest I snatched this one right up because the premise sounded so cute. It's about a young girl named Nimra who ends up switching from a religious school to a public school, where she gets involved in a school band (Barakah Beats). It's middle grade but deals with a lot of grown-up issues, like changing friendships, staying true to yourself, finding your passions, practicing faith (and different interpretations of faith), and, of course, the f Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest I snatched this one right up because the premise sounded so cute. It's about a young girl named Nimra who ends up switching from a religious school to a public school, where she gets involved in a school band (Barakah Beats). It's middle grade but deals with a lot of grown-up issues, like changing friendships, staying true to yourself, finding your passions, practicing faith (and different interpretations of faith), and, of course, the feeling of finding something you're really good at and enjoy. BARAKAH BEATS was just as cute as the cover made it look but as with other middle grade novels I have read, the narrator sometimes felt more like an adult writing what they thought a preteen should sound like and less like a preteen. I think it's hard to capture that mindset perfectly and it might not be something as many younger readers would pick up on. Overall, this was a light, enjoyable read. Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review! 3 stars

  2. 5 out of 5

    Darla

    Five singing stars for this musical #ownvoices book about a Nimra Sharif and her first year in middle school. Her unexpected encounter after midday prayer with a boy band gives her an idea for fixing her relationship with her bestie Jenna. Although Nimra's family abstains from music and dancing, her Quran memorization is in itself very musical -- causing the band (Barakah Beats) to pursue Nimra as their fourth member. The gorgeous cover promises an uplifting narrative and while there is conflict Five singing stars for this musical #ownvoices book about a Nimra Sharif and her first year in middle school. Her unexpected encounter after midday prayer with a boy band gives her an idea for fixing her relationship with her bestie Jenna. Although Nimra's family abstains from music and dancing, her Quran memorization is in itself very musical -- causing the band (Barakah Beats) to pursue Nimra as their fourth member. The gorgeous cover promises an uplifting narrative and while there is conflict, ultimately the resolution of the problem is achieved in a healthy and godly manner. Maleeha Siddiqui has given us a lovely new middle grade book that will function well as a window for those who are not a part of the Muslim faith and a door for those who are. Thank you to Scholastic for a paperback ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Maleeha Siddiqui

    Being the author, I'm obviously biased. That aside, I'm both excited and terrified to share this book with the world in the fall. At its core, BARAKAH BEATS is a joyful story about a proud young Muslim girl navigating friendships, family drama, and her beliefs, just like any other middle school kid. I hope some part of Nimra’s journey resonates with you <3 I'm proud that this is my debut. Being the author, I'm obviously biased. That aside, I'm both excited and terrified to share this book with the world in the fall. At its core, BARAKAH BEATS is a joyful story about a proud young Muslim girl navigating friendships, family drama, and her beliefs, just like any other middle school kid. I hope some part of Nimra’s journey resonates with you <3 I'm proud that this is my debut.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Fanna

    March 13, 2021: "about a Muslim girl who joins a boy band in an effort to find her place at a new school" faith + friendship + courage = excellence March 13, 2021: "about a Muslim girl who joins a boy band in an effort to find her place at a new school" faith + friendship + courage = excellence

  5. 4 out of 5

    Siraj

    Okay so this is like one of my favorite books like... ever??? It has so much in it that means so much to me and I am just thankful for its existence. More coherent review incoming hopefully. Thank you to the author for the giveaway thru which I received an ARC!!!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ms. Yingling

    E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus Nimra is excited but a little apprehensive about going to the public middle school earlier than expected. Her parents had her enrolled in Guided Light Acadamy, a private Islamic School, while she worked on the Hifz program, but now that she has memorized the Qur'an and had her celebration, they feel it's time for her to transition. Her best friend Jenna goes to Farmwell, so she won't be alone. Jenna isn't as supportive as Nimra thought she would be, and visibly ba E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus Nimra is excited but a little apprehensive about going to the public middle school earlier than expected. Her parents had her enrolled in Guided Light Acadamy, a private Islamic School, while she worked on the Hifz program, but now that she has memorized the Qur'an and had her celebration, they feel it's time for her to transition. Her best friend Jenna goes to Farmwell, so she won't be alone. Jenna isn't as supportive as Nimra thought she would be, and visibly balks when she finds that Nimra will be wearing her hijab every day. Nimra's parents are a bit more conservative than her grandparents, and her mother quit her job to stay home to take care of the family, and is now working with Nimra's father on their generic drug business, which takes up a lot of time. Nimra is conscientious about prayers and wearing her hijab in part because that is what her parents want, but she believes strongly in her religion and is proud that she worked hard to become a Hifz. Still, just like her parents and her grandparents, there are some intergenerational problems that she has. Her parents want her to take Spanish because it will be more useful, and don't want her to study art in school, although drawing is her absolute favorite thing to do. When Nimra is praying in the band room at lunch, she is approached by three 8th grade boys who have a Muslim band; Matthew, Bilal, and Waleed. They approach Nimra to sing with them, which sounds like a good idea to impress Jenna, who is ignoring her at school. The problem is that Nimra's parents think that Muslims shouldn't sing or dance in public. Bilal's sister, Khadijah, befriends Nimra and is a great comfort, since she also sets aside time to pray and wears a hijab. Nimra agrees to practice with the band, who are planning on performing at a benefit concert to raise money for refugees. Nimra knows her parents won't want her to perform, even though it is for a good cause, so she hides this from them. It's a delicate path to walk, especially since she has the group over to her house, and her parents know some of the boys' parents. When things go badly wrong with her friendship with Jenna, and at the same time, she feels that she needs to quit the band, how will she be able to stay in public school when all of her friends are mad at her. Strengths: Usually, when books show students entering middle school, especially a new one, they have trouble making friends. This has a delightful amount of wish fulfillment-- not only does Nimra transition to the new school well, she is friends with super popular kids a year older! For readers who are interested in music, there's a lot about performance and being in a band. The cover alone will entice readers who want a generally upbeat story with some more serious issues to balance things out. Weaknesses: I wish I had felt more of a connection between Jenna and Nimra. Jenna never came across as being a good friend. It's great that there are terms for prayers and different parts of Islamic culture, and I completely understand why there aren't notes at the end explaining them. For my students who aren't familiar with Muslim culture, I do have Ali-Karamali's Growing Up Muslim (2012) that would help, but it would have been a good way to educate people unfamiliar with the culture to include the terms in a glossary. If I had written a book about my 7th grade experience going through confirmation class at the United Methodist Church, I would have included notes about things like what MYF* means. What I really think: The blurb says this is like The First Rule of Punk meets Save Me a Seat, but I'd replace the latter title with Zia's The Garden of My Imaan, since it is more about religious issues than about fitting into a new country. This is a great title for readers who are interested in music, art, or friend drama. *Methodist Youth Fellowship. If you don't know, you can look it up online, but sometimes it is a step people don't want to take.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Renata

    weirdly GoodReads doesn't have the audiobook edition listed here but I listened to this on audio and thought the reader was great! I think there's a lot to like about this book and I love Nimra as a main character. I kind of couldn't get over how overly-complicated and sweaty I found the central conflict to be here, though. (view spoiler)[Like, Nimra transfers from a private Muslim school to public school and is nervous about not fitting in...but THE most popular boys at public school are all Mu weirdly GoodReads doesn't have the audiobook edition listed here but I listened to this on audio and thought the reader was great! I think there's a lot to like about this book and I love Nimra as a main character. I kind of couldn't get over how overly-complicated and sweaty I found the central conflict to be here, though. (view spoiler)[Like, Nimra transfers from a private Muslim school to public school and is nervous about not fitting in...but THE most popular boys at public school are all Muslim members of a band that specifically does Muslim-themed songs...and SHE'S never sung before except for her prayers and they happen to overhear her singing her prayers and INSIST that she joins the band...which she does even though her family's personal interpretation of the Quran forbids music so she feels very guilty about it and has to keep it a secret...until they perform at a talent show at the mosque.....like.....just seems like this whole plot could have been slightly simplified!!! But go off I guess? (hide spoiler)] STILL despite my grumpy misgivings, a fun contemporary story that will inform some tweens and make others feel represented.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Aya Khalil

    I received an advance reader copy of this and couldn’t put it down! Nimra is excited about attending public school with her best friend Jenna (I don’t like her one bit), who starts giving her the cold shoulder at school. But then there’s an opportunity for Nimra to join a popular boy band at school! But she’s conflicted. Should she join the band so Jenna can think she’s cool again although she’s afraid her parents will find out? I love this middle grade novel and Maleeha does such a great job cr I received an advance reader copy of this and couldn’t put it down! Nimra is excited about attending public school with her best friend Jenna (I don’t like her one bit), who starts giving her the cold shoulder at school. But then there’s an opportunity for Nimra to join a popular boy band at school! But she’s conflicted. Should she join the band so Jenna can think she’s cool again although she’s afraid her parents will find out? I love this middle grade novel and Maleeha does such a great job creating an unapologetic Muslim character. I mean the struggle of trying to find a place to pray during the school day— been there done that (in college and not high school because I went to an islamic school). Absolutely love it and must have for all!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Rameela (Star)

    Initial thoughts: this was so wholesome and relatable and Nimra and the band are so cute!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kirin

    I have been waiting for this book for a really long time: a girl leaves an Islamic school for a public middle school and is not just unapologetic, but proud of who she is and of her religion, all while navigating such a huge life change and the day-to-day stresses of school, family, friends, and life. This is it right, the middle grade 288 page book that holds up the mirror to our own experience as a typical Muslim family in the west, that so many of us have been waiting for? Except, sigh, for m I have been waiting for this book for a really long time: a girl leaves an Islamic school for a public middle school and is not just unapologetic, but proud of who she is and of her religion, all while navigating such a huge life change and the day-to-day stresses of school, family, friends, and life. This is it right, the middle grade 288 page book that holds up the mirror to our own experience as a typical Muslim family in the west, that so many of us have been waiting for? Except, sigh, for me it was just ok. Don't get me wrong, if you are new to seeing mainstream (Scholastic) Muslim protagonists shining and making their salat on time, this book is revolutionary and amazing. But, I've been doing this a long time, and I guess I wanted more than a tweak on Aminah's Voice. I wanted to relate. I'm not a hafiza, nor do I know many 12 year olds that are. I enjoy boy bands, but have never been asked to join one. Sure the details and her decision to follow Islam the way she understands it is a great message, but it doesn't clearly appear til nearly the end of the book, and until I got there my brain was constantly finding holes in the narrative, to the point I got out a notebook and started taking notes. There is absolutely no reason you shouldn't read the book, and I know I am clearly in the minority here, so brace yourself this is a long review. If you see this at your child's book fair and you think it looks cute, grab it, it is. I am cynical and jaded and I'm owning it, so perhaps we can agree to disagree, I'm just sad that I didn't absolutely love it, so hold on, because I'm going to get it all out so that I can move on, inshaAllah. SYNOPSIS: The book opens with Nimra at her Ameen, a celebration to acknowledge her completion of not just reading the entire Quran, but of memorizing it. Her best friend Jenna, her non Muslim neighbor, is there and as everything is explained to her, the readers learn about Surah Yaseen, becoming a hafiza, and the schooling differences that Nimra and Jenna have had. That night when Jenna is sleeping over and the girls are watching Marvel's Infiniti War, Nimra's parents inform Nimra that she will be starting public school and that the two girls will finally be together. The news is big, but Jenna shrugs it off, and Nimra senses that something is off between them. When school starts, Jenna is surprised that Nimra is planning to wear her hijab to school, and this is before they have even left in the morning. The rest of the day: comments by Jenna's friends, purposefully being excluded at lunch by Jenna, and being overwhelmed with a big school and so many teachers, makes Nimra miss her small three person Islamic school. Additionally she loves art, and is always tucked away in a corner with a sketch pad, her parents, however, have made her take Spanish instead of art class, and the frustration is painful. When she asks the principal for a quiet place to pray, another girl Khadijah pipes up that she can pray in the band room where she does. Khadija and her immediately hit it off, but she has already prayed, so Nimra sets off on her own to find the room. As she is about to start, some music starts, so to tune it out and focus on her salat, she recites aloud. When she exits, three boys are in awe at her vocal abilities: Bilal, Waleed, and Matthew, three Muslim boys. Better known as the middle school celebrity boy band, Barakah Beats, the boys beg her to join them. Nimra says she'll think about it, but as the days show her and Jenna drifting further apart, being in the band might just be the way to get Jenna to pay attention. Unfortunately, Nimra's family doesn't believe Islam allows for musical instruments. She acknowledges that it is controversial, but that her family doesn't play any instruments, attend concerts, or get up and dance. She figures she can join the band, just long enough to get Jenna's friendship back on track and then dump the band without having to tell her parents. There is just one giant hiccup, they are planning to perform at a refugee fundraiser, oh and she really likes hanging out with the boys and Bilal's sister Khadijah. WHY I LOVE IT: Had I read this book five maybe seven years ago, I'd be gushing, swooning, but when the author says in the forward that she is showing a girl proudly owning her religion, and essentially daring to be her authentic self, I expect something almost radical, revolutionary even. We are all settling in to seeing our Muslim selves in fiction and acknowledging that we are not a monolith, that we are diverse and flawed and valuable, but this premise felt different somehow, and I really wanted to connect with Nimra and her family, so when I didn't, it hurt. It isn't just a main character Muslim POV, or an OWN voice book, it is portrayed as being authentic to those of us that love our faith and don't feel like we need to tone it down to be American. We are second or third generation American Muslim, we know our deen and this is our country, there is no going back to a homeland or assimilating. The book is about her being true to her self, but I don't know that I know what she wants or what she believes, aside from her parents. The book addresses intergenerational conflict of power and expectation between her parents and grandparents, but other than for Spanish vs Art class, it seems to skim by the music issue, the main issue of the book. The book expects readers to acknowledge the maturity and voice of a 12 year old girl, but that same expectation isn't given to the readers of nearly the same age. It glosses over any articulate arguments for why musical instruments are or are not allowed. It mentions that some people feel it is ok if the lyrics are not bad, some say it isn't ok, that there are disagreements, that there are controversies, but it never explicitly answers, why? And readers are going to notice. I found it incredibly odd, that the music controversy is at the heart of this book, but the safe alternative is art and drawing. Drawing faces is a HUGE point of differing opinions among Muslims, perhaps as big, if not bigger than music. Nimra is always sketching and it mentions that she often is drawing super heroes: people, with faces, and possibly (magic) powers! The whole book she is in the band, and she regrets that she is using it to get back at her friend, but there isn't a whole lot of internal debate if she thinks music is haram like her parents or it is ok, she just stays in the band, and plots how she will leave it so her parents don't find out. SPOILER: I like that she ultimately makes the decision that is best for her and leaves the band after fulfilling her commitment, but we never see that, that is what her heart is telling her. There is no self exploration or critical thinking, it is just justifying why she is doing it, and then not doing it. In terms of character development, only Nimra is really explored, the side characters are all pretty flat. Jenna gets some depth, but not much. I mean, how does Nimra's best friend and neighbor who comes over every day after school not know that she has been working on memorizing the Quran? Not know how to dress at a religious themed celebration, a halter dress, really? Jenna is never shown to be a good friend, or even a nice person, the tone around her is negative from the start. We are told she is a good friend, but we never see it. The conversation about Nimra wearing hijab to school is like two lines, but is made to be a much bigger issue in Nimra's head as she feels things haven't been right since then. But, I'm not buying it. The girls go to movies, they go shopping, and she wears hijab, so why would school be so different? All of Jenna's friends know about Nimra, so she can't really be that embarrassed by Nimra's scarf if they go out when she is wearing it and none of the other classmates seem surprised. I also felt off with the portrayal of the character because we so fervently believe that often the best dawah or even method to break down stereotypes and bigotry is to get to know some one personally. Jenna knows all of Nimra's family and has for nearly her whole life, and she is so hateful and clueless to everything Islam? It is a stretch, the family prays, fasts, dresses Islamically, cares for her, feeds her cultural food, yet she is oblivious to it all. I get that her hate or lack of interest is probably reflective of how a lot of our neighbors are, but there aren't many non Muslims in this book, and that portrayal is going to linger heavily for young readers. Nimra is likeable enough on the surface, but the more you think about her, she isn't really any different than those she is hurt by. She is mad when Julie assumes she doesn't speak English, but she assumes Matthew isn't Muslim because he is white. She checks her self in other ways, but this one seems to slip by. Other inconsistencies I noticed are when the first day of school teachers are really mean to her, but then it is never mentioned again. I wanted to know did they keep at it, did she prove them wrong? It was built up and then just abandoned. At her old school there were two other girls doing hifz, but when she meets up with one at Saturday school it seems they both are no longer at the school either. Did they graduate? Did they abandon it? Her Quran teacher comes to see her perform a song, perhaps a little understanding about her point of view in addition to the other Muslim's in the band would have helped explain the why music is controversial in Islam. Also, does and would ADAMS allow music at an event? I'm genuinely curious. I even tried to Google it. Most masjids probably wouldn't, but maybe a community center would. Readers are going to be so confused why Nimra is so stressed when the religious teacher and the place of worship are fine with it.The friends as boys thing is sweet, but a little surprising, having three boys come over to hang out and watch a movie, high fiving them, sure it isn't shocking, but its a bit inconsistent given the narrative. Plus, Nimra trying to help hook Waleed and Julie up? For as much as the book doesn't want to sell itself out, little acts like this without a little hesitation or comment or introspection, kind of make it seem like its trying to normalize non Islamic acts as being ok. I love the pop culture Marvel references, The Greatest Showman songs and the shoutout to Amal Unbound. I even loved the Deen Squad remixes getting acknowledged, but it made me wonder if all the songs of Barakah Beats are Islamic themed. Perhaps it doesn't matter, but it would be interesting to know since the entire school adores the band, even asking for autographs at one point. FLAGS: Nothing a third grader and up couldn't handle: music, art, lying, bullying, talking about crushes, family fights.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Tournas

    What did you like about the book? After being homeschooled for most of her life, Pakistani-American Nimra Sharif is entering public school in seventh grade. And it is like the "fifth circle of hell" - noisy, intimidating, with people eyeing her hijab and assuming she can't speak English. Luckily there is Jenna, who has been her best friend forever. Except, Jenna just doesn't seem as there for her as she used to be. When popular eighth graders Waleed, Bilal, and Matthew (who are Muslim like Nimra What did you like about the book? After being homeschooled for most of her life, Pakistani-American Nimra Sharif is entering public school in seventh grade. And it is like the "fifth circle of hell" - noisy, intimidating, with people eyeing her hijab and assuming she can't speak English. Luckily there is Jenna, who has been her best friend forever. Except, Jenna just doesn't seem as there for her as she used to be. When popular eighth graders Waleed, Bilal, and Matthew (who are Muslim like Nimra) recruit her to sing with them in their band "Barakah Beats," it seems like the perfect ploy to get Jenna to pay attention to her again. Nimra loves hanging out with them and with Bilal's sister Khadijah, but she does feel conflicted about making music. Nimra and her family believe that music is inconsistent with their faith. Should she tell her parents about Barakah Beats? Or just hope that her plan to regain Jenna's friendship by being the star of the band will go without a hitch? Nimra's first person account of practicing her religion in the hectic milieu of middle school is illuminating and fresh. Finding time for her midday prayers, dealing with micro-aggressions around her hijab, and navigating the social "hell" of the middle school cafeteria are all interwoven into a believable tale. My criticism: I felt that Nimra's lighting-fast rise from obscurity to popularity was not totally believable.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ash Otterloo

    Barakah Beats follows devout, community-loving 12-yr-old Nimra as she transitions into public middle school for the first time, and finds her closest friendship strained from growing apart. Almost instantly, she's given the opportunity to make her mark as she's welcomed into a fun-loving, tight-knit music group that needs her voice to win a competition. But she's torn between her new friendships--and impressing her old bestie with them, and her family's belief in abstaining from music performanc Barakah Beats follows devout, community-loving 12-yr-old Nimra as she transitions into public middle school for the first time, and finds her closest friendship strained from growing apart. Almost instantly, she's given the opportunity to make her mark as she's welcomed into a fun-loving, tight-knit music group that needs her voice to win a competition. But she's torn between her new friendships--and impressing her old bestie with them, and her family's belief in abstaining from music performance. Ultimately, she's painted herself into a corner, and torn: on the one hand, performing music is against her personal convictions, but on the other hand, so is going back on her commitment to her word. The heart of Nimra's dilemma is one relatable to most young people--choosing between easy acceptance among their peers or following through and doing what their gut believes is right for them. The characters in this book are my favorite part--vibrant, funny, and relatable! Each one is lovable and flawed, making it easy to put myself in Nimra's shoes and root for her the whole way. I also appreciated the nuanced approach to faith, and the exploration of the idea that we all do our best at the end of the day, while trying hard to love the people around us.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Katie Reilley

    Thank you to the author and publisher for sharing an early copy with #bookexpedition. For the first time, seventh grader Nimra is headed to public school. Nervous as she is, she’s excited to have her best friend Jenna by her side. But as Nimra begins to navigate the overwhelming classes, teachers, and schedule, Jenna ignores her, causing Nimra to make a desperate choice to win back her friend’s approval. Nimra receives an invitation to join Barakah Beats, a band made up of popular eighth grade b Thank you to the author and publisher for sharing an early copy with #bookexpedition. For the first time, seventh grader Nimra is headed to public school. Nervous as she is, she’s excited to have her best friend Jenna by her side. But as Nimra begins to navigate the overwhelming classes, teachers, and schedule, Jenna ignores her, causing Nimra to make a desperate choice to win back her friend’s approval. Nimra receives an invitation to join Barakah Beats, a band made up of popular eighth grade boys. Though Nimra’s been taught that music isn’t allowed in Islam, she’s willing to do anything for Jenna’s friendship and approval. So she decides on a plan: join the band just until things are good with Jenna again, and then quit before her parents find out what she’s up to. Unfortunately, there’s a major roadblock in her plan: she comes to care about her band mates, and they grow close as friends. So now Nimra’s got to decide who to betray - her friends or her beliefs. A delightful middle grade read with themes of navigating friendships, family, faith, your passion, and staying true to who you are. Publishing 10/19/21.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Karen Parisot

    Nimra Sharif is an only child with two loving parents. She’s twelve years old and has just become an accomplished Hafiza or memorizer of the Qur’an. It’s a big deal for Muslims and her whole family is very proud. Her parents have decided now is the right time for her to enroll in public school, and she’s excited to be going to the very same school as Jenna. They’ve been the best of friends since they were four, so she’s bewildered when Jenna practically gives her the cold-shoulder. Nimra will do Nimra Sharif is an only child with two loving parents. She’s twelve years old and has just become an accomplished Hafiza or memorizer of the Qur’an. It’s a big deal for Muslims and her whole family is very proud. Her parents have decided now is the right time for her to enroll in public school, and she’s excited to be going to the very same school as Jenna. They’ve been the best of friends since they were four, so she’s bewildered when Jenna practically gives her the cold-shoulder. Nimra will do almost anything to win back her friend. Nimra’s a very likable character. She’s smart, good-hearted, and talented. She has a dilemma to solve, and it’s good to see how she works through it. It also shows her determination in pursuing her dreams. She never gives up. A dynamic novel for middle-grade readers about friendship and fitting in, about being true to yourself and your beliefs.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Vitalis

    12 year old Nimra is thrilled when her parents suggest she transfer to public school, which means she'll finally be with her best friend, Jenna. When Jenna acts strangely about Nimra's hijab on their first day, Nimra is desperate to prove she can fit in. Even though her family doesn't approve of music, Nimra joins a boy band, hoping their popularity will help repair her friendship with Jenna. She doesn't intend to remain in the band after she wins Jenna back, but the boys enter them in a fundrai 12 year old Nimra is thrilled when her parents suggest she transfer to public school, which means she'll finally be with her best friend, Jenna. When Jenna acts strangely about Nimra's hijab on their first day, Nimra is desperate to prove she can fit in. Even though her family doesn't approve of music, Nimra joins a boy band, hoping their popularity will help repair her friendship with Jenna. She doesn't intend to remain in the band after she wins Jenna back, but the boys enter them in a fundraising benefit. Nimra's web of lies grows until she finally has to face what she's done––and figure out who she is at home and at school. A lovely story about a girl torn between her religion and the trials of middle school, this book is a recommended read.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey

    Twelve year old Nimra is about to start public school for the first time. Going into 7th grade is daunting enough, but Nimra is sure with her best friend Jenna by her side she’ll be able to survive I love this book. It is well written and the characters are well developed. I know very little of Islam or the Muslim culture, but it felt to me that this book was a good representation of the diversity that exists within ones own religion. This book is about Nimra growing up, deciding who she is, wha Twelve year old Nimra is about to start public school for the first time. Going into 7th grade is daunting enough, but Nimra is sure with her best friend Jenna by her side she’ll be able to survive I love this book. It is well written and the characters are well developed. I know very little of Islam or the Muslim culture, but it felt to me that this book was a good representation of the diversity that exists within ones own religion. This book is about Nimra growing up, deciding who she is, what makes a good friend, and how she interprets her faith and can stay true to herself and her beliefs.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kate (GirlReading)

    an uplifting and adorable story of friendship, faith and the daunting journey of being true to yourself and your beliefs as a child. this book is full of much heart and was an utter delight from start to finish and one I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend. TW: bullying, Islamophobia

  18. 4 out of 5

    Grace W

    Review to come

  19. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    Barakah Beats is a must-have for any classroom or school library. Nimra Sharif, a grade 7 student, is about to enter public school for the first time after going to Islamic school up to this point. A terrifying scenario for any 12-year old. But no worries! Her best friend from the neighbourhood, Jenna, will be there to help her find her way. Or will she? Jenna seems different at school, especially since Nimra has decided to continue to wear hijab - something that took Jenna by surprise. Nimra is Barakah Beats is a must-have for any classroom or school library. Nimra Sharif, a grade 7 student, is about to enter public school for the first time after going to Islamic school up to this point. A terrifying scenario for any 12-year old. But no worries! Her best friend from the neighbourhood, Jenna, will be there to help her find her way. Or will she? Jenna seems different at school, especially since Nimra has decided to continue to wear hijab - something that took Jenna by surprise. Nimra is struggling with the new school until she stumbles upon the popular grade 8 band Barakah Beats. And they stumbled upon her voice and...they love it! They want her in the band! But wait. The way Nimra's family practices Islam, music is not allowed. Is this what Nimra believes, too? If she goes against her parents, will it strain their relationship in the same way her Mama and Nana's is? On the other hand, the people in the band are really nice. And Jenna seems to be star-struck by the possibility. It wouldn't be bad to just try it out for a bit...would it? My favourite part of this book is the layers to Nimra's decisions. Like would be true of any 12-year old, everything seems to involve considering her relationship with her friends, her family, and her faith. But this is done by the author in a very real way, and not as though Nimra is checking boxes on a decision-making list. I find Nimra very authentic. The best part, though, is the ending. No spoilers, but Nimra's authenticity rings true in a genre of book that doesn't always stick the landing. Personally, as someone who often struggled with faith/family/friend decisions growing up, I would have loved to see something like this when I was 12. Rather then telling a story with a foregone conclusion (I'm looking at you, mid-90s Christian literature), Barakah Beats treats Nimra's journey through grade 7 and balancing these parts of who she is (and who she wants to be) with the respect it deserves. I can see middle schoolers of all faith backgrounds (including non-adherents) seeing themselves in this book and realizing that however they choose to live their life and find their own answers to any faith/family/friend tugs-of-war, it is about who they are and not about what someone else tells them. I don't think I've read a middle grade book that respects this process as much as this one does, which is why it's a must-have for every school!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Layla Hersch

    Such a sweet book! I definitely liked Nimra, and enjoyed her messy introduction to middle school. There were so many things I loved about this book. I like how Islam was centered in positive ways, even though the main conflict was with the main character and how she wants to express herself through her faith. I liked how the other Muslim characters offered glimpses into different Muslims - born in the US, immigrated to the US, or came to the US as refugees - yet all of them building beautiful liv Such a sweet book! I definitely liked Nimra, and enjoyed her messy introduction to middle school. There were so many things I loved about this book. I like how Islam was centered in positive ways, even though the main conflict was with the main character and how she wants to express herself through her faith. I liked how the other Muslim characters offered glimpses into different Muslims - born in the US, immigrated to the US, or came to the US as refugees - yet all of them building beautiful lives without having to give up on Islam. I think the "music is not allowed" conflict was described very well. Most kids probably think of it in Coco terms - but Nimra conflicted on how Islam is interpretted by Muslims differently was a very nice touch. (there's an author's note, too, that explains how her exploration of music is personal and not meant to judge other Muslims, which I think was covered very well within the book, too!) I like how Nimra's conflict with her white/Christian friend was portrayed. I think most kids know the pain of friends drifting apart and everyone can relate to "I will do whatever to make them like me," even though Nimra's conflict revolves around her being visibly Muslim. I think the issues of Islamophobia was done so well - of course a white girl could be a fangirl of the "cute" boy's band even if they are Muslim, and still be hateful/Islamophobic towards her lifelong friend when it might jeopardize her social standing at school. My only complaint is that the sole Jewish character, Matthew Cohen, is a convert. The only clue that he was born Jewish is his family name, (though with a Christian first name so perhaps interfaith to begin with?) and nothing is brought up about who he was before conversion. It's a small thing that didn't detract from me liking the book as a whole, but I would love to see Jewish representation without it involving us converting. There is already a very negative obsession gentiles have with Jews converting and it's a little discouraging to see our only rep in a book be in this way. All in all, I really liked the book. It made me cry many times, the resolution was tight and I think any kid would be able to relate to Nimra's struggles.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Marion Cleborne

    I found out about Barakah Beats though Twitter, where it was recommended but another Muslim author I follow. I’m interested in reading more middle grade dealing with religion, and the cover immediately caught my eye, so I picked it up! I read it over only a few days. Nimra has just left her Islamic school to attend public school. There, she finds everything is a whole lot different. Even her best friend Jenna seems too cool for her. When Nimra learns of the popular Muslim boy band, the Barakah B I found out about Barakah Beats though Twitter, where it was recommended but another Muslim author I follow. I’m interested in reading more middle grade dealing with religion, and the cover immediately caught my eye, so I picked it up! I read it over only a few days. Nimra has just left her Islamic school to attend public school. There, she finds everything is a whole lot different. Even her best friend Jenna seems too cool for her. When Nimra learns of the popular Muslim boy band, the Barakah Beats, she decides to join in an attempt to win back her friendship with Jenna… Even if it means going against her views on being Muslim. Barakah Beats is a story very much steeped in Islamic culture. While I think this is great for Muslim middle grade readers, I wish it came with some sort of glossary in the back to help those less familiar with Arabic terms. I did learn a lot while reading, though. I have an immense respect for hafiz/hafiza, and learning about that tradition made me want to delve in to my own religion more. The tween drama in this book definitely reminds me of middle school. Nimra is very relatable even to non-Muslim readers with things like her love of art and family troubles. I think many readers will know someone like Jenna. This book also has a bittersweet ending that I do like, though may not be for everyone. I enjoyed its message of understanding and respecting other interpretations of religion. While some parts of this book require you to suspend disbelief (I can’t see any religious band being a huge middle school hit), it’s a cute middle grade read with a good message and a unique story to tell. However, as Nimra’s beliefs are very different from most American children’s, I would expect students to be confused or even disheartened by some of this story. That’s a good way to open a conversation about respecting the beliefs of others, one of the core messages of this book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    thewanderingjew

    I screened this for my twin granddaughters. I thought this might be a positive introduction to a culture other than their own. This story is about Nimra, a 12 year old girl who loves her Muslim religion. When she transfers into the public school system, from her religious school, her best friend Jenna, is going to show her the ropes. However Jenna disappoints her when she voices concern about Nimra’s wearing of a headscarf in school. How she handles the problems that arise, teaches her an import I screened this for my twin granddaughters. I thought this might be a positive introduction to a culture other than their own. This story is about Nimra, a 12 year old girl who loves her Muslim religion. When she transfers into the public school system, from her religious school, her best friend Jenna, is going to show her the ropes. However Jenna disappoints her when she voices concern about Nimra’s wearing of a headscarf in school. How she handles the problems that arise, teaches her an important lesson about honesty, acceptance, respect, friendship, family loyalty and love. She learns to trust her parents with all of her secrets and problems. They will always be there for her. She learns that her religion will guide her and bring her peace. She matures. As she finds more friends at school that accept her for herself, as she finds friends that she is more comfortable with, her life is happier but more complicated. In the end, however, she realizes what is really important, and that is, to be proud of what she believes in, to respect herself and her family, to follow her dreams and to follow her religion where it leads her. She wants to be her best self. She also learns what it is to have true friends. I believe the author wrote an excellent book that accomplished the goal she set out for herself, that is to help young Muslims feel more comfortable when they are in uncomfortable environments, to honor themselves and to not compromise their core beliefs to satisfy others. I think she instills pride in the young who follow Islam. She makes the religion beautiful for them and makes it something others can respect. I am not certain, however, if it accomplishes the goal of mutual respect and inclusiveness.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Pete Springer

    Barakah Beats is the debut novel of author Maleeha Siddiqui. It is the story of Nimra, a 12-year-old Pakistani Muslim who is transitioning from a private Islamic school to an American public school. It deals with many traditional problems children starting middle school face—self-esteem, fitting in, and making friends. What adds an extra layer of tension to this novel is the religious aspect. Nimra memorized the Qur'an at her private school and wants to maintain her Muslim identity while also fi Barakah Beats is the debut novel of author Maleeha Siddiqui. It is the story of Nimra, a 12-year-old Pakistani Muslim who is transitioning from a private Islamic school to an American public school. It deals with many traditional problems children starting middle school face—self-esteem, fitting in, and making friends. What adds an extra layer of tension to this novel is the religious aspect. Nimra memorized the Qur'an at her private school and wants to maintain her Muslim identity while also fitting into her new school. Nimra has previously had a friendship with Jenna, an American girl she thought was her close friend. Jenna seems to treat Nimra differently at school, and Nimra decides she wants to find a way to earn back Jenna's friendship. Some eighth-grade Muslim boys at her school have a music group called Barakah Beats. They befriend Nimra after they discover she is a talented singer. Nimra becomes a celebrity around campus, and Jenna suddenly wants to be friends with her again. One of the interesting dilemmas Nimra faces is that she's not sure her family will approve of her interest in music. While Nimra likes the boys and the attention she gets from Jenna and her friends, her real passion is drawing and becoming an artist. Nimra is not forthcoming and honest with the boy and her parents, and her guilt becomes too much to manage. I enjoyed the read and empathized with Nimra's difficult situation wanting to fit in. Siddiqui's book raises interesting questions about how challenging it can be for children with other ethnic, cultural, and religious differences to find their place in American society while maintaining their identity.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Melissa (BookishMomo)

    It has been a long time since I ventured into the realm of middle grade and I have my job to thank for the reintroduction as well as this arc. I'm so glad that I picked this one up quick when I saw it in the breakroom. It left me wishing there had been more books like this when I was that age. I was always searching for books with characters different from myself because I wanted to learn about different types of families and cultures and books like this one are so important for that as well as It has been a long time since I ventured into the realm of middle grade and I have my job to thank for the reintroduction as well as this arc. I'm so glad that I picked this one up quick when I saw it in the breakroom. It left me wishing there had been more books like this when I was that age. I was always searching for books with characters different from myself because I wanted to learn about different types of families and cultures and books like this one are so important for that as well as for the young readers who they are representing because everyone deserves to see themselves in books. I definitely came out of this book with new knowledge and respect and a feeling like this book needs to make its way into every school library or on the shelves of every young reader. But that isn't all - it gave me these huge nostalgic feelings for middle school that I really enjoyed. Dramatics, new friendships, and crushes. I remember those times. However, it did have the dreaded mean girl trope kind of going on which has never been my thing but is definitely realistic in a middle school sense. But I loved seeing Nimra discovering who she is, learning that she can always be true to herself and her real friends will never make her feel bad for it, and just navigating those tween waters that we've all had to go through but within the realm of a culture and religion different from my own. If you're looking for a quick but important read or know of young reader who would enjoy this or benefit from the above then this is the perfect book for you or them.

  25. 4 out of 5

    A.J.

    My review is based off a physical ARC I received from the author. This has not impacted my opinion. I feel really lucky to have gotten to read this early. It was a quick, weekend read for me, but it left me feeling so happy and warm. Nimra is a wonderful character, one who wants to fit in at her new school while staying true to her faith. We so rarely get to see Muslims as the heroes of a story and here we have not only Nimra but all of the Barakah Beats boys (including Matthew, who's a convert!) My review is based off a physical ARC I received from the author. This has not impacted my opinion. I feel really lucky to have gotten to read this early. It was a quick, weekend read for me, but it left me feeling so happy and warm. Nimra is a wonderful character, one who wants to fit in at her new school while staying true to her faith. We so rarely get to see Muslims as the heroes of a story and here we have not only Nimra but all of the Barakah Beats boys (including Matthew, who's a convert!) and Khadijah, Waleed's younger sister. The representation is wonderful and it was honestly incredible to see this Muslim boy band being viewed in a positive light. The Barakah Beats crew are super popular at Nimra's new school. I admittedly don't know much about Islam, so I was surprised to learn about the various interpretations surrounding the creation of music. Some Muslims believe creating music is prohibited, while others don't. Like Judaism (my own faith), Islam isn't a monolith of beliefs and Siddiqui portrays that in such a beautiful, effortless way. There's also plenty of friendship drama, a cornerstone of middle grade stories. No one felt like a cartoon villain here, although several characters made choices that later came back to bite them. That's what happens during middle school. It felt realistic. I hope Muslim kids see themselves reflected in the pages of these books and that those of us who aren't Muslim can simply enjoy being invited in to this wonderful, heartfelt story.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sheila Averbuch

    When Nimra leaves her Islamic school and joins a public middle school for the 7th grade, she knows it'll be a tough adjustment, but at least she'll have her best friend Jenna with her. It's even harder than Nimra thinks, though, with the drama of cliques and clothes and gym class, plus other stuff she's already decided is non-negotiable, like making time for prayers during the school day. Most difficult of all, Jenna seems different, and even a little embarrassed about things like Nimra's hijab. When Nimra leaves her Islamic school and joins a public middle school for the 7th grade, she knows it'll be a tough adjustment, but at least she'll have her best friend Jenna with her. It's even harder than Nimra thinks, though, with the drama of cliques and clothes and gym class, plus other stuff she's already decided is non-negotiable, like making time for prayers during the school day. Most difficult of all, Jenna seems different, and even a little embarrassed about things like Nimra's hijab. When Nimra is asked by a group of popular 8th graders to join their boy band, Barakah Beats, she knows it will get Jenna's attention, but it also pits Nimra against her own feelings about who she wants to be, as singing and playing music go against the way she practices her faith. But the boys are great and love Nimra's voice, so maybe it's worth it to compromise this once, in order to get Jenna back? I loved this so much: the soul-searching subject matter never weighs it down...there are so many laughs out loud, especially with the relatable family dynamics. It taught me tons, too, about different ways Muslims engage with their faith, all wrapped up in a super believable set of painful middle school scenarios. The writing is tight and beautiful. Read! Thanks to Edelweiss for the e-ARC.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kerry Beth

    I won an Advanced Reader Copy of this Young Adult novel in a Goodreads Giveaway. Thank you! After years of private religious schooling, becoming an accomplished young woman, Nimra transitions to public school - finally, she gets to go to school with her next door neighbor and long term best friend. Except, that friend seems to not accept her as she is anymore, and even to ignore her, leading Nimra to navigate this new, unfamiliar world on her own, and needing to make new friends, and really learn I won an Advanced Reader Copy of this Young Adult novel in a Goodreads Giveaway. Thank you! After years of private religious schooling, becoming an accomplished young woman, Nimra transitions to public school - finally, she gets to go to school with her next door neighbor and long term best friend. Except, that friend seems to not accept her as she is anymore, and even to ignore her, leading Nimra to navigate this new, unfamiliar world on her own, and needing to make new friends, and really learn who she is and how to be herself in a more diverse environment, that has been compared to one of Dante’s circles of hell. I learned things I didn’t know about the Islamic faith in reading this novel, but also, that as different as we all are - some things are universal. We want acceptance and a place to belong, and sometimes make bad decisions or hide pieces of ourselves in service of those goals - at least until we begin to learn better and become stronger and more confident in ourselves. Highly enjoyable, well written, and engaging and educational without being preachy. And representative of an underrepresented group.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Pat Trattles

    Nimra, schooled in a Muslim school through 6th grade starts 7th in a public one. She is scared, but glad she will finally be going to the same school as her best friend, Jenna. But things don’t go as planned. Jenna pays little attention to Nimra when her other friends are around and Nimra feels left out. She sets out on a plan to win Jenna back by joining a boy band composed of three popular 8th graders. Doing so raises Nimra’s standing in Jenna’s eyes, but is it because of who Nimra is? Or is i Nimra, schooled in a Muslim school through 6th grade starts 7th in a public one. She is scared, but glad she will finally be going to the same school as her best friend, Jenna. But things don’t go as planned. Jenna pays little attention to Nimra when her other friends are around and Nimra feels left out. She sets out on a plan to win Jenna back by joining a boy band composed of three popular 8th graders. Doing so raises Nimra’s standing in Jenna’s eyes, but is it because of who Nimra is? Or is it because of the band? Siddiqui has done a superb job of nailing the angst of the middle school experience. The pain of wanting to fit in is a universal one that crosses cultural boundaries and readers will relate regardless of their cultural or religious backgrounds. Thanks to Scholastic Press for giving me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Patti Sabik

    I really enjoyed this debut from Maleeha Siddiqui and I think middle schoolers will as well. I wish the relationship between Nimra and Jenna had been more fleshed out. I didn't really feel their connection at the beginning even though Nimra told us they were close and when they got to school together Jenna was painted as a horrible person. In fact, many of the students seemed to be outwardly Islamophobic, yet the band "Barakah Beats" is hugely popular and being associated or part of the band is I really enjoyed this debut from Maleeha Siddiqui and I think middle schoolers will as well. I wish the relationship between Nimra and Jenna had been more fleshed out. I didn't really feel their connection at the beginning even though Nimra told us they were close and when they got to school together Jenna was painted as a horrible person. In fact, many of the students seemed to be outwardly Islamophobic, yet the band "Barakah Beats" is hugely popular and being associated or part of the band is instant star status. As an adult reader, I thought the lack of inclusion of a glossary at the end was a shame because it would have added considerably to the whole appeal of the book. All-in-all I really look forward to more from this author and I'm excited to add "Barakah Beats" to my MS collection.

  30. 5 out of 5

    (a)lyss(a)

    I received a copy of this book through the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review. This is a cute book! It's a short, sweet, and easy to read book. We follow Nimra as she starts middle school at a public school for the first time. She grapples with balancing her religious beliefs with her love of art and music. She also has to figure out friendships and how to not compromise on your beliefs. While Nimra talks about praying and wearing a hijab there isn't a whole lot about Islam in th I received a copy of this book through the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review. This is a cute book! It's a short, sweet, and easy to read book. We follow Nimra as she starts middle school at a public school for the first time. She grapples with balancing her religious beliefs with her love of art and music. She also has to figure out friendships and how to not compromise on your beliefs. While Nimra talks about praying and wearing a hijab there isn't a whole lot about Islam in this book, but some context is there for anyone unfamiliar with the practice to understand why Nimra does certain things. It's a cute middle-grade book that tackles lying, hiding things from family, making and keeping friendships, and other familiar experiences.

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