Sugar Free Books‘ inaugural publication, Gabe Faces Ignorance, is the first children’s picture book I’ve read that tackles Islamophobia. Written by L.I. Forsete and illustrated by Gemma Gould, the story focuses on the friendship of Gabe, a white Christian boy, and Sophie, a tan-skinned rosy-cheeked Muslim girl. The two classmates and neighbors walk home from school together every day. The story is told from Gabe’s point-of-view, but Sophie’s feelings are present through Gabe’s increasing awareness of them as well as confrontational dialogue between the children.
As the title suggests, Gabe quite literally faces his ignorance as the two friends walk home from school one day. Earlier that day, Gabe made Islamophobic comments while playing “terrorist” on the school playground. At the time he wasn’t aware Sophie is Muslim or that anyone would be offended by his derogatory comments about jihad.
On the children’s walk home from school Gabe is conscious of and confused by Sophie’s anger at him. She eventually shares that she is Muslim, and, with her father’s help, she explains that jihad means sacrifice and struggle for God. Sophie tells Gabe that he insulted her and her religion forcing Gabe to confront the consequences of his words.
Gabe does learn his lessons. Ignorance is privilege and words have consequences. The next time his classmate, Lucas, tries to play a game Gabe recognizes will hurt people, in this instance Mexicans and Mexican Americans, he declines to participate.
Gabe Faces Ignorance is an essential book that should be on everyone’s bookshelf. It moves beyond simply representing diversity by confronting privilege and oppression. Importantly, it does so through a story of friendship that many young readers will find relatable. As a result, Forsete has created a provocative and accessible read that will do important work in the world.
This is Sugarfree Books’ first publication and thankfully it won’t be their last! Checkout their forthcoming titles!