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ONE WISH by M.O. Yuksel


Fatima al-Fihri and the World's Oldest University

by M.O. Yuksel ; illustrated by Mariam Quraishi

Pub Date: March 1st, 2022
ISBN: 978-0-06-303291-0
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Born in present-day Tunisia in the early ninth century, Fatima al-Fihri craved knowledge and had one wish—to build a school where all would be welcome.

The story begins with Fatima’s early life and education. Her first word was iqra (read), and as a child, she was filled with curiosity about the world. At the time, girls from families of means were home-schooled while boys attended formal learning institutions. Fatima’s family had to flee their home due to war. During this difficult time, Fatima “stood tall, determined, and strong, / cradling her wish inside her,” a refrain used throughout the text to underscore her perseverance. As she grew older, Fatima got married, became a wealthy merchant, and lost loved ones, but she never stopped thinking about her wish. She “knew the best way to help her community was to build a school where students, especially the poor and the refugees, could live and study for free.” With the inheritance she gained after her father’s death, she began the taxing process of building and establishing the University of al-Qarawiyyin, which today remains the world’s oldest continually operating university. Several textual details reveal the important role Fatima’s Muslim faith played in her life, and Yuksel frequently employs figurative language to emphasize her strong convictions about education and equality. Quraishi’s transporting gouache-and-watercolor illustrations furnish a nuanced portrayal of the early medieval Arab world. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

An inspiring profile of a tenacious trailblazer that highlights the power of knowledge.

(author’s note, notes, bibliography, glossary, timeline) (Picture book biography. 5-10)