When reading Rumaysa it is difficult to believe that it is a debut title by Radiya Hafiza, particularly when you consider that three much loved, and well known, fairy tales are woven together within this one book, and done so in a way that ensures a familiarity to the characters and settings throughout the book whether the reader is familiar with them or not, whilst giving them much needed diversity in both character and content.
As readers follow the adventures of Rumaysa, Cinderayla, and Sleeping Sara, they are treated to stunning illustrations by illustrators Rhaida El Touny and Areeba Siddique, who bring the characters to life on the page with such incredible authenticity and detail, and ensure that this brand new fairytale comes to life in their imaginations too. What I love about this version of the stories I, like countless others, am familiar with from early childhood is that the characters names and appearances have been adapted, as have locations, and these changes in the three heroines offer representation, within what will doubtless be a popular choice from bookshelves, to children that are still disproportionately represented, especially in fairy tales that have been written in stone, and shared down the generations.
Just look at the stunning cover design, and consider how Rumaysa is depicted compared to stereotypical representations of Rapunzel.
In addition to the invaluable representation being offered within this book, I also love that the heroines within this adaptation are not waiting around in the hope that some ‘noble steed’ will come and rescue you, and instead use their own intelligence, self worth, and bravery to better the situation they find themselves in when we are first acquainted with them. I really hope that there are more of these fairy tales to come, particularly as they offer young females a non gender stereotyped interpretation of these popular stories to love, enjoy, and become inspired by.
Take Rumaysa, the lead female we meet first within this fairy tale, and who entwines all three characters stories together, yes is locked away in a tower, but this young lady manages her own escape! Cinderayla decides her own fate after getting to go to the ball, dressed stunningly, and meeting a prince, and Sleeping Sara certainly doesn’t need to be kissed by her very own knight in shining armour in order to wake up and have her very own future.
It is an utterly brilliant debut, and of course it features an equally brave young lad, equipped with his very own magic flying carpet, making this the perfect storybook for girls and boys to enjoy, and offers book groups and classes the perfect content to compare with the traditional fairy tale counterparts, and consequently countless opportunities for debate as a consequence – something parents and children can also do at home. I really hope that Radiya continues to write more of this themed content going forward, as I know how invaluable the children that feel represented by those characters that feature within this book alongside the brilliant story plot awaiting readers would be equally excited as myself, just like those children looking for a magical adventure to enjoy.
Rumaysa is published by Macmillan, is Waterstone’s Children’s Book of the Month for April 2021, and available to purchase from all good booksellers.