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Khadija and the Elephant Toothpaste Experiment

by Farah Qaiser and Hajer Nakua; Natalya Tariq (ill.)

l to r: Natalya Tariq, Farah Qaiser, and Hajer Nakua

Khadija and the Elephant Toothpaste Experiment offers an example of what happens when, contrary to conventional wisdom, you try something at home. The picture book illustrates how children can find their passion through play, and shows that you should never have to compromise your identity to fit in.

Khadija is fascinated by what she sees at a science fair, but she finds herself wondering “Why aren’t any of the scientists wearing a hijab?” When she receives a kit to replicate the experiment, she’s eager to use it. Her impatience leads to experimenting at home without parental supervision. The results are unforeseen – and messy.

Khadija and the Elephant Toothpaste Experiment, co-written by genomics researcher Farah Qaiser and PhD candidate Hajer Nakua, exposes children to the idea of science as a vocation and reinforces the gentle, nurturing role that parents can play in encouraging interest in the sciences. Amma and Abba do not become angry with the mess, nor are they dismissive of Khadija’s scientific aspirations. 

The story also shows a careful respect for religious and cultural tradition. The family only visits the science fair after praying Eid salah at the mosque. Khadija must overcome self-doubt that she can be a girl wearing a hijab and still be a scientist.

Khadija and the Elephant Toothpaste Experiment is well-written and beautifully illustrated – but very little is left to the reader’s imagination. Young readers are exposed to the inequality demonstrated by the lack of scientists wearing hijabs, and they can question why this may be the case. They may also be inspired to pursue careers in science and blaze new trails of their own.


Reviewer: Brian D’Souza

Publisher: Second Story Press


Price: $21.95

Page Count: 24 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 9781772603651

Released: February

Issue Date: February 2024

Categories: Kids’ Books, Picture Books

Age Range: 6–8