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Children's Fiction Prejudice & Racism

Call Me Al

by (author) Wali Shah & Eric Walters

Orca Book Publishers
Initial publish date
Mar 2024
Prejudice & Racism, Poetry (see also Stories in Verse), Multigenerational
Recommended Age
9 to 12
Recommended Grade
4 to 8
Recommended Reading age
9 to 12
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2024
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Mar 2024
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


Ali is an eighth-grade kid with a lot going on.

Between the pressure from his immigrant parents to ace every class, his crush on Melissa, who lives in the rich area of town while he and his family live in a shabby apartment complex, and trying his best to fit in with his friends, he feels like he’s being pulled in too many different directions.

But harder still, Ali is becoming increasingly aware of the racism around him. Comments from his friends about Pakistani food or his skin color are passed off as jokes, but he doesn’t find them funny. And when Ramadan starts, Ali doesn’t tell anyone he’s fasting because it just seems easier. Luckily he finds solace in putting his feelings into words—and poems. But his father is dead set against him using art as a distraction when he’s got schoolwork and a future career as a doctor to focus on.

Ali’s world changes when he, his mom and his little brother are assaulted by some racist teens. Ali must come to terms with his roiling feelings about his place in the world, as a Pakistani immigrant, a Muslim and a teenager with his whole life ahead of him. With help from his grandfather, an inspiring teacher and his friend, Ali leans on his words for strength. And eventually he finds his true voice.

The epub edition of this title is fully accessible.

About the authors

Growing up, Wali Shah faced pressure from his Pakistani-immigrant parents to choose a profession that would justify their many sacrifices. He surprised them by becoming a poet and public speaker, inspiring youth at hundreds of schools with his powerful, provocative verse. He is a fresh and current voice of the times at a diverse range of corporate events, has delivered TED talks, and once closed out a keynote speech made by President Barack Obama. Recently he served as poet laureate for the City of Mississauga, Ontario.

Wali Shah's profile page

Eric Walters is the author of many acclaimed and bestselling novels for children and young adults. His novels have won numerous awards, including the Silver Birch, Blue Heron, Red Maple, Snow Willow, Ruth Schwartz, and Tiny Torgi, and have received honours from the Canadian Library Association Book Awards and UNESCO's international award for Literature in Service of Tolerance.

Eric lives in Mississauga with his wife, Anita, and three children, Christina, Nicholas, and Julia. When not writing or touring across the country speaking to school groups, Eric spends time playing or watching soccer and basketball, or playing the saxophone.

To find out more about Eric and his novels, or to arrange for him to speak at your school, visit his website at

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Eric Walters' profile page

Editorial Reviews

“A comprehensive story about modern Canadian issues. Wali Shah and Eric Walters thoroughly discuss situations faced by immigrant families in Canada, such as racism, non-recognition of foreign credentials, and religious and cultural stereotypes.”

Canadian Children's Book Centre (CCBC) Canadian Children’s Book News

“This coming-of-age story examines issues that are relatable to many Muslim readers, including self-censoring of one’s identity, deflecting racist banter, and facing hate crimes…Ali’s teacher’s persistent efforts to reach him, his grandfather’s support, and his friends’ solidarity offer road maps for building community. A wholesome story with room and grace for all the characters to learn and grow.”

Kirkus Reviews

“A timely and highly relevant story, Call Me Al seems both ripped from today’s headlines and sharply reflective of contemporary diverse pre-teens’ experiences and thinking… original, engrossing, and inspiring. Recommended.”

CM: Canadian Review of Materials

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