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Mehndi Boy

By Zain Bandali
Illustrated by Jani Balakumar
Interest Age: 6–11
Grade: 1–6
Reading Level: Common Core Correlations
CCSS.ELA-Literacy Strand-Reading literature: RL.2.2.1,2,3,4,5,6,7

Reading Level: Lexile 790L
Hardcover : 9781773217925, 108 pages, October 2023 , 8.0" x 6.5"
Paperback : 9781773217932, 108 pages, January 2024 , 8.0" x 6.5"


"Delightful . . . the world needs more ‘mehndi boys!’” —Vivek Shraya, author of The Boy and the Bindi and God Loves Hair

I was totally charmed by it.” —Ali Sethi, musician and author

An artistic, fashion-loving boy unlocks a new talent—and learns to stand up for it—in this chapter book perfect for fans of the Sadiq series and Meet Yasmin!

Tehzeeb drew curvy clouds, grand galaxies, squirmy squiggles, and delicate dots. He made charming checkerboards and even perfected paisleys. His practice was finally paying off!

The first time Tehzeeb tries mehndi, his passion for the art form blossoms. Soon, he’s creating designs for all his friends and family, and dreams of becoming the most in-demand mehndi artist in town. So Tez is hurt and confused when his favorite uncle tells him mehndi isn’t for boys. His art brings people joy. How could it be wrong? Tehzeeb doesn’t want to disappoint his uncle. But when a crisis before his cousin’s wedding puts his talents to the test, Tehzeeb must find the courage to be his true creative self.

Jani Balakumar’s expressive, vibrant illustrations bring Tehzeeb’s designs—and his community—to life. This charming, affirming story by debut author Zain Bandali will have you celebrating creativity, artistic expression, and being unapologetically yourself.

Readers can learn more about mehndi at home with activities at the end of the book.


  • Nominated, Silver Birch Express Award, OLA 2023
  • Commended, Best Bets, OLA 2023
  • Joint winner, New York Public Library Best Book for Kids 2023


“[A] fast-paced chapter book, replete with vibrant illustrations . . . This would be a lovely read-aloud, taking readers on an emotional journey along with Tehzeeb.”

- Booklist, 09/28/23

“Bandali gently and compassionately offers readers a chance to see how to be true to yourself as they follow Tez on his journey.”

- The Globe and Mail, 09/28/23

“[A] testament to the power of art to challenge the rigidities of bias and triumph over discrimination … Bandali pays homage to the rich panoply of Indo-African culture, and shows that, like art, cultural traditions are vibrant and ever-moving.”


- Quill & Quire, *starred review, 12/23