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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"
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781773217949, 108 pages, October 2023


"Delightful . . . the world needs more ‘mehndi boys!’” —Vivek Shraya, author of The Boy & 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!

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.

“A triumph.” —Danny Ramadan, author of Salma the Syrian Chef and the Salma series


  • Nominated, Silver Birch Express Award, OLA 2023
  • Commended, Best Bets, OLA 2023
  • Joint winner, New York Public Library Best Book for Kids 2023
  • Short-listed, Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award 2024


“A delightful story about finding inspiration in unexpected places, the virtue of practice, and the beauty in so-called imperfection. Tez's tenacity is admirable and, ultimately, transformative. The world needs more ‘mehndi boys’!”

- Vivek Shraya, author of The Boy & the Bindi and God Loves Hair

“A triumph . . . navigates topics such as socially constructed gender roles and the evolution of culture and tradition, while also showcasing a beautiful form of art and a joyful childhood experience.” —Danny Ramadan, author of Salma the Syrian Chef and Salma Makes a Home

- Danny Ramadan, author of Salma the Syrian Chef and Salma Makes a Home

“[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

Mehndi Boy feels warmly familiar and highly original at the same time. I was totally charmed by it.” —Ali Sethi, musician and author

- Ali Sethi, musician and author

“[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