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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, Multigenerational, Poetry (see also Stories in Verse)
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2024
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Mar 2024
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 9 to 12
  • Grade: 4 to 8
  • Reading age: 9 to 12


Key Selling Points

  • Ali is an eighth-grade student trying to to do it all—get good grades, fit in with his friends, get the girl and satisfy his parents—all while struggling to deal with the anti-Muslim racism around him. Writing poetry helps. If only his father wasn't set against it.
  • Call Me Al deals with what it's like to be an immigrant (Ali and his family immigrated from Pakistan when he was little), racism (from peers and the world at large), balancing family versus friends' expectations, first crushes, being from a lower-income household, being Muslim and finding forgiveness for those who hurt you.
  • Features a relatable male protagonist who discovers spoken-word poetry as an outlet for his feelings. Also makes clear the relationship between poetry and hip-hop.
  • Co-authored by the power duo of veteran writer Eric Walters and renowned poet and motivational speaker Wali Shah, who has based this character's struggles with choosing between studying science (for his parents) and writing poetry (for himself) on his own experiences.

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

“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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