Roots and Wings: How Shahzia Sikander Became an Artist

Roots and Wings by Shahzia Sikander and Amy Novesky is a wonderful picture autobiography relating the life of Shahzia Sikander, the internationally recognized Pakistani-American artist. In Roots and Wings, Shahzia Sikander tells young readers about her journey to become the artist she is today.

Sikander shares her childhood experiences growing up in the city of Lahor, Pakistan with the kind of detail only an artist can provide—from the smells of hibiscus, rose, and car exhaust to the sounds of music filling the streets. She transports readers into her memories, providing a window into life in Pakistan and introducing young readers to Muslim customs and traditions she grew up with.

I really appreciate the way Roots and Wings highlights Sikander’s love of math, and how it led her to study the traditional art of illuminated Indo-Persian books. Children are often presented with creativity and logic as two separate ideas, and the marrying of the “juxtaposed” concepts was a breath of fresh air. This is a great selection to encourage young readers to follow their passion for both academic subjects and creative endeavors like art, music, and theater.

The illustrations by Hanna Barczyc are outstanding! I love how consistent the color palette is throughout the entire book. The bold colors are so wonderful, and sure to grab the attention of young readers.

The back matter includes reproductions of Sikander’s art, which is currently on display in museums across the world. Roots and Wings will definitely open the door to conversations about art with young readers, and hopefully inspire them to create their own.

You can pick up your own copy of Roots and Wings today wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Shahzia Sikander is a Pakistani-born artist who has reached international recognition. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at

Amy Novesky is an editor and award-winning author, whose titles include one of my personal favorites Girl on A Motorcycle. Please visit her website at to learn more about her and her work.

Hanna Barczyk is a widely published illustrator who splits her time between New York and Toronto. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at

Thank you so much to Abrams for providing me with a review copy of this wonderful book! I am so grateful to have learned about Shahzia, and can’t wait to share her inspiring story with the children in my life.

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