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“The Jiu-Jitsu Ponytail” is a beautifully illustrated children’s book about a seven-year-old girl named Noor Karim, her mischievous ponytail, and her “Baba” (dad).  It’s inspired by the author’s own experience learning Brazilian jiu-jitsu with his daughter.

Thanks to our backers, our Kickstarter campaign was successfully funded on October 18, 2018!!! Woohoo!!!  If you missed the campaign, don’t fret! You can buy your own copy (or copies!) on Amazon or directly from the author (along with stickers, patches, and tattoos!) here!

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Our Story

Mir Khalid Ali (author)

“The Jiu-Jitsu Ponytail” was born out of my love for my daughter and our shared experience learning Brazilian jiu-jitsu together. Not wanting to wake up my wife early on Saturday mornings, my 5-year-old daughter and I decided that I (gulp!) would have to take on the seemingly insurmountable task of tying her ponytail for jiu-jitsu practice. It was a hugely daunting task for both of us. In fact, tying her ponytails has been no less challenging than a martial art for me: Grappling with unruly hair, figuring out how to stretch those little, elastic hair-tie-thingies without popping them off my fingers, struggling to sweep together all those loose hairs…! And God forbid, I pull a hair…! The little yelps of pain from my baby girl are enough to make my heart stop! Eventually, I learned. I’m still no black belt in tying ponytails, mind you, but maybe at least a blue belt? Nevertheless, this experience gave birth to “The Jiu-Jitsu Ponytail.”

Our “pony-tale” (sorry, couldn’t resist!) begins with Noor getting ready to leave for her first jiu-jitsu tournament ever.  She’s a very competitive girl, and she wants to win. However, her ponytail refuses to cooperate.  It sprawls out lazily, sending tufts of hair falling onto Noor’s face and covering her eyes. The messy ponytail simply won’t let Noor tie it up tightly or be held down with some bobby pins.  Talk about a bad hair day! The exasperated girl must finally resort to some desperate measures to try and get to the jiu-jitsu tournament on time. However, Noor’s troubles are far from over…!

 

On the surface, this is a simple, fun story about a girl struggling with her unruly hair.  It’s a story that is meant to be funny and enjoyable for children.  Yet, it is also meant to speak to adults because it relates to a predicament many people — both women and men — can empathize with: The fact that our hair can often feel like it’s got “a mind of its own.”

 

 

However, there is also a deeper theme here, namely of empowering girls and the role men can and must play in it.  Noor has to make some important decisions that will affect the outcome of her performance in the jiu-jitsu tournament.  Meanwhile, her Baba must play a key role in enabling her success.

 

 

I set out to publish this story as a hardcover, children’s picture book, and I am incredibly fortunate to have found a talented, up-and-coming artist, Taahira Halim, to help bring the story to life. After nearly a year of writing, re-writing, editing, and countless sketches, followed by our very first Kickstarter campaign — which was successfully funded! — we’ve succeeded in publishing this book! Get your copy today on Amazon or directly from the author here!

The Book

Cover: Hardcover
Dimensions: 10″ width x 8″ height (landscape)
Pages: 38
Words: 984
Illustrations: Full color with over 2/3 of the book consisting of full-page illustrations
Target Readers: Primarily intended for ages 6 to 10, but kids of all ages and adults are sure to enjoy the story as well! 🙂

Buy your copy today!

We are currently working on making the book available across a number of bookstores (especially smaller neighborhood ones!) but in the meantime, you can pick up a copy (or two) on Amazon or directly from the author (along with stickers, patches, and tattoos) here!

Our Journey

We’ve come a long ways from when I first put pencil to paper and sketched out the very first draft of the “The Jiu-Jitsu Ponytail.”  Here are some pictures from that journey:

A collection of sketches I did as part of the original storyboard for the book

Once I had gone through several drafts of the story and tested it out with my guinea pigs (i.e., my son and daughter) to great success (my daughter loved being the inspiration for it), I decided this was worth pursuing more seriously.  So my wife stepped in and put her vast social media skills to use to find me Taahira Halim, an up-and-coming artist, who really helped step up the game:

With Taahira on board, the illustrations got a lot better! 😉 These are some of Taahira’s initial character sketches for Noor.

It took several rounds of sketches before we got to the “right” look for Noor.  She is a confident, competitive girl, and that needed to come through.  At the same, she has her moments of self-doubt (like we all do) so we needed to sprinkle that in as well.

 

We got to a look for Baba very quickly.  I had a pretty clear idea in my head what I wanted Baba to look like, and Taahira hit it right out the park:

We hit on a look for Baba after only a handful of sketches. The one all the way on the right is the “final Baba.”

Baba is a serious but loving father, and he is very actively involved in Noor’s jiu-jitsu training.  His time with Noor, however, isn’t limited to just jiu-jitsu; he also helps her with her homework and puts her to bed at night.

 

For some reason, we had the most insanely difficult time figuring out the ponytail’s look.  Taahira and I got into some pretty deep, existential discussions trying to sort this one out!

Some very early sketches of the ponytail by Taahira

We finally got to a look we liked in the pencil sketches, but moving to color threw things off again!  After many, many, MANY iterations, we finally got to a look that we liked: playful, fun, and “emotionally connected” with Noor.

The many faces of Noor Karim and her ponytail

About Us

About the Author

Mir Khalid Ali is an avid traveler, blogger, and foodie.  He is the husband of an outstanding woman and father of two amazing children (a boy and a girl).  He immigrated to the US from Pakistan as a 7-year-old and grew up on a farm in a small town in western Pennsylvania.  He currently lives with his family in Philadelphia.  He and his children have been taking Brazilian jiu-jitsu lessons since 2017.
In the author’s own words:

Ever since I was a kid, I have loved to read.  I devoured books of all shapes and sizes.  Pizza Hut’s “Book-It” program was made for me, and man, those “one-topping personal pan pizzas” were a boy’s dream come true!  I’d pretty much read anything I got my hands on, including my female cousins’ The Baby-Sitters Club series.  At some point, I started to write my own stories, secretly aspiring to emulate my heroes: Roald Dahl, Sid Fleischman, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Gertrude Warner, Lynn Reid Banks, R. L. Stine, and a whole bunch of others.  Over the years, I’ve written several short stories, blog posts, some spoken word poetry as well as some regular poetry.  My writing has never been anything more than a hobby though, shared only with family and close friends.  I believe, however, that the “The Jiu-Jitsu Ponytail” is a story worth sharing more broadly.  So I decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign to see if we can get it published as a children’s picture book.  Yes, I admit, it’s a big dream, but like they say, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take 🙂

For more about the author, please visit his blog or follow him on Twitter.

About the Illustrator

Taahira Halim is a young artist living in Wilson, North Carolina with her husband. She is trained in early childhood education and took the full leap into children’s book illustration in 2017. “The Jiu Jitsu Ponytail” is the first full-length book featuring her work.  In the illustrator’s own words:

The power to convey stories through artwork is one that has always fascinated me. I love getting lost in beautifully illustrated books and attempting to delve into the whys and hows of the artist’s mind when he/she crafted the details of an image.  So naturally, my fascination became admiration, and I wanted to become that artist — to wield the ability to turn a story into artwork.  I am new to children’s book illustration, although I have been producing other types of art for many years.  So far, illustrating is a lot of fun!  Especially when I run into a challenge that I must problem solve, like trying to figure out the best colors and composition to convey the emotions of a scene.  I am so excited to have done this project, and I look forward to further learning and developing this amazing craft.

For more about the illustrator, please visit her website.

Contact

We would love to hear from you! If you have any questions, comments, sage advice, compliments, or best wishes, drop us a note!