In celebration of Women’s History Month, we spoke with authors Zahra Lari and Hadley Davis and iIllustrator Sara Alfageeh.

Not Yet: The Story of an Unstoppable Skater

michelle pastor  //  Mar 5, 2024

Not Yet: The Story of an Unstoppable Skater


In celebration of Women’s History Month, we are spotlighting Not Yet: The Story of an Unstoppable Skater, written by Zahra Lari and Hadley Davis and illustrated by Sara Alfageeh. Zahra is the first Emirati competitive figure skater, and the first skater to wear a hijab in international competition. Not Yet tells the story of how a young Zahra began to pursue her dream of skating even as others doubted her.


Zahra, what inspired you to write a children’s book?

I always want to inspire kids to be whatever it is they want to be in life and to believe in themselves.  A children’s book seemed like the ideal way to put that message into kids’ hands, heads, and hearts.


Zahra, when you started competing internationally, judges penalized you for wearing your hijab. You then fought for the rules to be updated, and you also worked with Nike to launch the first sports hijab. You’ve broken so many barriers and continue to do so: has “Not Yet” always been your mantra?

"Not Yet" was never my mantra; it was created for this book.  “Not Yet” works well because it’s two short words that even beginning readers can repeat, read along with, and even find in Sara's pictures. Most importantly, “Not Yet” conveys the determination and goal setting you need for sports and life generally.

Hadley, you wrote the script for Disney’s Ice Princess, which inspired Zahra to start taking skating lessons in Dubai. How did you and Zahra first connect? 

I read an article about Zahra’s influential accomplishments in The New York Times and towards the end it said she started skating after watching the movie Ice Princess.  My heart practically skipped a beat! I found Zahra on social media and sent her a message. She replied within seconds and a special friendship was born.

Hadley, what excited you about telling Zahra’s story? How did you shape the narrative for Not Yet?

Research teaches that the type of tenacity and resilience Zahra’s story embodies is the key to academic (and future) success. Many kids have the experience of trying something (a musical instrument, a math problem, etc.) and then giving up after they discover how hard it is. Ice is literally hard which makes for a great double entendre! The shape of the book’s narrative reflects this tension: The narrative begins with fantasy (a movie), a dream and the magical realism of skating cereal, but then reality bumps up against Zahra's vision, and her remarkable grit kicks in — and prevails.

Sara, what excited you about illustrating Zahra’s story?

I could immediately tell there was a magic to the story. As Zahra and Hadley told me about her first days on the ice, the images I got were so clear in my mind: the hot desert, the cool ice, the big smile and feeling of triumph. I could feel it! When you're an artist, those are feelings you look for, because you want the reader to experience them too.

Sara, your illustrations are so joyful. They convey Zahra’s constant movement and bring readers fully into her environment. How did you approach illustrating such a dynamic story?

Oftentimes by dancing around my room myself, just like Zahra does in the book! In order to draw my characters doing something, I have to get up and try it myself. Spinning, jumping, falling-- if Zahra is doing it, I am doing it too. My brain and my pen then translate those feelings to colors, poses, faces, and more!

How did you all work together to come up with and execute a vision for Not Yet?

Everyone brought their unique expertise and was excited to hear what the other author had to say! Lots of working together, Zahra with her real-life details, Hadley quick with edits and an ear for what sounded best, and Sara with an ability to make colors and characters jump off the page. Just like the perfect figure skating routine: one step at a time!

What do you each hope readers will take away from this story?

Dream big, and work hard! Starting something new is often scary, but it's important to practice how you will turn a "no" into a "Not Yet."