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Friday, December 20, 2013

Deep in the Sahara, written by Kelly Cunnane and illustrated by Hoda Hadadi. Schwartz & Wade, Random House. 2013. $19.99 ages 4 and up

"Boys in turbans on donkeys go.
Men in white boubou stroll.
Your sister, Selma, in a malafa
Nothing but dark eyes show.
More than all the camels in the
you want a malafa so you can
be mysterious too."

Well-written and beautifully illustrated, this is one of those books that allows those who listen to learn about other children of the world,  their culture and customs. We are better for sharing it, and made more aware of  the Muslim faith. It is a celebration!

Lalla is just like any other young girl in our world. She wants to look like the women she admires. So, she tells her mother that she wants to be as beautiful as she is, and that means wearing a malafa.
While her mother agrees that the malafa is a thing of beauty, she assures her beloved daughter that it is so much more than that.

Lalla visits the other women in her family. In turn, they tell her that a malafa is not about beauty, or mystery, or being the same, or even traditional. It is about prayer. Lalla returns home to share what she has learned during those visits. Nodding in agreement, her mother gathers a malafa for Lalla:

"slips it over your head,
under your arm,
round and round _
as blue as the Sahara sky,
as blue as the ink in the Koran,
as blue as a stranger's eye."

Now, she is ready to share the evening prayer with her mother.

This is a lovely look at Mauritania, the people who live there and the bonds they share through their faith. The writing is descriptive and warm. Lalla is free to wander throughout her village with family, learning what her elders have to teach. The second person voice allows us to learn right along with her. The illustrations celebrate the beauty that is there for all to jewelled tones and detailed community life. Using cut paper, and a knowledge of the beauty in the fabric, Hoda Hadadi gives us a loving look at the young Lalla's daily routines. 

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