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Monday, October 8, 2018

Mustafa, written and illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay. Groundwood, 2018. $19.95 ages 4 and up

"Mustafa looks down at the park.
It is so green.
In his country, the trees were gray
with dust and dry as sticks.
He sees birds hiding in the trees.
Red birds, blue birds, yellow birds.
He sees two small animals
jumping from branch to branch.
Their bushy tails wave and curl in
the air. They chatter like monkeys.
"Do you want to play in the park?"
asks his mother."

What a tender read this is! Mustafa and his family have moved from their home country due to the war raging there. This new home is peaceful, and a far cry from what they left behind them. As he familiarizes himself with his surroundings, he is an observer. There is much to see, and he wants to take it all in. When his mother suggests a trip to the park they can see from their window, he is off.

"Mustafa walks under the trees.
That air smells green and cool.
He sees flowers shaped like his grandmother's pink teacups.
He sees flowers that look like dragon tongues.
He finds two treasures - a white snail shell and a yellow heart-shaped leaf."

He also sees a young girl, and her cat. The girl speaks to him. Mustafa does not understand what she is saying and quickly runs home. He tells his mother about the park; he does not tell her about the girl. On his next visit, he spends time drawing scenes from his past, and finding new treasures. The girl sees what he is doing, does her own drawings, and speaks to him again. Off he runs.

Every visit to the park brings new experiences, and ups his level of comfort with all that happens there. However, no one seems to notice him, and he worries that he is invisible. His fears disappear when he next meets the girl, who encourages him through gestures to follow her. No words are needed. And, then they are. The most important words to begin a friendship.  Maria and Mustafa!

Absolutely glorious! I will read it often.

And I haven't even mentioned Marie-Louise Gay's warm and always brilliant watercolor artwork. 

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