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Ramabai Espinet
Illustrated by Farida Zaman
Toronto, Sisler Vision Press, 1993. unpaged, paper,
$6.95, ISBN 0-922813-63-1.
Distributed by Women's Press. CIP

Kindergarten-grade 4 / Ages 5-9

Reviewed by Jane Robinson

Volume 22 Number 4
1994 September

Seven-year-old Ninja is experiencing his first cold, snowy winter and misses life with Gran in Trinidad. As his mother tucks him into bed, she reminds him that it's now Carnival time back in his hometown of Tunapuna. Falling asleep to the sound of calypso music, Ninja dreams he is in the midst of the revelry. He spends the night enjoying all the sights, sounds and smells of Carnival.

Ramabai Espinet's writing is upbeat and full of imagery, but it is not enough to overcome the weak story-line. Except for the odd tangent, the story contains little more than a description of the calypso bands' costumes. The ending, in which Ninja wakes up and realizes it was all a dream, is too contrived. Readers were turning the page looking for a more satisfying finish. The illustrations are cheerful watercolours of soft primary and pastels. They have an interesting childlike quality, but give us no more insight into the characters or the culture than the text.

It is this publisher's mandate to provide a forum for the work of women of colour as well as for the experiences of children of colour in Canada.  Ninja's Carnival cannot be recommended on that basis alone, however. We need to continue to find books that reflect our multiculturalism, yet tell a good story at the same time.

Jane Robinson is a former teacher in Winnipeg, Manitoba

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