________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 19. . . .January 18, 2013


The Many Faces of Zainabu.

Kathy Knowles.
Winnipeg, MB: OSU Children’s Library Fund (www.osuchildrenslibraryfund.ca or 188 Montrose St., R3M 3M7), 2012.
24 pp., pbk., $10.00.
ISBN 978-0-9868383-6-1.

Kindergarten-grade 4 / Ages 5-9.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

*** /4



Once upon a time - - time, time,
there was a giving girl.
At seven years old,
she had a gift, a special gift,
a gift beyond her years.
Her face could show
both smiles and frowns
and everything in between.
Now Zainabu, if you are ready,
please show us your many faces...


In our world today, it seems like almost everything that is produced for entertainment is in full colour. Even old black and white movies have been colorized to make them more acceptable to a contemporary juvenile audience. Our digital phones, cameras and other electronic devices allow us to instantly record seemingly everything around us and, again, in full colour. Perhaps we have become so enamoured with and accustomed to colour that we have forgotten the tremendous emotional power of black and white photography. Once viewed, who can ever forget Yousuf Karsh’s 1941 photo of a scowling Winston Churchill?

      Kathy Knowles’ The Many Faces of Zainabu is a book without a plot, and yet it tells as many stories as viewers want to create. The book consists of 21 full-page close-up photos of the face of a seven-year old girl, plus one more page that offers four more views of the many faces of Zainabu. With the exception of the opening and closing photo, each “face” is accompanied by one to seven words or phrases that might explain/describe what emotions or situations could be behind that particular “face”. For example, an eyes-wide-open, hint-of-a-smile shot of Zainabu is accompanied by “goofy surprised eager teasing astonished mischievous” while a Rodin The Thinker-like pose is connected to the words “curious confused thinking worried wondering”. Knowles, however, is not being prescriptive, and readers can certainly offer their own words to describe what each of Zainabu’s “faces” is expressing. The book is not entirely without colour, and the words are rendered in blue, red, pink, purple, green, yellow and gold, colours which reappear in various combinations in swirling borders that surround most of the photos. For this reviewer, the coloured borders were a distraction as colours carry their own emotional values which sometimes seemed to fight with the emotions on Zainabu’s face.internal art

     Looking at the more than two dozen photos, it is hard to believe that this is the face of a seven-year-old girl as, in many cases, she looks much older. Although The Many Faces of Zainabu is likely a book that will be enjoyed by a single child who spends time with it and each of the faces, it could also be used in a larger group setting where a number of students could brainstorm the emotion or setting/situation behind each photo. They could also discuss/debate the validity of the words that Knowles used to describe each face.


Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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