CM . . .
. Volume XXII Number 21. . . .February 5, 2016
Nadia L. Hohn. Illustrated by Irene Luxbacher.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood/House of Anansi Press, 2016.
32 pp., hardcover & pdf, $18.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55498-754-2 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-55498-755-9 (pdf).
Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 3-9.
Review by Mę-Linh Lę.
“Who looking so lovely? Girl, this costume look better than ever,” Grandma say, and she is right. I am even more beautiful than the peacock in my dreams.
The Caribbean and Canada; a daughter separated from her mother; the dream of a beautiful dress to show off for Carnival. This is the story beautifully recounted in Malaika’s Costume.
Malaika, a young girl living with her grandma in the Caribbean, desperately misses her mother who has moved to Canada to help make a better life for her family. This book recounts Malaika’s experiences as she deals with the highs and lows of creating a costume for the first Carnival without her mother. The text and artwork unfold solely from Malaika’s perspective and are the perfect medium for experiencing the story. Her ways of viewing the world, such as cold and snowy Canada where the “snow look like coconut sky juice”, perfectly demonstrate the wonder of a child’s viewpoint.
The illustrations, done by Governor-General Literary Award finalist Irene Luxbacher, are done in mixed media, graphite, and oils on paper. These richly coloured imaginings leap off the page and cover every available surface. With a recurring background of lined paper to suggest the numerous letters written and sent between
and her mother, the artwork does a superb job of capturing the tropical feel of the island, the colourful costumes of the Carnival, and daily life in the village.
The story is an excellent opportunity for parents to explore cultural diversity with their children. Any chance to learn about how children live in other countries, whether it is the foods they eat, the landscape that surrounds them, or the events they celebrate, are all chances to broaden a child’s world. The definitions provided for (potentially) unfamiliar terms are a welcome addition.
During the first read, the patois used can be a bit jarring and almost feel overdone. Subsequent readings, however, soon show that the language used adds to the charm of the story and is another well-chosen way to demonstrate the richness of cultural diversity, the characters, and their story.
Overall, Malaika’s Costume is a highly recommended story that celebrates the different cultures of the world and the emotional journey of a young child.
Mę-Linh Lę is a health sciences librarian at the University of Manitoba. She spends a lot of time negotiating "How many books?" with her two young sons.
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