Today’s Perfect Picture Book is another one of my Canadian finds, and its story occurs in the Caribbean – truly a pan-American picture book!
Title: Malaika’s Costume
Written By: Nadia L. Hohn
Illustrated By: Irene Luxbacher
Publisher/date: Groundwood Books (House of Anansi Press)/2016
Suitable for Ages: 4-8
Themes/Topics: carnival; absent parent; #ReadYourWorld; #WNDB
I close my eyes and dance. I am a beautiful peacock. Each feather shimmers – green, gold, turquoise and brown.
Grandma say, “Girl, I think you is definitely my granddaughter for true.”
When the money for Malaika’s carnival costume doesn’t arrive from Mummy, Malaika and her grandmother must find another way to create a costume in time for the Carnival parade.
Links to Resources:
- Design and color a Carnival costume;
- Make a Carnival peacock headpiece, like the one that Malaika crafted;
- Watch the book trailer here.
Why I Like this Book:
Malaika’s Costume is a marvelous window into Caribbean life and the colorful carnival celebrations that occur on many islands. The story is tinged, though, with the reality of the hardships endured by children left with relatives when a parent migrates abroad to work.
Through Malaika’s eyes, we experience the anticipation of an upcoming Carnival parade in which the children don fancy costumes to dance through the streets. Malaika dreams of strutting like a peacock. But Malaika’s mother is working at a “good job” in Canada, a far-away country that is “cold like an icebox” with snow that looks “like coconut sky juice”. When the money Mummy has promised to send doesn’t arrive, Malaika and her grandmother must improvise, as it seems they, and Mummy, must do on a daily basis. Malaika’s solution demonstrates the resourcefulness she has developed since her mother left for Canada.
I think Malaika’s Costume will appeal to families and teachers wanting to learn about island life and cultural events as well as to those wanting to shed light on the difficulties facing migrants and the children they leave on island.
Luxbacher’s colorful collaged artwork brings Hohn’s empathetic story to life. They helped me feel like I’d enjoyed a virtual visit to the sunny Caribbean. Hand-drawn black-and-white drawings sprinkled throughout the pages are an extra bonus for younger children to find.
A Note about Craft:
As is evident from the Opening above, Hohn tells Malaika’s story using first-person point of view. Utilizing this point of view brings immediacy to the story, and it enables not only Malaika, but also the reader, to wonder about her mother and the solitary life she leads in Canada.
Also evident in the Opening is that Hohn uses the Caribbean patois of the unnamed island that is Malaika’s home. This language adds to the authenticity of Malaika’s voice and could be an interesting discussion topic for teachers using Malaika’s Costume in the classroom.
Visit Hohn’s website here.
Groundwood Books “is an independent Canadian children’s publisher based in Toronto” that is “particularly committed to publishing books for and about children whose experiences of the world are under-represented elsewhere.”
For a list of more children’s books that involve Carnival celebrations, see a recent blog post on Anansesem, a site about Caribbean children’s books.
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!