Deep in the Sahara

Kelly Cunnane, Author, Hoda Hadadi, Illustrator
Kelly Cunnane, illus. by Hoda Hadadi. Random/Schwartz & Wade, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-375-87034-7
Library Binding - 40 pages - 978-0-375-97034-4
Open Ebook - 35 pages - 978-0-375-98893-6
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-92719-3
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Cunnane (Chirchir Is Singing) introduces a Mauritanian girl who’s fascinated with the malafa, the veil the women in her family wear. The second-person narration (“you watch Mama’s malafa flutter as she prays”) presents the veil as desirable rather than confining and describes the girl’s wish to wear it so she can be beautiful, like her mother, or mysterious, like her sister. Her relatives reject these superficial reasons. It’s not until the girl shows she understands the malafa as a sign of Muslim belief (“Mama... more than all the dates in an oasis, I want a malafa so I can pray like you do”) that Mama gives the girl one of her own. The warm, affirming portrait of Islam (“A malafa is for faith”) makes this a valuable resource for both Muslim audiences and a broader readership interested in potentially unfamiliar customs and observances of faith. In Iranian artist Hodadi’s U.S. debut, her round-faced characters and affectionate scenes of Mauritanian family life (drinking tea on cushions, carrying trays of goods to market) keep the atmosphere friendly and lighthearted throughout. Ages 4–8. (Oct.)
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