cover image Mama’s Sleeping Scarf

Mama’s Sleeping Scarf

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, writing as Nwa Grace-James, illus. by Joelle Avelino. Knopf, $18.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-593-53557-8

A mother’s scarf helps a child navigate a day’s beats in this reiterative garment-focused picture book from Adichie (Americanah, for adults) and illustrator Avelino, both making U.S. picture book debuts. Green with “big red circles and little blue circles,” Mama’s silky sleeping scarf helps “to keep her hair all soft and nice.” When Mama has to leave for the day, she offers up the scarf as a plaything, an action that catalyzes further connection with the child’s other family members. Bright, pattern-forward domestic spreads depict Chino as wrapping stuffed companion Bunny in the scarf while playing doctor, using the scarf to play peekaboo with Papa, waving it around on a walk with Grandpa, and having it tied around Chino’s own head by Grandma. When dinner is served, the textile even inspires Chino to eat vegetables that mimic its pattern. Conversations between Chino and Bunny sometimes echo narrative lines, leading to a feeling of repetitiveness, while appealing household details (“fresh fruits all sweet and nice. Yellow bananas and green mangoes”) contribute fresh sensorial observations. This straightforward yet lively telling illustrates how a simple object used to maintain and accessorize hair supports both a child’s sense of autonomy and a Black family’s powerful bond. Ages 3–7. (Sept.)