cover image Masai and I

Masai and I

Virginia Kroll. Four Winds, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-02-751165-9

A young African American girl muses, ``if I were a Masai,'' and compares her own life with what she has learned in school about East Africa and its inhabitants. She considers where a Masai girl would sleep, how she occupies her time, what kinds of animals she would see. The artwork, realistic and warm, portrays a joyful girl who feels ``the tingle of kinship'' with the Masai culture; her counterpart's spare environs, replete with exotic flora and fauna, are likewise strikingly depicted. The book's creative design--a Western scene on one page of each spread faces a typical Masai scene on the other--seamlessly blends corroborative colors and details: a yellow carpet becomes the dry savanna grass, the girl's bedsheet turns into a cowhide covering. (The final spread, however, may prove confusing: two characters are shown in Masai dress at an otherwise typical Western Thanksgiving dinner.) Kroll's beguiling language--``whole flocks of flashing fireflies turned trees into lanterns''--offers resonant images; the last paragraph, in particular, rings proud and positive: ``I come home and stare at my reflection in my bedroom mirror . . . smooth brown skin over high cheekbones and black eyes that slant up a little when I smile. I like what I see.'' Ages 4-7. (Sept.)