cover image Jamela's Dress

Jamela's Dress

Niki Daly. Farrar Straus Giroux, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-374-33667-7

Daly (Bravo, Zan Angelo!) splashes luminous watercolors across the pages of this warmly evocative picture book, set in his native South Africa. Jamela's mother purchases a length of costly fabric for a wedding, and after washing it, leaves Jamela in charge of the cloth while it dries. Jamela, however, can't resist playing dress-up with the gorgeous material. As she struts through town trailing the fabric like a train, passersby greet her with the refrain ""Kwela Jamela African Queen!"" She poses for a triumphant photo, but is crestfallen when a boy on a bike accidentally spoils the fabric. But all's well that ends well-- when her photographer friend wins a cash prize for the photo he took of regal Jamela, he replaces the ruined material. Daly displays a knack for pinning down domestic details that will resonate with his audience, from Jamela teetering about in her mother's red shoes to the look of contrition on her face as she gets a scolding. The affectionate interaction between mother and daughter is particularly well delineated; the bond of love between them emanates from the warmth of the oranges and yellows in the fabric at the center of the tale. Subtle accents add to the exotic flavor of the setting, from the Nelson Mandela poster hanging on a shop's wall to the chickens running loose in the streets. A sympathetic and light-hearted slice of life. Ages 5-up. (Apr.)