‘Deep in the Sahara’
By Kelly Cunnane (Author), Hoda Hadadi (Illustrator)
"Poetic language, attractive illustrations and a positive message about Islam, without any didacticism: a wonderful combination," declares Kirkus Reviews in a starred review.
Lalla lives in the Muslim country of Mauritania, and more than anything, she wants to wear a malafa, the colorful cloth Mauritanian women, like her mama and big sister, wear to cover their heads and clothes in public. But it is not until Lalla realizes that a malafa is not just worn to show a woman's beauty and mystery or to honor tradition—a malafa for faith—that Lalla's mother agrees to slip a long cloth as blue as the ink in the Koran over Lalla's head, under her arm, and round and round her body. Then together, they pray.
“Lalla lives in Mauritania where the sun burns, the sands shift, and all answer the call to prayer. It is her wish to wear, like the women around her, a malafa, or airy, colorful cloth worn over clothes and covering the head. Lalla wants to wear the malafa for its beauty, but her mother explains that the cloth’s purpose is for more than beauty. She tells her sister, Selma, that she wants to wear it to be mysterious; Selma laughs and says that isn’t a good enough reason. Neither is Lalla’s desire to transition from a girl to a woman. Only when she tells her mother that I want a malafa so I can pray like you do does she receive her coveted cloth. Cunnane explains in an author’s note that when she first lived in Mauritania, she believed wearing the veil was repressive, but the people’s relaxed and colorful expression of their faith and culture changed her mind. She will certainly make readers think about their preconceived notions thanks to a text that is as thoughtful as it is charming. Hadadi, who is Iranian, creates paper collages with a whimsical beauty that work well with the story’s sense of longing. The women, all individualized, exude true warmth, and readers will feel a quiet satisfaction when Lalla joins them. A special offering. Grades K-3; Ages 4-8"
Age Group: 4-8