Deep in the SaharaDeep in the Sahara  
By Kelly Cunnane
Illustrated by Hoda Hadadi
Published by Schwartz & Wade

“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.” –Publisher’s Weekly

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Description
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.

Reviews & Accolades
“Cunnane 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…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.” –Publisher’s Weekly

“In general, Western writers have a difficult time portraying Islamic culture and religion. Fortunately, this author and illustrator have done an excellent job of providing an accurate, positive view of a basic feature of Islamic life…The illustrations are large with brilliant colors, and do an excellent job of evoking life in the Sahara. The back of the book contains an author’s note explaining how she came to write this story, as well as a glossary of words in the Hassaniya language of Mauritania. Parents and teachers who wish to give children a positive introduction to Islam and Muslim women will find this a valuable and rewarding book.”Children’s Literature

“The author notes that she changed her opinion regarding the wearing of veils for religious reasons when she lived in Mauritania and wrote this book to share the joy she observed. The collage illustrations done by an Iranian artist show the colorful cloths of “lime and mango,” the beautiful women wearing the veils in different ways and the details of the houses. Poetic language, attractive illustrations and a positive message about Islam, without any didacticism: a wonderful combination.” –Kirkus Reviews

“Cunnane has a strong connection to Africa, having lived in both Kenya and Mauritania, the setting of this lovely original story…this book incorporates authentic cultural details in both the poetic text and the evocative illustrations. Local Hassaniya words, for example, appear naturally in the text, and are helpfully defined in a glossary. Cut-paper collage illustrations feature boys in turbans, men hurrying to prayers, and women dressed in brightly colored swaths of cloth, enlivening the browns, greens, and adobe brick of the desert background. An author’s note acknowledges that she’d believed the wearing of the veil was repressive to women until she understood it was a “relaxed and colorful expression of…faith and culture.” Perhaps this upbeat picture book about a mother welcoming her daughter into their community of faith will engender a more positive attitude toward women who choose traditional dress in the modern world.” –School Library Journal

Groups Represented
Muslim
Mauritanian

Themes
Religious faith
Family relationships
Cultural Identity
Cultural Traditions

Setting
Mauritania

Author Research
TBA

Engagement Projects
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