Kelly Cunnane, the critically-acclaimed author of For You Are a Kenyan Child, crafts a gentle and accessible picture book with DEEP IN THE SAHARA that offers a glimpse into the fascinating culture of West Africa and reveals that families are much the same the world over.
Lalla lives in the Muslim country of Mauritania, and more than anything, she wants to wear a malafa, the colorful veils Mauritanian women wear to cover their heads and clothes in public. Lalla sees the malafa as beautiful and believes wearing it will make her pretty, just like her mama, her big sister Selma, her cousin Aisha, and her grandmother. However, her family rejects Lalla’s request to wear a malafa citing her superficial reasons. It is not until Lalla realizes a malafa is not worn to show a woman’s beauty, to create mystery, or to honor tradition—but that a malafa represents faith—that Lalla’s mother agrees to slip the 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.
A lovely tale about faith and growing up, Kelly Cunnane’s beautiful prose and Hoda Hadadi’s gorgeous illustrations show tremendous insight into the culture and religion of Islam.
With an author’s note and glossary included in the back of the book, DEEP IN THE SAHARA is a wonderful choice for parents, teachers, and librarians wishing to expose children to foreign cultures. While Lalla’s experiences may be very different from most kids here in the U.S., the longing of a child to grow up and take part in adult activities is universal. This is the perfect book to teach young readers about difference and acceptance.