The Edmond Sun
‘DEEP IN THE SAHARA’
BY KELLY CUNNANE
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, mysterious like her big sister Selma and a fine lady like her cousin Aisha.
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 tale about faith and growing up, Cunnane’s prose and Hoda Hadadi’s illustrations show 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 children here in the U.S., the longing of a child to grow up and take part in adult activities is universal. This is the ideal book to teach young readers about difference and acceptance.
BY ALISON CHERRY
Alison Cherry makes her debut with “Red,” a story that’s both thoughtful and entertaining. Cherry is a new voice in contemporary teen fiction and her protagonist faces a moral dilemma that teens will find fascinating.
Felicity St. John has it all: loyal best friends, a hot guy and artistic talent. And she’s right on track to win the Miss Scarlet pageant.
Her perfect life is possible because of just one thing: her long, wavy, coppery red hair. Having red hair is all that matters in Scarletville. Redheads hold all the power — and everybody knows it.
That’s why Felicity is scared down to her roots when she receives an anonymous note: I know your secret.
Felicity is a big fake. Her hair color comes straight out of a bottle. And if anyone discovered the truth, she’d be a social outcast faster than she could say strawberry blond.
Her mother would disown her, her friends would shun her and her boyfriend would dump her. And forget about winning that pageant crown and the prize money that comes with it — money that would allow her to fulfill her dream of going to art school.
Felicity isn’t about to let someone blackmail her life away. But just how far is she willing to go to protect her red cred?
Reflecting on her debut novel, Cherry comments “Regardless of their hair colors, I hope girls of all sorts will see themselves in Felicity. And more importantly, I hope they draw comfort and inspiration from the courage she finds within herself underneath that layer of dye.”
Ages 12 up.
NOTE: Email email@example.com to have your name entered into a drawing for the following titles: “Deep in the Sahara” and/or “Red.” Deadline is 10 a.m. Dec. 9. Winner will be notified by return email. Winner is responsible for picking up the book at The Edmond Sun at 123 S. Broadway. All entrants must be 18 or older to win.