Books for Kids: Malaika’s Costume

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Malaika’s Costume
Groundwood Books
By Nadia Hohn & Irene Luxbacher
32 pages
age 3-5, 5-8

Synopsis from Groundwood Books:

It’s Carnival time. The first Carnival since Malaika’s mother moved to Canada to find a good job and provide for Malaika and her grandmother. Her mother promised she would send money for a costume, but when the money doesn’t arrive, will Malaika still be able to dance in the parade? Disappointed and upset at her grandmother’s hand-me-down costume, Malaika leaves the house, running into Ms. Chin, the tailor, who offers Malaika a bag of scrap fabric. With her grandmother’s help, Malaika creates a patchwork rainbow peacock costume, and dances proudly in the parade.

We are lucky to live in a city that celebrates Caribbean culture with it’s own Carabana festival. The parade runs along the lake with its spectacularly colourful costumes, get-up-and-jump bands and rhythmic dancers. The parks and sidewalks are filled with spectators and local food. Reading Malaika’s Costume brings up visions of excitement, colour and fun from the annual parade. I can hear the voices of Malaika and her grandmother talking in slight English.

The story also reminds me of the many families that are separated as parents travel to Canada for education or work, a means to help support their family. Malaika is separated from her mother, staying with her grandmother, while her mom earns money in Canada. Malaika’s Costume focuses around the cultural importance of Carnival but it also touches on the sacrifice of family. While money is hard to come by, Malaika and her grandmother are still able to create a wonderful costume based on a little creativity and scraps of fabric.

Additional Reading: Nana’s Summer Surprise.

You can find a copy of Malaika’s Costume from Groundwood Books or your local bookstore. Visit our Kid’s Books section for other great book recommendations.

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