From Publishers Weekly
In Bulion's tender tale set in East Africa, the traditions of chai (tea) and kanga cloth contribute to a mother's gentle lesson to her daughter. Mama and Fatuma walk to market where the girl will choose kanga cloth for a dress. Tadgell's (Just Call Me Joe Joe) luminescent watercolors depict the flowing grass and vermilion flowers that line the path to town; Mama's blue and golden kanga drapes gently over her head and shoulders. "Will you sew my new kanga when we get home from the market?" the child asks. When Mama promises to make chai as well, a trio of friendly vendors each offer a special ingredient for the brew, but none makes the chai "taste sweet like [Mama's]." Fanciful patterned borders on each spread hint at what's to come when Mama and Fatuma finally meet with the cloth vendor. Beautiful colors and fabrics fill the spreads as Fatuma searches for "a kanga the color of the deep sea and the early morning sky." When she finds it, Mama reads her the words embedded in the design "Don't be fooled by the color. The good flavor of chai comes from the sugar" and explains that what makes a person special is not always evident to the eye. An author's note describes East African customs and provides a recipe for chai. Tadgell's artwork highlights the glorious colors of the area's fabrics and landscapes, and demonstrates the warmth of a closely knit community in which tradition is paramount. Ages 5-9.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 2-Fatuma is excited about helping her mother with the marketing in her East African village because she has been promised a kanga cloth of her own and a treat of chai, or tea, afterward. Various merchants offer opinions on the secret of perfect chai: a dark and strong color from the leaves, a light color from creamy milk, or a shiny new saucepan to boil it in. At the cloth shop, the girl chooses a kanga that is "the color of the morning sky meeting the waves of the sea." Each kanga pattern contains a Swahili saying, and Fatuma's reads, "Don't be fooled by the color. The good flavor of chai comes from the sugar," which can't be seen. Her mother uses Tuma as an analogy and the child exclaims, "What is good about me is on the inside, too!" While the message is sweet, the watercolor illustrations are somewhat blurry and washed out, and the story drifts along at a dreamy pace.Anna DeWind Walls, Milwaukee Public Library
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.