When Mariama moves from Fulakunda, a small West African village, to a metropolis in Europe or North America, she adjusts to life with her new light-skinned friends and observes that they are more alike than different.
The story is straightforward: A “little girl” is told by her parents “that she [is] going to move to a country far, far away.” The art is amazing: On the verso is a beige, brush-stroked Africa, its western edge adorned with thatched-roof huts, a red-flowering tree and a woman in turquoise traditional dress. The faux handwritten script labels Mariama’s village and “my grandma.” Cranes fly across the page, connecting readers with a tearful Mariama, waving goodbye as her parents, in the background, approach a distant city. The vibrant, stylized illustrations complement such observations about the new land as, “There were no animals in the streets; and instead of earth, there were long, grey tongues.” Although the culture shock is clear, from urban living to snowy winters to students “nearly as white as the African moon,” the book does an injustice by equating the huge, diverse continent of Africa with Mariama’s remembrances of village life. Or is that purposeful, related to an unexplained allusion to the children in her new home, “who didn’t have to worry about anything else apart from being children”?
The artwork will lure readers into spending time on each page, though the representation of Mariama’s experience is at best elliptical. (brief African cultural notes) (Picture book. 5-8)