Children’s Book Reviews

Children's Book Reviews: Malaika’s Costume

Publish June 14, 2016

Malaika’s Costume by author Nadia L. Hohn and illustrator Irene Luxbacher explores community, family, and resilience. Malaika’s mother has moved to Canada where she is trying to get a good job so life can be better for Malaika and her Grandma back in the Caribbean. They’ll be celebrating Carnival soon, and this year, her mother won’t be there to help with Malaika’s costume. She promised to send money, but so far she hasn’t. And while everyone else is excitedly getting ready, Malaika doesn’t feel like dancing anymore. Winner of the Helen Isobel Sissons Canadian Children’s Story Award, Hohn’s first picture book celebrates diversity. She beautifully captures Malaika’s voice through her diction and expressions, and commits fully to Malaika’s point of view. Terms like, “Moko Jumbies,” “Pierrot,” and “Jab Molassie” are included in the Acknowledgement Page. Luxbacher’s colourful collage-like mixed media, graphite, and oil illustrations reflect the vibrancy of the community and its celebrations. The Governor General award-nominated illustrator (The Imaginary Garden) also includes a lined page on every spread, in which Malaika’s doodles reflect her emotional state (e.g. a house with a tornado to show when she’s particularly upset). A beautiful wordless image ties this all together nicely at the end. Moving and vibrant, Malaika’s Costume could be of use in classroom discussions about immigration and its impact on families, and festivals in other countries.

Malaika’s Costume

Nadia L. Hohn
Illustration EN: Irene Luxbacher
Groundwood Books, House of Anansi Press
ISBN 13: 978-1-55498-754-2

Jen Bailey
Jen Bailey Jen Bailey is an Ontario-certified teacher who holds an MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She works for the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. Jen’s other book reviews have appeared in Quill & Quire and Canadian Children’s Book News.

The National Reading Campaign publishes children's book reviews under a Creative Commons License. This review is entirely free to reproduce and republish online and in print. Credit must be given to the reviewer and the National Reading Campaign. Reviews can be edited for brevity only. Contact Us for more information.