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Author: Peet, Mal
Who is the young stranger, and what does his arrival mean for the life Issa and Mariama share in the desert?
|Accelerated Reader Information:|
Interest Level: LG
Reading Level: 3.90
Points: 1.0 Quiz: 157782
|Reading Counts Information:|
Interest Level: 3-5
Reading Level: 3.30
Points: 4.0 Quiz: 60297
Kirkus Reviews (+) (09/15/13)
School Library Journal (10/01/13)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (12/13)
Full Text Reviews:
School Library Journal - 10/01/2013 Gr 2–5—Peet and Graham team up again for an original folktale, this one inspired by the guides who navigate the Sahara in Mali. The authors spin a sweet and predictable story about a baby wearing a valuable necklace who is rescued from a sandy death by a kindhearted old man named Issa. He raises the infant as his granddaughter, relying more and more on young Mariama once his eyesight begins to fail. The text grows increasingly fantastical as Issa's blindness forces Mariama to verbalize the visual wonder of the vast landscape they traverse for a living. Lynch's rich mixed-media illustrations-in shades of velvety browns and tans punctuated by blues-capture the desert's expansive quality. Their beauty evokes Issa's love for the land, but does not entirely convey the menacing nature of the mercurial terrain, an essential tenet of the story. After a trio of arrogant visitors rejects Issa's guidance, he and Mariama rescue them just as a potentially deadly sandstorm swirls up. No one but the characters will feel surprise when the chastened young leader of the group notices Mariama's pendant and discovers her to be his long-lost sister and a princess. Some of the descriptions (e.g., "big-bellied baobab trees lifted their thick branches and fingery leaves like a line of stout old gentlemen waving their arms in the air") offer fresh whimsy to the folktale form. These lyrical sparks and Lynch's illustrations, most notably a desert mountain scene awash in luminous blues, elevate this effort.—Robbin E. Friedman, Chappaqua Library, NY - Copyright 2013 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Bulletin for the Center... - 12/01/2013 After a massive dust storm, old man Issa-renowned as the most skilled guide in the African desert-discovers a baby girl in a basket carried by a camel that was separated from the rest of its party. Issa takes the child in, names her Mariama, and teaches her to know the desert as intimately as he does. As Issa ages, he goes blind, and Mariama learns to become his eyes as the pair leads strangers across the barren landscape. When a group of young men come through one afternoon, they scoff at the idea of a blind guide and set off through the mountains on their own-only to be caught in a storm that Issa and Mariama show up just in time to save them from. Their leader later returns to thank them, in the process discovering that he is in fact Mariama’s brother and that she is the daughter of the king of Sana. Inspired by stories of a famous blind guide of Timbuktu, this tale is rendered in sparse and poetic prose (“One was taller than a door and fierce looking, with a scar on his face that began beside his left eye and disappeared into his beard”). The relationship between Mariama and Issa is treated with compassion and respect while avoiding contrivance by quietly giving them distinct personalities, and although this isn’t strictly folklore, fans of the genre will appreciate the personable but wise narration and final plot twist. The mixed-media illustrations-some full-page panels, others as small insets, still others acting as backdrop for the text-communicate the harsh beauty of the desert with their soft and painterly outlines, vast and empty expanses, and earthy palette. The book’s picture-book format may mean it requires a little hand-selling to readers, but those who explore its pages will be rewarded with a simple tale that’s both adventurous and heartwarming. TA - Copyright 2013 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.