Malaika’s Surprise

Groundwood. Mar. 2021. 32p. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781773062648.
K-Gr 2–Change can be difficult, but with loved ones nearby, new does not have to feel intimidating. Stepsisters Malaika and Adèle love dressing up and listening to soca music as they play carnival in the summer sunshine. Their blended family—Adèle is a redhead with pale skin like her father, although he has brown hair, and Malaika and her mother have dark brown skin and natural hair—has a loving balance. When Malaika learns a baby sibling is on the way, she is not sure she is ready for yet another change, and worries that her mother will forget her. A new friend has moved in next door who lends support to Malaika as her family grows, reminding her that love will still surround her when the baby arrives. Collage-style illustrations iconic to the Malaika book series are used in this third installment, as well. Bright, rich colors appear on every page, reminding readers of the visuals inherent to the time of carnival, and a blend of textures and smooth lines give the images depth. The other characters in this story range from very dark like Malaika, her mother, and her grandmother, to very light, like her Papa Fred and stepsister Adèle. Family photos adorn the walls of Malaika’s home and her classroom, reinforcing the importance of family, no matter what it happens to look like. Woven into the story are a handful of Arabic and French words that add richness to the narrative and are defined at the beginning.
VERDICT It takes many generous souls to get through all the changes in life, as demonstrated in this essential, lovely story of opening one’s heart to new people. An enjoyable, feel-good read for young children.

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