The Gabi That Girma Wore

Little, Brown. Feb. 2024. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780316470773.
PreS-Gr 3–With the cumulative rhyme scheme that echoes “Here Is the House that Jack Built,” this story opens on a cottonseed about to be placed into the soil in close-up: “This is the cottonseed, oval and slight, hugged by the soil and warmed with light—to sprout the Gabi that Girma wore.” The hand that plants it is articulated, brown, and very careful; ladybugs on nearby plants seem to look on approvingly. As the story continues, the cotton plant grows under sun and rain, creating a snowy effect on hills as the cotton bolls split open; that’s when readers meet the farmer, who will harvest the cotton, take it to be cleaned and turned into threads that will be woven into the Ethiopian cloth known as a Gabi. The cloth is decorated, goes to market, and is purchased by the good woman Genet, who delivers it to Girma, an elegant man who attends ceremonies in it but also shares it with children who use it as a tent. The story does not stick to the strict “Here is the House...” scheme but ebbs and flows with small details about weaving, or the trip to market; in this way children learn in-depth what a Gabi means from start to finish. A winsome piece of industry, charmingly told, and perfect for reading aloud. Tesfay’s illustrations simply vibrate with color, movement, and details for children to pore over.
VERDICT A glorious, too-brief glimpse of Ethiopia for elementary-age children, this will send them off to do further research on textiles and cultures.

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