Oh my word, such a stack of books to blog about! I've been reading and loving so many books lately - it seems like a great season for multicultural and diverse titles, at long last. Lots of these titles are by authors or illustrators whose work I've previously enjoyed, but every once in a while a new artist sneaks in and captures my heart. I *love* when that happens!
Today's pick is just such a title - one that I saw the cover for and instantly knew I had to read it. Take a look at this image and tell me Imani's Moon isn't going on your TBR list for that picture alone:
I'm quite happy to say that the book delivers nicely on the promise of that cover. Author JaNay Brown-Wood based Imani's Moon on the legends and culture of the Maasai people, who can be found in Kenya and Tanzania. Sprinkling in a bit of Maasai tribal dancing and a good dose of traditional Maasai storytelling, Brown-Wood created the story of Imani, a tiny girl who is mocked by others for her small stature. Imani is captivated by her mother's stories of Olapa, the moon goddess, and longs to touch the moon in honor of her heroine. But the task seems impossible, and Imani's initial efforts fail, garnering more jeers from the children in her village. Should Imani give up her unachievable dream?
Brown-Wood does an excellent job of blending mystical and realistic in Imani's Moon. Talking animals and feats of the fantastic are key components of her story. While kids aren't likely to believe that (spoiler alert) Imani really touches the moon, they will internalize the message that Imani's mama tells her: "(a) challenge is only impossible until someone accomplishes it." Those are powerful words, just the kind of thing I want Sprout to have implanted firmly in his head as he goes forth in the world.
I can't close out this review without mentioning the illustrations by Hazel Mitchell, because they really tremendous. Brown-Wood's text pays honor to the Maasai, as do Mitchell's illustrations, showing them as a joyous and soulful people who live close to the land and revere their traditions. Sprout especially enjoyed the spread showing the Maasai warriors dancing - it's an arresting image that evokes the spirit of this gathering, a celebration and a ritual that is deeply embedded in Maasai culture. Mitchell uses color to evoke emotions as well, keeping the moon a focal point as it is for Imani herself.
Don't miss Imani's Moon, a great addition to collections for its focus on bravery, honoring oneself and never giving up. Let the magic sweep you up, as it does Imani, to touch the moon.
Imani's Moon by JaNay Brown-Wood, published by Mackinac Island Press
Bonus: read more about author JaNay Brown-Wood in the Multicultural Children's Book Day Spotlight