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Deep in the Sahara

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  789 ratings  ·  252 reviews
Lalla lives in the Muslim country of Mauritania, and more than anything, she wants to wear a malafa, the colorful cloth Mauritanian women, like her mama and big sister, wear to cover their heads and clothes in public. But it is not until Lalla realizes that a malafa is not just worn to show a woman's beauty and mystery or to honor tradition—a malafa is for faith—that Lalla ...more
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published October 8th 2013 by Schwartz & Wade (first published January 1st 2013)
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Average rating 3.96  · 
Rating details
 ·  789 ratings  ·  252 reviews

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Woman, know thy place! Girls who are grown up at age 10 can be sold as a 'wife' if that is they aren't one of the 43,000 people born into slavery They are often fattened up in the process known as 'gavage' (the same name is given to geese force fed to enlarge their livers) and given animal growth hormone as fat girls, even morbidly obese ones are considered beautiful and will bring a higher price from a 'husband'.

Your husband of he's Saudia Arabian, might be purchasing you for 'siriya', tempora
Jasmine from How Useful It Is
Read for my daughter. Cute book. Great illustrations. What a malafa is for.. a rhyming read. A few foreign language words in the story along with English.
Jan 16, 2015 rated it did not like it

Is anyone reading this book even familiar with the horrors of Mauritania? I doubt most westerners could even locate it on a map.

I work with a school near the Tana River in Kenya and am well acquainted with the various forms of Islam in East and West Africa. I could also tell you of the commonness of ten year-old brides, usually the third or fourth wife of an egocentric brute (following in the footsteps of their pedophile founder, Mohammed). The strains of African Islam vary in their fa
Kate McCartney
Feb 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picturebooks
Young Lalla wants to wear a malafa, a covering some Muslim women wear in Mautitania to cover themselves when they go out in public. Lalla thinks the malafa is beautiful, mysterious, to look like a long ago queen,to belong like the older girls and women. It isn't until Lalla realizes the most important reason for a malafa that she is given one.

The colors are amazing in this book, so bright and vibrant. Deep in the Sahara is a beautiful coming of age story for a young girl to understand the import
Nov 27, 2015 rated it did not like it
While this book is beautifully written and illustrated, it paints an attractive picture of an extremely controversial tradition, requiring women to be completely covered from head to toe. As a work of fiction, the author has chosen to use the naivety of a young girl to celebrate a practice that is inconsistent with the beliefs of many Americans and yet she specifically had the book published for the American audience. Had it been a work of nonfiction, this tradition would have been represented a ...more
La Coccinelle
Sep 19, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children
This is a strange little book. Cute, but strange. I'm not quite sure how to review it, as I know some of my prejudices are getting in the way of me giving the book a higher rating. And yet, I can't shake a sense of unease when I read about a little girl being culturally and religiously indoctrinated.

The book takes place in Mauritania. In the author's note, the author states that she lived there from 2008 to 2009. I was not familiar with Mauritania except for one thing: I remembered that they pra
Review copy from Edelweiss

Deep in the Sahara is a beautiful book in more ways than one. The text is lyrical and almost sings. "Trees of red flowers bloom with heat. Acacia pods rattle, and fruit bats sleep." My fifteen year old picked it up and started reading silently, but then decided it needed to be read aloud. I loved that she read it to me. We agreed that it sounds like poetry even if it isn't labeled that way. The illustrations are fantastic too. The endpapers look like cloth and the rest
Jun 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: multicultural
Text Connection:
Text to Self:
My connection came from reading the Author's Note included at the end of the book. In this note the author explains her change in point of view from regarding wearing veils as "repressive to women" to a "colorful expression of their faith and culture offered a surprisingly positive view" of the custom. For me it was a moment where I realized that I too probably had suffered under the false assumption of only having one story for Muslim women who wear veils and other
Margaret Chind
Juvenile Fiction/Girls & Women
Ages 4-8, Preschool to 3rd
Pages: 40 Hardcover 10x10"
Date Published: October 8th, 2013
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade (Random House)

I am a Christian with a degree in Religious Studies and I think having picture books to introduce children to other cultures and belief systems is important. This would also be fabulous in a Muslim home with a daughter maturing in her faith. Full of vocabulary this story with lovely illustrations follows a Mauritanian (West Africa) girl aroun
Jun 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is BEAUTIFUL!! The text and illustrations are lovely. A young girl, Lalla, watches her mother's malafa blow in the wind as she prays. Lalla wants a malafa to be beautiful like her mother, but her mother says a malafa is for more than beauty. Lalla sees her sister wrapped in a malafa and wishes to wear a malafa to be mysterious like her elder sister. She sees her grandmother wrapped in a malafa, resting and looking like royalty. But a malafa is more than these things she sees...perhaps if sh ...more
Serene in Wonderland
"Boys in turbans on donkeys go.
Men in white boubou stroll.
Your sister, Selma, in a malafa glows.
Nothing but dark eyes show.
More than all the camels in the land,
you want a malafa so you can be mysterious too."

Five stars is not enough to express how much I love this book. The story itself, the writing, the illustrations... just seriously aren't enough stars.

I saw this book for the first time at a book festival and was a little anxious as I picked it up to read. Another book 'woohoo-we're-so-tolera
Sep 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: text-set-muslim
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alex  Baugh
Dec 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: randomly-reading
Lalla wants to wear a malafa, just like all the girls and women in her Mauritania, West African village. She says would like to wear a malafa so she can be beautiful like her mother, but her mother tells her that a malafa is for more than just beauty.

Lalla's sister looks mysterious in her malafa, but she tells Lalla that a malafa is for more than just mystery.

When she tells cousin Aisha she would like to wear a colorful malafa to be a lady, again she is told that a malafa is for more than just b
Apr 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Text-to-World connections

This K-3 picture book looks at Mauritania, a Muslim country in Western Africa. Told through the eyes of a young Muslim girl who longs to wear a "malafa" like her mother, sister, and grandmother, the book's main focus is on the purpose of the garment. Informing the reader about aspects of the Muslim culture in a very positive way. While many westerners see traditional female Muslim clothing and coverings as repressive, the perspective of Cunnane's book explains that it is
Apr 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
1. Text to self: I appreciated how the malafa was viewed with such beauty, intrigue and mystery. In the author’s note at the end, the author admits she first thought the malafa was repressive to women, but through her time in Mauritania, West Africa, she realized the malafa was actually a “colorful expression of their faith.” There are often misinterpretations of religious customs when viewed from people “outside” the community, especially if it seems to go against mainstream culture. I often fe ...more
"Deep in the Sahara" by Kelly Cunnane is a good book for younger students to expose them to other culture and faith such as the Mauritanians. It is about a little girl named Lalla, who lives in Mauritania. Lalla noticed that every woman in her country wear a malafa, a traditional cloth for woman, and she liked it and wanted to wear it like her mother and sister. This story would be a good example of cultural diversity books and give the students another perspective of how other people
Nov 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Set in Mauritania, West Africa, this book tells the story of a young girl who wants a malafa, the headscarf and veil that the Muslim women there wear in accordance with their faith. The girl wants one because they are beautiful, mysterious, and the robe of ancient queens. Each time another female of her family tells her that the malafa is more than that. It is only when the girl realizes that the malafa is an important part of their religion, "Mama, ... I want a malafa so I can pray like you do, ...more
Caryn Caldwell
Lalla cannot wait until she is old enough to wear the traditional malafa that the other women in the Muslim country of Mauritania wear. Malafas are beautiful, after all, and they help women look exotic and grown up. But when her mother answers the call to prayer, Lalla learns what a malafa truly stands for: faith. Then and only then is she ready for one.

I love this book. The illustrations are beautiful, and the lyrical text is a delight to read aloud. The book's poetic devices -- especially the
Jul 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
All Lalla wants is to wear a malafa like her mother, older sister, and other women in her Saharan village. The malafa is a headdress, worn by girls starting as young as nine, as a practice of Islam in Mauritania, West Africa. While the headdress is full-length and often made of beautiful fabrics, provides mystery and protection from harsh winds in the desert, and is part of a centuries-long tradition, Lalla learns te malafa is also a source of belonging and a show of faith.

I knew very little ab
Jan 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
A young Muslim girl in Mauritania longs for a malafa, the long flowing veiled dress, that her older relatives wear. She wants to look like a beautiful, mysterious queen from long ago. The women in her family tell her that that's not the reason they wear the malafa. When she finally tells her mother she wants to wear it so she can pray with her, her mother gives her a malafa of her own. This beautifully illustrated book shows these garments not as repressive, but as an important (and yes, beautif ...more
Jan 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
I admire Kelly Cunnane's writing that reflects her experiences living in Africa. She writes not about the people, rather she writes OF them. This story brings much understanding of the significance of wearing a malafa.
The rhythm and repetition of the text are pleasing and soothing, and the collage illustrations are colorful and provide a basic simple understanding of the life of these people. Great for use with youngsters!
I'm surprised this is not a Caldecott contender, as the text and the illu
Cheriee Weichel
Jan 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
I put books on order because I read wonderful reviews about them. When the boxes arrive it is like my birthday and Christmas all rolled up into one brown box. This book is one of those surprises.
The illustrations are stunning. The detail in the sand reminds me of growing up in the semi-desert of the Southern Okanogan valley. There is more richness and detail in what many see as baron land than you can imagine.
The story is so very sweet. Everyone can relate to this young girl's yearning to be l
The Styling Librarian
Deep in the Sahara by Kelly Cunnane & Hoda Hadadi – What a beautiful, lovely, enchanting cultural book. Really showed how family traditions are embraced, respected and understood. It was so touching to read how a little girl wanted to show her mother that she was old enough to wear a malafa. What is a malafa? pretty cloth that Muslim women wear in Mauritania to cover their clothing and heads that they wear in public. ...more
Written in a liltting language that takes the reader to a hot desert setting and in to a girl's young mind, this book is delightful merely as a story. It's tone is positive and curious and the colorful illustrations are the perfect complement. THEN I got a dose a reality and realized that the idealism in this book is deceptive in a "Deep Sahara" where child brides are the norm and bondage, abuse & despair is the life most women lead there. ...more
A picture book is essentially a poem, and like a poem it can wring you like a cloth in a matter of seconds. This one is a beautiful story of a little girl who wants to grow up and wear a head covering like her mum (and sister and grandma and aunts) and her mum's insistence that she isn't ready until she understand what it's about. Faith.

I'm gonna be purchasing this one for my library. It's fantastic.
Dec 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Age: Kindergarten-2nd grade
Religion: Islam
Culture: Muslim West Africa

A wonderful look at the malafa and its significance in Muslim culture. Lalla admires the malafa for its beauty, mystery, tradition, and belonging but her mother waits for Lalla to find the true meaning (faith) of the wrap in order to get one herself.
Michele Knott
Beautiful story that explains the tradition of the Muslims' traditional dress for women, the malafa. Use this book to inference the meaning of new words (traditional Hassaniya words) and look for patterns that the author used to describe the beautiful dress. The author included a great note that gives the reader additional information about the dress.
Feb 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
"A malafa is for faith."

A little girl observes all the older women in her life (mother, older sister, grandmother, aunt) and admires their malafa. How she wants one for beauty, for mystery, to be seen as a woman. But each woman tells her a "malafa is for more than that."

A story of family, tradition and faith.
Jan Simpkins
Jul 17, 2014 rated it did not like it
I thought this 'book', was utterly revolting. Sexualising a little girl is positive ? What absolute evil rubbish. Mauretania is a vile place, where forced marriage, rape and FGM, wife beating and repression of women in every way, is rampant.

This Kelly Cunnane is a witless, wicked fool. And her book is witless, wicked rubbish.
Great Books
Jan 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: family
Through poetic text, young Lalla talks about her reasons for requesting to wear the colorful Malafa over her head, like all the women in her family. What will it take for her be allowed this privilege?
Reviewer 17
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