Saturday, July 13, 2019

Review - Leila in Saffron

Leila in Saffron
by Rukhsanna Guidroz
illustrated by Dinara Mirtalipova
Date: 2019
Publisher: Salaam Reads / Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

A colorful journey of self-discovery and identity, this sweet, vibrant picture book follows young Leila as she visits her grandmother’s house for their weekly family dinner, and finds parts of herself and her heritage in the family, friends, and art around her.

Sometimes I’m not sure if I like being me.

When Leila looks in the mirror, she doesn’t know if she likes what she sees. But when her grandmother tells her the saffron beads on her scarf suit her, she feels a tiny bit better. So, Leila spends the rest of their family dinner night on the lookout for other parts of her she does like.

Follow Leila’s journey as she uses her senses of sight, smell, taste, touch to seek out the characteristics that make up her unique identity, and finds reasons to feel proud of herself, just as she is.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This picture book has lovely, vibrant illustrations... but I found it just a little bit light on story.

This is more of a slice-of-life than anything with an actual plot. We meet Leila, a little girl with wobbly self-esteem. She talks of her family and her resemblance to her aunt, and her desire to visit Pakistan one day. She helps her grandmother make dinner, enlisting the help of neighbour Miguel to procure the missing cilantro. Then she tries on one of her grandmother's scarves, and when she looks in the mirror, she likes what she sees. That's really all there is to the story, and... well, I was kind of hoping for more. More conflict (even internal conflict) would've engaged me more, I think.

The illustrations are quite nice, full of bright colours (green like cucumbers, orange like lentils, pink like pomegranates). And there's a glossary at the back to help kids understand the few unfamiliar words that are sprinkled throughout the text. (Pronunciation is, thankfully, included.)

I think this might have more appeal to kids of Pakistani descent, as they'll be able to relate to Leila and her family. Without more of a story, though, there's little to keep kids unfamiliar with this culture really engaged. It's too bad... because the illustrations really shine!

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.83 out of 5

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