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Mali Under the Night Sky

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With a spare first-person narrative and affecting watercolor-wash illustrations, this biography by the author of Sélavi, That Is Life: A Haitian Story of Hope (2004) tells of a family’s escape from civil war in Laos. The opening images celebrate family roots with open pictures of a young girl, Mali, playing safely in a forest, in her community, and at home. A glowing spread framed with traditional patterns shows the custom of tying strings around loved one’s wrists at festivals and partings to celebrate always being
together. In abrupt contrast, the images move to scenes of Mali alone on a tense, empty street. War is close, and the family flees at night across a wide river to “another country,” where they are arrested “for not having a home.” A view of the family behind bars in a crowded jail is juxtaposed with a double-page close-up of the strings around Mali’s wrist as she remembers her rich connections. The small child’s viewpoint will move young readers, and a final photo shows the real Mali, an artist and activist, today.
- Hazel Rochman, January 1, 2011 

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