Lala Salama: A Tanzanian Lullaby

Patricia MacLachlan, illus. by Elizabeth Zunon. Candlewick, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7636-4747-6
“Lala salama” means “Sleep peacefully” in Swahili; MacLachlan (Before You Came) imagines the phrase repeated by a Tanzanian mother as she recounts the events of the day to her small child. In all of Zunon’s (My Hands Sing the Blues) warm, intimate oil paintings, the baby is shown held close; its feet never touch the ground. The baby sits on its mother’s lap and watches Baba, the father, sweep out his fishing boat. Later, the mother washes the baby “in the water warmed by the fire” and carries the baby on her back, “close enough to feel the beating of your heart” as she collects water in a jug, works the field, and cooks an evening meal. At last, baby and mother sit on the shore, watching the lights of the boats: “One by one by one, the lanterns/ flicker on the lake—/ stars above and stars below.” MacLachlan presents a vision of African life that’s serene and safe, and the mother’s voice lulls, reassures, and soothes—it’s rich bedtime listening for the very young. Ages 3–up. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/17/2011
Release date: 11/01/2011
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