As some of you know, I seem to have amassed a stack of fabulous titles for the Pakistani leg of this picture book adventure. I’ve already shared a couple of lovely picture books published by Oxford University Press in Pakistan. Now, let’s take a look at four cross-cultural titles written by authors of Pakistani heritage (living in Canada, the UK and the US) and illustrated by a range of talented international artists, in my first ever multi-book post!
Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colours by Hena Khan, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini (Chronicle Books, 2012)
This stunning book of colours demystifies some of the basics of the Muslim faith for readers of all ages. The text is brief – each double spread features just one short rhyming couplet, which introduces a colour and a specific feature linked to the world of Islam. Gold is the colour of the mosque’s dome, for example, and orange henna is used to decorate a young girl’s hands. Unfamiliar terminology, such as ‘Eid’ and ‘fanoos’ is explained in a short glossary at the back.
The illustrations by Mehrdokht Amini (see also Chicken in the Kitchen) are exceptional – bold yet intimate (and intricate) double spreads featuring a young girl with big brown eyes and her family in a variety of settings (praying, visiting the mosque, writing in Arabic, reading the Quran).
Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai, illustrated by Kerascoët (Little, Brown and Company, 2017)
‘Do you believe in magic?’ is the opening line of this wonderful title by education activist and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala Yousafzai. This picture book tells of Malala’s childhood in Swat Valley in Pakistan. She wishes for a magic pencil to change life for the better and realises that she is lucky to be able to go to school, a privilege then taken away by the Taliban. Her subsequent mission to write about her experiences and speak out to the world – despite the risk to her life – is inspirational.
The artwork by renowned husband-and-wife illustrator team, Kerascoët, is a combination of expressive cartoon-style character studies with minimal backdrops and detailed street scenes showing rubbish dumps and the destruction of war. The elaborate gold embellishments overlaying some of the watercolour images are sublime.
King for a Day by Rukhsana Khan, illustrated by Christiane Krömer (Lee & Low Books, 2014)
This picture book is set in Lahore, Pakistan, during the festival of Basant, a spring festival where many head to the rooftops to fly their kites. A young boy, Malik, is one of the competitors, pitting his kite Falcon against those flown by the bully next door. We share in the action and his triumphs as he brings the bully’s kites down and then a whole stack more, with help from his sister and brother. No mention is made of Malik being in a wheelchair – this is shown in the illustrations. The focus is on his ability to fly his kite, his battle in the skies with the bully, and his delight at being ‘king of Basant’.
Christiane Krömer’s attractive illustrations use neutral tones, layers of texture, and vivid pops of colour to portray the rooftops of Lahore, characters and array of kites.
The Wise Fool: Fables from the Islamic World retold by Shahrukh Husain, illustrated by Micha Archer (Barefoot Books, 2011)
This title features a series of 22 short illustrated fables about Mulla Nasruddin Hoca, a 13th century character who is known throughout the Islamic world and beyond. In this retelling, Nasruddin is an engaging, entertaining and down-to-earth character – and trickster! Many of the stories are set in an everyday context, although Nasruddin also has access to the emperor’s palace. He is the ‘wise fool’ of the book’s title, dispensing wisdom in the most unexpected (and frequently amusing) situations. There is a glossary and handy pronunciation guide at the back of the book.
Micha Archer’s paper collages and jewel-like palette conjure up the colourful cast of characters and settings – bringing the words vividly to life on every page.