Siba and Saba lose things every day, only to find them again in their dreams. As the story progresses, however, so do their dreams. Rather than looking back on events that have happened and things they have lost, the sisters start to dream ahead about their future.
Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl and Sandra van Doorn have just brought out a new title with Lantana Publishing, Sing to the Moon, but I’m starting with this one, Sleep Well, Siba and Saba, their first picture book collaboration published in 2017.
Siba and Saba lose things every day – sweaters, slippers, sandals, a sash, a shawl; lots of things that start with ‘s’, in fact. Thankfully, they don’t lose each other! The sisters find the things they have lost in their dreams; snapshots of nature in action (a leaping impala and a fluttering sunbird) show what distracted them from keeping a closer eye on their belongings. As the story progresses, however, so do their dreams. Siba and Saba no longer look back on events that have happened– and objects they have lost – but events and objects that lie in the future. I love that one of these concerns their future education. A new world of choice and opportunity is opening up for them!
The story is beautifully and simply told making it accessible for even the youngest of readers. I particularly enjoyed the references to Uganda where the tale is set: the characters’ names, the Ssese islands and Sipi Falls, two words in an unfamiliar language ‘Sula bulungi’ (clearly explained in context), and wildlife such as the leaping impala mentioned above. And I do love the repeated ‘s’ sound woven into the fabric of the text; it washes over the reader like a gentle, soothing wave making this such a good book to end a busy day.
The illustrations have a dreamlike quality about them that enhances the magic and wonder of the story. Siba and Saba lie sleeping atop mountains of brightly-coloured cushions, sweaters drift through a twinkly urban landscape like kites on strings, tiny yellow songbirds clutch lollipops in their beaks, Saba floats on a giant leaf at the foot of a waterfall. The artwork is pure unadulterated joy! And there are dashes of humour sprinkled in there, too. Special mention goes to the little brown dog who appears in many of the spreads – Miss 4 adores its hilarious antics!
Sleep Well, Siba and Saba is a special book that both soothes the soul and predicts an exciting future of choice and opportunity. Let the story work its magic and, before you know it, you and your listeners will be asleep atop a mountain of brightly-coloured cushions dreaming of waterfalls and sunbirds . . . or perhaps, a neatly starched school uniform!
Sleep Well, Siba and Saba by Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl, illustrated by Sandra van Doorn (Lantana Publishing, 2017)
Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl was born in the United States to Ugandan parents and currently lives in South Africa. She is an expert technical writer with more than 15 years’ experience in global health, education and social protection in Sub-Saharan Africa. Sleep Well, Sibi and Saba is her debut picture book.
Sandra van Doorn is a freelance illustrator who has published children’s books in the UK, Canada and Greece. She was born in France, studied at university in Canada, and now lives in Western Australia.