Maisie’s parents are different from each other in many respects, but they both love their young daughter the same way.
Maisie’s Scrapbook shines a light on the joys of bringing up a child in a mixed-race family. Maisie’s parents are different from each other in many respects: Dada has dark skin and Mama has white; they wear different clothes and use different words for the same thing; they cook different foods and play different instruments. But they both love their young daughter Maisie the same way. It is heartwarming to see both parents bring themselves, their culture, their experiences and their stories into the family unit, and to see all this exist comfortably side by side. Their differences are not stumbling blocks or cause for debate. They even nag their daughter the same way!
Another highlight of this book is the beautifully evocative imagery. Turtles swing on chandeliers of stars, and clouds paint pictures in the sky. And Maisie is compared to the changing seasons that frame the story: she’s as relentless as spring rain and as spirited as autumn leaves. Author Samuel Narh also weaves his Ghanaian storytelling heritage through the book with the appearance of Ananse the spider in his flying basket. Ananse stories are said to have originated in Ghana with the Ashanti people; they gradually spread through West Africa, then to the Caribbean and the Americas. This is the first time I have encountered them – you are never too old to learn from picture books! I wonder if Afia the bull rider, who also features in Narh’s story, is also part of the Ghanaian storytelling tradition?
The language in Maisie’s Scrapbook is simple yet lyrical with limited text on each double spread. The story flows effortlessly through the seasons and Maisie’s experiences with one, other or both parents. Sometimes she is with Dada painting pictures in the sky, or flying through the air with Ananse the spider. Sometimes she is with Mama playing hide-and-seek or cuddling in close. And then she is with both of them, lifted high in the air by Dada while Mama looks on smiling.
Jo Loring-Fisher’s mixed media illustrations work so well to promote the individual identities of all three characters in the story as well as the different experiences shared by Mama and Dada with Maisie, and the family’s togetherness. The close bond between the family members is clear to see: Dada touches Maisie’s back as he points to the sky, or strokes her hair; Mama holds her little girl close and looks into her eyes to assure her of her affection. And Maisie smiles, content in the knowledge that she is loved. The double-page landscapes are gorgeous, too. Golden mountains provide a glowing backdrop for savanna dotted with trees; sweeping brushstrokes of gold, green and show sea becoming sky; lush green hills provide a fresh, vibrant setting for hide-and-seek.
Maisie’s Scrapbook is a beautiful collage of seasons, colours and story, and a wonderful insight into life and love in one little girl’s mixed-race family.
Maisie’s Scrapbook by Samuel Narh, illustrated by Jo Loring-Fisher (Lantana Publishing, 2019)
Samuel Narh is a children’s book author, dreamer and storyteller. Born and raised in Ghana, he now lives in the US with his wife and daughter. Maisie’s Scrapbook is inspired by his own young family. It is his first picture book.
Jo Loring-Fisher is an artist, illustrator and storyteller based near Stonehenge in the UK. She recently graduated from the Cambridge School of Art with an MA in children’s book illustration.