What's Cooking Jamela?
What's Cooking Jamela?.
New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2001. $16.00,
Note: Jamela is responsible for fattening up the chicken intended for Christmas dinner, but instead she gives it a name and makes it her friend.
This is another colourful, entertaining picture book by the award-winning South African artist and writer, Niki Daly. The small amount of text on each page could be read by children of about the age of eight, while younger children will enjoy looking at the pictures and will understand if the text is read to them.The book is a sequel to _Jamela's Dress_ and features the same characters: little Jamela, her mother, sister, and special friend, the young Rasta Archie. Jamela has to fatten the chicken for Christmas, but they become friends and she runs away with it rather than have it eaten. Chaos ensues wherever Jamela goes. As usual, she is forgiven and all ends happily.The book is set in a South African town, and some local vocabulary is used, consisting mainly of exclamations which do not hinder understanding. Their meanings are given in a glossary at the end. The language and names add to the authentic details of the setting and
people, which are typical of a modern African working-class community. There is no father in Jamela's home, and their Christmas dinner is a humble one, but everyone dresses in bright clothes. Particularly attractive are the large scenes, such as the school nativity play, the bustling street, and the interior of Miss Style hair salon when Jamela chases her chicken through it.
There is plenty of detail for sharp-eyed readers to look out for: the
little figures of Mickey Mouse and two African carvings, which are
ornaments that also double up as characters for Jamela's nativity
scene; the terrifying commercial on the TV screen, advertising fried
chicken; the Christmas cards on the wall and the star suspended over
the kitchen table; the little boy who regularly appears in the
background, playing next door. Even the endpapers are there to be
discovered, decorated with a design of chickens.
Among the awards that Niki Daly has won, his picture book _Why the Sun
and the Moon Live in the Sky_ was selected as a _New York Times Book
Review_ Best Illustrated Book of the Year in 1995. He also illustrates
books by other authors, a classic being _Fly, Eagle, Fly!_ by
Christopher Gregorowski. _What's Cooking, Jamela?_ can only enhance his
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Reviewed by: Elwyn Jenkins, , Professor Emeritus, Vista University, Pretoria
Subject: South Africa / Fiction / Urban settings / City and town life