New York: Farrar, Sraus, & Giroux, 1999. $16.00,
Note: Jamela, a young South African girl, gets in trouble when she takes the material intended for a new dress for Mama, parades it in the street, and allows it to become dirty and torn. (CABA Honor)
Buy This Book
Jamela's Dress was chosen as one of the Honor Books for the
African Studies Association annual Children's Africana Book
Awards in 2000. This delightful story tells how a little girl
gets carried away, literally and figuratively, with her mother's
new fabric destined for a wedding party.
Jamela dons her mother's unsewn fabric and parades through the
street. She is photographed by a journalist whose picture is
published, declaring, "Kwela Jamela African Queen." The fabric
is ruined during the outing, but the photo wins a cash award,
and all is forgiven when mother receives new fabric in time to
make dresses for herself and Jamela for the wedding celebration.
The book is fun to read and the story is believable, whether or
not that is important to young readers. It could happen to any
youngster, being carried away with the beauty and volume of the
pretty fabric, wrapped majestically around the body. Jamela
certainly enjoys her 15 minutes of fame. She enters a
make-believe world where she is queen and everyone admires her,
saying "Kwela Jamela," an interesting expression explained by
the author in an endnote.
Daly's illustrations bring the story to life; Jamela is
adorable; her mother appears understanding; her friends are fun
and wacky. Background buildings represent common house styles
and business structures. The clothing is typical of urban
areas, as are the other "adornments" in the illustrations:
bicycles, chickens, skate boards and the pet dog.
This story deserves a place in primary school libraries. It is
a happy story about a happy family (although there is no father
mentioned). The pictures move the story with fun and glee
during the daring stroll and with compassion during the time
when "Mama was so upset that she couldn't even look at Jamela."
Buy this book and enjoy it with your own children and
grandchildren. It will serve as a catalyst for similar stories
in your family's history.
Copyright 2001 by H-Net, all rights reserved. H-Net permits the
redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit,
educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the
author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and
H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online. For other uses
contact the Reviews editorial staff: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reviewed for H-Africa by Marylee S. Crofts, Department of
History, Bentley College, Waltham, MA.
Reviewed by: Marylee S. Crofts, Department of History, Bentley College, Waltham, MA.
Subject: South Africa / Fiction / CABA Honor / Urban setting / City and town life