February 27, 2014

From Lands of the Night

by Tololwa M. Mollel
Illustrated by Darrell McCalla
Red Deer Press
978-0-88995-498-4
32 pp.
Ages 7+
January 2014

An ill child is great cause for concern and worthy of a heroic pursuit for a remedy. But, after fruitless hospital visits, futile treatments and prayer, the only potential help may come From Lands of the Night where the ancestors reside.  In fact, a joyful celebration of family, friends and neighbours with music, food and drink is deemed necessary to save the life of the young narrator's baby brother, Samson.

An angel, sent by God–Mola–to request they turn down the music, actually heralds the arrival of more angels, moved to dance to the rhythmic sounds.  That is, until the brilliant light of Mola draws the celebration to a stunning silence.  But the young girl invites Mola to be their guest, and soon the ancestors resplendant in colourful and unique regalia appear.  Samson's parents and other relatives greet their ancestors with respect and gifts, hopeful that they may help.

A new picture book from Tololwa M. Mollel is always cause for celebration.  Though illustrators may change, the text will always be powerful and inspired and immersed in his African heritage.  From Lands of the Night is no different, depicting the joy of community and tradition, culture and history.  Though the story may reflect Tololwa M. Mollel's African (Tanzanian) heritage, the colours and vibrancy of Darrell McCalla's illustrations definitely have a warm Caribbean flavour.  As such, From Lands of the Night may be more universal than initially thought, reflecting the similarity of stories told across regions.

There will be some (there always are) who will question the inclusion and appropriateness of angels and spirits and even a God in a children's book.  Tololwa M. Mollel, ever the sensitive statesman, addresses this potential concern in his poignant author notes, which should be read by all for greater understanding.  But I see the global nature of From Lands of the Night by including common elements of faith and belief systems to which so many turn when crises of body or spirit arise.  The reassurance that our world extends beyond the here-and-now and includes a rich support system of ethereal entities is both reassuring and hopeful.

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