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list price: $12.99
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category: Children's Fiction
published: Mar 2016
publisher: Groundwood Books Ltd

Malaika’s Costume

by Nadia L. Hohn, illustrated by Irene Luxbacher

tagged: caribbean & latin america, emigration & immigration

Malaika’s mother can’t buy her a carnival costume — will she still be able to dance in the parade?

It’s carnival time — the first carnival since Malaika’s mother moved to Canada to find a good job and provide for Malaika and her grandmother. Her mother promised she would send money for a costume, and Malaika marks off the days on her calendar as she waits for Mummy’s letter to arrive. But when the letter finally comes, Malaika learns that there is no money for her costume.

Disappointed and upset at the thought of wearing her grandmother’s hand-me-down costume, Malaika leaves the house, running into Ms. Chin, the tailor, who offers Malaika a bag of scrap fabric. With her grandmother’s help, Malaika creates a patchwork rainbow peacock costume, and dances proudly in the parade.

This heartwarming story about family, community and the celebration of carnival is written in a blend of standard English and Caribbean patois. Nadia L. Hohn’s warm prose and Irene Luxbacher’s vibrant collage-style illustrations make this a strikingly original picture book.

Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:

With prompting and support, name the author and illustrator of a story and define the role of each in telling the story.

Ask and answer questions about key details in a text.

About the Authors

Nadia L. Hohn

NADIA L. HOHN is a classroom teacher, presenter, and award-winning author of the picture books Malaika’s Costume and Malaika's Winter Carnival. Named by CBC as one of the top Black Canadian Writers to Watch in 2018, Nadia holds degrees from the University of Waterloo and OISE. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Irene Luxbacher

IRENE LUXBACHER is an artist and author living in Toronto, Ontario, who has received many awards for her work. She has written and illustrated Deep Underwater, an Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Award finalist, and Mr. Frank, which was selected as a USBBY Outstanding International Book. Her illustrations for the Malaika series by Nadia L. Hohn have been highly acclaimed, and her illustrations for The Imaginary Garden by Andrew Larsen were shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award.

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
3 to 6
p to 1
Reading age:
3 to 7
  • Commended, Commended TD Grade One Book Giveaway Selection, 2021
  • Commended, USBBY's Outstanding International Books List
  • Commended, Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Books of the Year
  • Runner-up, Américas Award Honorable Mention
  • Commended, OLA Best Bets Honourable Mention
  • Commended, School Library Journal Best Picture Books
  • Winner, Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario Children's Literature Award
  • Commended, CCBC Best Books for Children and Teens, starred selection
Editorial Reviews

A wholly earned celebration.

— Kirkus

A fun choice for libraries seeking books about creativity in general or the Caribbean in particular.

— School Library Journal

. . . an engaging, poignant story with exquisite taste and wonderful details.

— Kinderlit

Malaika’s Costume is a highly recommended story that celebrates the different cultures of the world and the emotional journey of a young child.

— CM Magazine

The text is told in the colloquial voice of the little girl, and readers will quickly and easily feel a part of her circle. Carnival is an important holiday in many cultures, and it's good to have a picture book to celebrate it.

— Horn Book

This is actually a realistic portrait of the consequences of global immigration and economics. But it’s also the story of how much little girls love their moms. Beautiful.

— Globe and Mail

Hohn employs a unique style of voice that is both figuratively and literaly lyrical.

— Canadian Children's Book News

Like a rainbow peacock itself, the illustrations in this book burst with a frenzy of colors and textures.

— Booklist Online

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