This work is a collaboration between children’s authors Mal Peet (1947-2015) and Elspeth Graham (1954 –), and Irish illustrator P.J. Lynch (1962 –). Peet won the Carnegie medal for his novel Tamar (2005), and has created two other children’s books with Graham: Cloud Tea Monkeys (1999) and Night Sky Dragons (2014). These three works created by Peet and Graham are now available together in a paperback edition, illustrated by renowned illustrator Michael Foreman. Lynch is described as one of the most talented illustrators today and has won numerous international awards, including the Kate Greenaway medals for When Jessie Came Across the Sea (1997) and The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey (1995). The book is significant as a recent collaboration between children’s authors and an illustrator which, though telling a simple story, produces a work of depth and complexity. The story was inspired by tales Peet and Graham had heard of a famous desert guide who was blind, from which they created this tale of loss, love, and reunion. One of the greatest achievements of the book is its creation of an intricate physical and imaginative landscape of the Sahara desert, rendered in detail and striking tones by Lynch’s illustrations. The book tells the story of Issa, a famous desert guide, whose keen senses and knowledge of the desert make him the most sought-after guide. One day, Issa notices a piece of ribbon and knows it has travelled a long way, as it does not belong to any of the local people. Later, his donkey leads him to a camel in the desert wearing the same ribbon, who is guarding a baby girl. Issa takes the girl, names her Mariama, and the locals call her his granddaughter. Issa terms her a child of the desert, and through their mutual affinity with the desert landscape, an inseparable bond is created. When Issa goes blind, Mariama becomes his ‘eyes’, learning the landscapes of the desert more intimately in the process. Significantly, Mariama also grows toward independent adulthood through these relationships. In a particularly striking scene, and the only wordless double spread in the book, Mariama sees the sun rise against the cobalt blue of valleys and mountains, in a moment that signifies an experience of independence, growth, and wonder. One day, three travellers come to Issa requesting help through the Bitter Mountains rather than travelling around them, and embark on this dangerous path alone when they realise Issa is blind as they no longer value his knowledge. Issa and Mariama rescue the travellers from a sandstorm, and the young traveller is revealed as Mariama’s brother, through their matching pendants. Mariama and Issa go to live with Mariama’s father and brother in their palace surrounded by the sea and the river, introducing an entirely new landscape, and the book ends with Mariama’s promise to continue to be Issa’s eyes.
Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham. Illustrated by P.J. Lynch
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£12.99 U.K. Only
1 volume (unpaged) : colour illustrations ; 24 cm
Illustrator, Illustrations, Desert, Sahara Desert, Journey, Home, Family, Gender
General Catalogue (Children’s Books) - NLI