A Story About Afiya

h1 January 30th, 2020 by jules

“Always Afiya is amazed, just like when she comes home and finds herself covered
with windswept leaves of October, falling.”


Today, I’ve got a peek at a book coming to shelves in April from Lantana Publishing — A Story about Afiya, originally a poem written for young people in 1991 by the late Coretta Scott King Award-winning Jamaican poet James Berry and now in picture book form with art from Brazilian illustrator Anna Cunha.

Afiya is a Swahili girl, and she has “fine black skin” and “big brown eyes that laugh.” She also has one dress, and it’s special. “She has a white summer frock she wears and washes every night,” we read, “that everyday picks on something to collect, strangely.” Yes, on her frock are imprinted the places she goes and the wonders of nature she sees, as if her dress records her very memories. The dress is marked by her encounters and experiences, all of them ones that bring her joy.

The mixed media images are dominated by rose and mustard hues, and Cunha keeps the compositions simple — the focus always on Afiya and her ever-changing dress. Berry’s writing is lyrical and evocative. Here’s a look at some spreads.


“Afiya passes sunflowers and finds the yellow fringed black faces there,
imprinted on her frock, all over.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


“Another time she passes red roses
and there the clustered bunches are, imprinted on her frock.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


“Afiya goes to the zoo; she comes back with two tigers
together, on her back and her front.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


“She goes to the seaside; she comes home with fishes under ruffled waves
in the whole stretch of sea imprinted on her dress.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


(Click cover to enlarge)


* * * * * * *

A STORY ABOUT AFIYA. Text © James Berry, 1991. Illustration © Anna Cunha, 2020. American edition published in 2020 by Lantana Publishing Ltd., UK. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher.

One comment to “A Story About Afiya

  1. Oh. Oh. Oh how lovely!

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