In Bulion's tender tale set in East Africa, the traditions of chai (tea) and kanga cloth contribute to a mother's gentle lesson to her daughter. Mama and Fatuma walk to market where the girl will choose kanga cloth for a dress. Tadgell's (Just Call Me Joe Joe) luminescent watercolors depict the flowing grass and vermilion flowers that line the path to town; Mama's blue and golden kanga drapes gently over her head and shoulders. "Will you sew my new kanga when we get home from the market?" the child asks. When Mama promises to make chai as well, a trio of friendly vendors each offer a special ingredient for the brew, but none makes the chai "taste sweet like [Mama's]." Fanciful patterned borders on each spread hint at what's to come when Mama and Fatuma finally meet with the cloth vendor. Beautiful colors and fabrics fill the spreads as Fatuma searches for "a kanga the color of the deep sea and the early morning sky." When she finds it, Mama reads her the words embedded in the design--"Don't be fooled by the color. The good flavor of chai comes from the sugar"--and explains that what makes a person special is not always evident to the eye. An author's note describes East African customs and provides a recipe for chai. Tadgell's artwork highlights the glorious colors of the area's fabrics and landscapes, and demonstrates the warmth of a closely knit community in which tradition is paramount.
Christian Science Monitor
Fatuma's New Cloth, by Leslie Bulion, takes readers to a colorful East African marketplace. There, little Fatuma and her mother shop for a new kanga cloth. With loose watercolors, illustrator Nicole Tadgell captures the friendly market vendors and their wares. Pages are bordered by various kanga designs. In addition to being bright and beautiful, each piece of fabric sports a printed message. The author makes this Swahili saying part of her narrative: "Don't be fooled by the color. The good flavor of tea is the sugar." This proverb leads little Tuma and her mother into an affectionate conversation about how the good qualities of a person are invisible, just as the sugar that sweetens tea can't be seen. Making and drinking tea figures prominently in the book; in fact, a recipe for chai is included. But this is clearly a device for sending a positive message and for giving readers a vivid picture of contemporary East African culture.
School Library Journal
Fatuma is excited about helping her mother with the marketing in her East African village because she has been promised a kanga cloth of her own and a treat of chai, or tea, afterward. Various merchants offer opinions on the secret of perfect Chai: a dark and strong color from the leaves, a light color from creamy milk, or a shiny new saucepan to boil it in. At the cloth shop, the girl chooses a kanga that is "the color of the morning sky meeting the waves of the sea." Each kanga pattern contains a Swahili saying, and Fatuma's reads, "Don't be fooled by the color. The good flavor of chai comes from the sugar," which can't be seen. Her mother uses Tuma as an analogy and the child exclaims, "What is good about me is on the inside too!" While the message is sweet, the watercolor illustrations are somewhat blurry and washed out, and the story drifts along at a dreamy pace.
H-AfrTeach (H-Net) by Gloria Creed-Dikeogu
(c) 2003 H-Net
"...The story of Fatuma's new cloth is not about chai or kanga cloth, but about a child's journey into social learning and understanding, and we enjoy that social learning experience with her."Experience the sights, colors, sounds and tastes of East Africa with Fatuma and her mother. This book is a feast to be enjoyed by readers of any age. To young readers, the story will be perceived to be simple and straight-forward, and yet it also offers them a lot to think about. The illustrations are rich and colorful and fit the main themes of the book, which focus on the social importance of kanga cloth and chai in the lives of East African communities like Fatuma's.
"This book is highly recommended and is appropriate for any age interested in learning about African culture and tradition."
(A) great (book) for Mother's Day present(s) the special relationship between moms and daughters. Fatuma's New Cloth by Leslie Bulion, illus. by Nicole Tadgell is an engaging picture book set in an East African marketplace. Fatuma and her mom search for the perfect colorful fabric for a new dress but are fortunate to discover something more on this shopping trip.
Midwest Book Review
Fatuma's New Cloth is an energetic and highly recommended children's picturebook about Fatuma, a young East African girl who learns about the complexities of the marketplace. There is even a recipe for East African chai (tea) included in this highly enjoyable tale by Leslie Bulion, whose engaging text is superbly complemented by the soft, watercolor-style illustrations by Nicole Tadgell.
"Fabulous lessons! Very highly recommended"
Fatuma and her mother plan to spend their day in the market. Along the way, various merchants suggest their wares make chai (tea) taste better, but she does not see how their offerings make the chai taste differently. Then at the cloth shop, Fatuma chooses a new kanga cloth from which her mother will make her dress. Each Kanga pattern is imprinted with a Swahili saying, many of which have more than one meaning. Fatuma chooses a kanga imprinted with this message: "Don't be fooled by the color. The good flavor of chai comes from the sugar." So she learns that just as surgery dissolves becoming something we cannot not see, so are the things make us special as impossible to see.Fatuma's New Cloth provides not only an entertaining tale, but also a fascinating peek into a vastly different culture from most American children's. In America, we teach our children, "don't judge a book by its cover." In Swahili, the same lesson is expressed as "don't judge the tea by its color." Parents will welcome the message that the value of people lies on the inside where we cannot see. In addition, parents seeking to teach their children the lessons of acceptance of other people's beliefs and culture will find the story an excellent aid. In addition, authentic East African features and kanga patterns frame the pages, lending the text an extraordinary visually pleasing appearance as charming illustrations bring the text alive. An author's note at the end aids parents to further explain the nuances of the story. Also included is a recipe for chai, allowing young children to experience the story first hand. Very highly recommended.
In America we say "don't judge a book by its color", but in Swahili it's "don't judge the tea by its color" and a young East African girl learns this lesson as readers 5-9 enter a contemporary African market with Fatuma and her mother. It's a delightful introduction to another culture as they make their way around from vender to vender.
North East Independent
an exotic tale from modern-day East Africa...Writer Leslie Bulion and illustrator Nicole Tadgell take us to an African market in search of kanga cloth and the secret to good chai. In a series of delicate watercolors we travel with little Fatuma and Mama as they touch beautiful kanga fabrics, smell sweet and savory cooking spices and talk to the market vendors during a typical day. The book also comes with a recipe for East African chai.