Review: Lala Salama by Patricia MacLachlan

lala salama

Lala Salama by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon

This poetic lullaby transports readers to Tanzania and life by the lake, Tanganyika.  It is the story of a small family with a father who heads off to work on the lake in his boat.   The mother stays on the shore with her baby, washing the baby, carrying water, working the fields, and cooking food.  The animals of Tanzania are around them in all of their exotic beauty.  Then as the sun sets, the father returns spend time with his family and eventually sails off to the lake again.  The mother and baby sit on the shore, watching the night and the lights on the boats.  This picture book is beautifully foreign, tremendously tranquil, and has a lushness that is exquisite.

MacLachlan’s writing is pure poetry.  It has a great hushed quality to it throughout the entire story of the day.  She also deftly weaves in references to Tanzania, creating such a solid sense of place that this story could never be anywhere else in the world.  She references the colors of the sky, the roofs, and the lake.  She speaks of the hard work, and at the end of each stanza comes the refrain: “Lala salama.”  There is also a deep sense of love throughout the work, wrapping all of the poetry with motherly adoration.

Zunon’s illustrations carry the same lushness as the poetry.  Done in oil paint on watercolor paper, they have a deep color palette that becomes even more deep and dazzling as night falls.  It almost shines with light at times, then seems to drink the light from the room.  Beautiful.

A lush, poetic lullaby of a picture book, this makes a great diverse addition to bedtime reading.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.