A Story about Afiya

Authored by James Berry
Illustrated by Anna Cunha
Published by Lantana Publishing

Here is a timely addition to the collection of picturebooks that aim to reflect the realities of non-dominant cultures. The story provides a window into the world of an African child called Afiya. We learn on the title page that Afiya is a Swahili name meaning health. Afiya is a little girl who has fine black skin and big brown eyes and lovely long limbs. Her dark skin contrasts beautifully with her plain white dress. She wears this dress each day and washes it out each night.

As she plays and explores her world, her dress picks up patterns and images and memories of her day that seem to resist the washing process each night. Yet each morning it is sparkling white again, and ready for a new day. Afiya’s days are filled with beautiful sights, sounds, scents and experiences. We can see that she is sensitive, creative and appreciative of her beautiful environment.

Poet James Berry tells the story in beautifully lyric language. The illustrations, done in soft chalk pastels are equally lyrical. Anna Cunha has used a wonderful palette of soft pinks and blues, greens and yellows, mauves and browns.

Afiya is not rich in material possessions, but her full and happy life is depicted with huge warmth. We never feel sorry for her – or sad because she only has one dress. Rather, we envy her joyful existence. Teachers will embrace this book as a welcome addition to their libraries. Children with beautiful black skin and brown eyes will see themselves in this mirror.