Books Early Readers Features Genre It's Monday What Are You Reading Lifespan of a Reader Middle Grade Picture Books Reading Themes Voices From The Fringe: Social Justice

[Monday Reading] Happiness And Night Beauty In Little Girls’ Names: Saida and Layla

"The Day Saida Arrived" by Susana Gomez Redondo and Illustrated by Sonja Wimmer and translated by Lawrence Schimel | "Layla's Happiness" by Maria Hadessa Ekere Tallie and Ashleigh Corrin.


It's Monday! What Are You Reading

Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community. 

These two picturebooks speak of joy, friendship, and finding hope and beauty in everyday things. They surface voices of young children of colour, filled with courage and wrapped in multiple languages speaking truth.

Layla’s Happiness [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written by Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie Illustrated by Ashleigh Corrin
Published by Enchanted Lion Books (2019)
ISBN: 1592702880 (ISBN13: 9781592702886). Bought a copy. Book photos taken by me.

Layla’s name means “night beauty” – and throughout the story, it is evident how this girl is filled not only with beauty, but with unmitigated joie-de-vivre.

In this conversation with creators Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie and artist Ashleigh Corrin, they described their active collaborative work in this book project, which is quite unusual for the creation of a picturebook where author and illustrator usually work autonomously from each other. As Black women, they are committed to surfacing joyful voices of Black children and ensuring that Layla’s Happiness shines through the pages.

Layla also spoke of her father who is from South Carolina, and her mother who reads poetry to her. This moved me deeply as it characterizes my own relationship with my daughter with whom I often read poetry to.

It is a book that speaks of joy coming from forgotten things, it is a wide-armed celebration of purples and plums, and the connections made with the outdoors, friends, and dancing the salsa “under the magnolia tree.”

The book ends with a poignant question, asking the reader “what is happiness to you?” I see a lot of potential conversations with young readers after reading this story: articulating the many things that gives us happiness, the little things that provide us a measure of peace.

The Day Saida Arrived [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written By Susana Gomez Redondo Illustrated by Sonja Wimmer Translated by Lawrence Schimel
Published by Blue Dot Kids Press(2020)
ISBN: 1733121250 (ISBN13: 9781733121255). Copy provided by translator. Book photos taken by me.

Saida does not speak the language of her new home. Her family came from “a land of bazaars and archways and colorful tiles.” It is not surprising then that Saida spoke in a language of tears and grief – for all that she has lost – and the strangeness of the new city that she has difficulty understanding. Paradoxically, Saida’s name means happy in Arabic.

After, I kept looking for her words,

to see if between us,

the words and me,

we might untie her laughter,

and her voice.

The story is told from the perspective of Saida’s friend, who had taken it upon herself to know Saida and her voice and the words she speaks. This is a beautiful story of openness and compassion, courage and vulnerability, learning and discovery.

I love the introduction to Arabic words (sorely needed by this reader) and the innocent and playful way through which an intimacy blossomed through languages that can not be more different from each other, yet bound together in faith and friendship. This is one of the most beautiful stories I read this year. Make sure you find it.

#ReadIntl2020 Update: Both author and illustrator of Layla’s Happiness are POC from the United States of America.

The Day Saida Arrived: Susana Gomez Redondo is from Spain, Sonja Wimmer is from Germany – book translated from the Spanish by Lawrence Schimel.

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

2 comments on “[Monday Reading] Happiness And Night Beauty In Little Girls’ Names: Saida and Layla

  1. These books both look absolutely amazing, Myra. I checked all three of my libraries and we won’t have them, yet. But they are going on my wish list. Thanks for sharing!


  2. Completely Full Bookshelf

    Wow, both of these books sound beautiful! The illustrations in Layla’s Happiness look amazing, and I love the message about befriending people different from yourself in The Day Saida Arrived! Thanks for the great post!


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