LEILA IN SAFFRON. Written by Rukhsanna Guidroz. Illustrated by Dinara Mirtalipova. Salaam Reads/Simon and Schuster. Ages 4-8. $17.99.
When Leila arrives at her grandmother Naani’s house for a family dinner, Naani greets her by telling her the saffron beads on her dress go well with her dark eyes. This warms Leila’s heart. She tends to be critical of herself, especially her knobby knees and skinny arms. As she helps Naani make curry for a family dinner, she decides to look out for the things that she likes about herself. Both text and illustrations show the culture of Leila’s close-knit family. The book celebrates the words, traditions, foods, colors, and designs of Pakistani culture while imparting the message of loving yourself for who you are.
This book was a finalist for the 2020 Ohioana Juvenile Award. The Ohioan is the illustrator, Dinara Mirtalipova. She grew up in Tashkent, Uzbekistan and now lives in Sagamore Hills, OH, a small community near the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. She draws upon Uzbek/Russian folklore in her work and uses a range of materials, like linocuts, gouache, and acrylics. She is a graphic designer, designing a variety of products under the name Mindinara (see www.mindinara.com). She has also written books on how to create your own folklore inspired artwork.