Friday, May 27, 2022

Malaika's Winter Carnival by Nadia L. Hohn & Irene Luxbacher - a picture book about adjusting to a new life

scene of children dressed in snowsuits against a background of a snow castles with colourful fireworks in the sky

Why this book?

Children of different ages and backgrounds will relate to this story about a young girl joining a new family and coming to a new country. Together with the other books in this series, it forms part of the story of one child. But each book can be read and understood without reading the others.

The bright, collage art illustrations are wonderful and engaging for young children.


My thoughts as a creator:

I really liked the cultural perspective of this story and the writing style. This book would be great to study when working on adding cultural elements and vocabulary to stories written in English. 

My thoughts as an educator:

I’ve learned with many students who have come from other countries to live in Canada and wished I had a book like this to read with them! It would be great for opening up discussions about life experiences and family members that are far away.

I loved the way the author blended English and Caribbean patois in writing this story. It’s really important for kids to see and hear other languages in their learning environment, so this one would be great as part of a classroom collection. If you can watch the author reading this book (or the other two books in the series) it’s a wonderful storytelling experience!

 Ages: 4 - 7

Grades: K - 3

Connections: new experiences, family changes, new siblings, new school, moving to a new country, cultural celebrations and festivals


Literacy – Draw a story map with students and encourage them to help retell the story.  

Writing & Social-Emotional Learning – Encourage students to draw a picture and write about traveling to a new place and share how they felt about it.

Literacy & Art: Provide materials for students to create puppets using wooden craft sticks to represent family members. Encourage children to retell their own family stories.

Social-Emotional Learning: Draw or discuss a time when you felt angry. What made you so angry? Make a list of ways to help move through angry feelings.

Art: Create collage art to create your own imaginary carnival! Use brightly coloured oil pastels with bold lines and shapes to draw a carnival scene. Create different papers to collage onto your scene using crayons or pastels on coloured paper. Cut them into shapes and glue them on to add details to clothing or items in your art project.

More resources:

10 Ways to Teach Malaika’s Costume and other books

An interview with NadiaL. Hohn about her writing process

Irene Luxbacher has created some amazing books for creating art in the classroom (now unfortunately out of print). My students especially enjoyed the "I Can Paint" and "I Can Sculpt" books and were inspired to create their own projects. The Jumbo Book of Art is full of great teaching ideas!  

Check out this illustrator demonstration by Irene Luxbacher for the third book in the series, Malaika’s Surprise. 

At present, Malaika's Winter Carnival is available on EPIC


Description from the publisher:

Malaika is happy to be reunited with Mummy, but it means moving to Canada, where everything is different. It’s cold in Québec City, no one understands when she talks and Carnival is nothing like the celebration Malaika knows from home!

When Mummy marries Mr. Frédéric, Malaika gets a new sister called Adèle. Her new family is nice, but Malaika misses Grandma. She has to wear a puffy purple coat, learn a new language and get used to calling this new place home. Things come to a head when Mummy and Mr. Frédéric take Malaika and Adèle to a carnival. Malaika is dismayed that there are no colorful costumes and that it’s nothing like Carnival at home in the Caribbean! She is so angry that she kicks over Adèle’s snow castle, but that doesn’t make her feel any better. It takes a video chat with Grandma to help Malaika see the good things about her new home and family.

Nadia L. Hohn’s prose, written in a blend of standard English and Caribbean patois, tells a warm story about the importance of family, especially when adjusting to a new home. Readers of the first Malaika book will want to find out what happens when she moves to Canada, and will enjoy seeing Malaika and her family once again depicted through Irene Luxbacher’s colorful collage illustrations.

Malaika’s Winter Carnival by Nadia L. Hohn & Irene Luxbacher was published by Groundwood Books in 2017.

Looking for more picture books? Check out this week's list of perfect picture books at Perfect Picture Book Fridays on Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog. 


  1. What a clever book! Here in Minnesota we have so many immigrants from across the world. I'm sure this one would be so helpful to them. I'm going to pass it on. Thanks Andrea!

  2. Interesting to see a series based on one child and different cultural experiences. SF is a mix of children from many cultures, so we celebrate many. I love your activities. Thanks for sharing!


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