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Children's Fiction Caribbean & Latin America

Malaika’s Costume

by (author) Nadia L. Hohn & Irene Luxbacher

Groundwood Books Ltd
Initial publish date
Mar 2016
Caribbean & Latin America, General, Emigration & Immigration
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2016
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Mar 2016
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 3 to 7
  • Grade: p to 3
  • Reading age: 3 to 7


Malaika’s mother can’t buy her a carnival costume — will she still be able to dance in the parade?

It’s Carnival time. The first Carnival since Malaika’s mother moved to Canada to find a good job and provide for Malaika and her grandmother. Her mother promised she would send money for a costume, but when the money doesn’t arrive, will Malaika still be able to dance in the parade?

Disappointed and upset at her grandmother’s hand-me-down costume, Malaika leaves the house, running into Ms. Chin, the tailor, who offers Malaika a bag of scrap fabric. With her grandmother’s help, Malaika creates a patchwork rainbow peacock costume, and dances proudly in the parade.

A heartwarming story about family, community and the celebration of Carnival, Nadia Hohn’s warm and colloquial language and Irene Luxbacher’s vibrant collage-style illustrations make this a strikingly original picture book.

Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:

With prompting and support, name the author and illustrator of a story and define the role of each in telling the story.

Ask and answer questions about key details in a text.

About the authors

NADIA L. HOHN is a writer and educator. Her first picture book, Malaika’s Costume, won the Helen Isobel Sissons Canadian Children’s Story Award and the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) Children’s Literature Award. She is also the author of Malaika’s Winter Carnival and Malaika’s Surprise, both illustrated by Irene Luxbacher; A Likkle Miss Lou: How Jamaican Poet Louise Bennett Coverley Found Her Voice, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes; Harriet Tubman: Freedom Fighter, illustrated by Gustavo Mazali; and two titles in the Sankofa series — Music and Media. Nadia’s writing is inspired by her childhood memories, Jamaican heritage, Black culture, world travels, and social issues. She lives in Toronto.


Nadia L. Hohn's profile page


Irene Luxbacher a obtenu son diplôme d'histoire de l'art à l'université Queen's avant d'étudier au Emily Carr College of Art and Design à Vancouver, en Colombie Britannique. En 1994, elle est revenue à Toronto où elle coordonne des expositions d'arts d'enfants en plus d'écrire et d'illustrer des livres dans ce domaine. On lui doit la collection Mes premières oeuvres.


Irene Luxbacher was nominated for the Governor General's Award for her illustrations in Andrew Larsen's The Imaginary Garden and its sequel The Not-So-Faraway Adventure. She has illustrated several other picture books, and her own Deep Underwater, Mattoo, Let’s Play!, and Mr. Frank, as well as eight acclaimed children’s art activity books. She lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, with her husband and young son. You can learn more about her work at

Irene Luxbacher's profile page


  • Commended, Commended TD Grade One Book Giveaway Selection, 2021
  • Commended, USBBY's Outstanding International Books List
  • Commended, Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Books of the Year
  • Runner-up, Américas Award Honorable Mention
  • Commended, School Library Journal Best Picture Books
  • Commended, CCBC Best Books for Children and Teens, starred selection
  • Winner, Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario Children's Literature Award
  • Commended, OLA Best Bets Honourable Mention

Editorial Reviews

. . . an engaging, poignant story with exquisite taste and wonderful details.


A fun choice for libraries seeking books about creativity in general or the Caribbean in particular.

School Library Journal

This is actually a realistic portrait of the consequences of global immigration and economics. But it’s also the story of how much little girls love their moms. Beautiful.

Globe and Mail

Hohn employs a unique style of voice that is both figuratively and literaly lyrical.

Canadian Children's Book News

Malaika’s Costume is a highly recommended story that celebrates the different cultures of the world and the emotional journey of a young child.

CM Magazine

A wholly earned celebration.


The text is told in the colloquial voice of the little girl, and readers will quickly and easily feel a part of her circle. Carnival is an important holiday in many cultures, and it's good to have a picture book to celebrate it.

Horn Book

Like a rainbow peacock itself, the illustrations in this book burst with a frenzy of colors and textures.

Booklist Online

Librarian Reviews

Malaika's Costume

It’s Carnival time. The first Carnival since Malaika’s mother moved to Canada to find a good job and provide for Malaika and her grandmother. Her mother promised she would send money for a costume, but when the money doesn’t arrive, will Malaika still be able to dance in the parade?

Indo-Caribbean students will connect to the story of the young girl who is waiting to be reunited with her mother who has moved to Canada. When teaching social studies, this book will help readers learn about Afrocentric identity, consider the diversity of families, the importance of carnival and cultural celebrations, and the specific bond between grandparent and grandchild. The idea of creating a costume is central to this story, thus inspiring students to share stories of costumes in their own lives.

Also available: Chin Chiang and the Dragon's Dance

Author available for school visits @Nadialhohn

Source: Association of Canadian Publishers. Top Grade Selection 2016.

Other titles by Nadia L. Hohn

Other titles by Irene Luxbacher

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