In this picture book for older children, Muhamad spends his first night alone in the desert tending to a new mother goat and her kid. Told in Muhamad’s voice, the story reflects the culture of the Tuareg, a nomadic people with strong ties to family and the desert way of life. Kessler’s poetic text has rhythm and repetition and Schoenherr’s artwork is striking. —Booklist, boxed review
This lovely book, with its descriptions of the desert terrain and bits of tribal wisdom, provides an informative glimpse at a distant lifestyle that will be useful in the classroom and as a read-aloud.
“Before I see camp I hear the thunk-thunk of mortar and pestle. The sweet smell of fresh tea floats on the air. The distant voices of herders calling their herds fill my ears.”
In these days of growing intolerance it’s important to give kids a look at other cultures so they will know that different isn’t better or worse, good or bad—just different. It is particularly relevant right now,. This book shows the gentle and more common side of Islam, and makes kids realize all that they share.
Muhamad loves his family, above all, just like any other kid in the world—of any religion.
One Night—a story from the desert received a boxed review from Booklist, a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, and a very positive review from the New York Times. It was also recognized by:
- A Book Links “A Few Good Books of the Year” Selection, 1995,
- A Bank Street College “Best Books of 1995” Selection
- One Night was also included in an educational game in the U.K. in 1998, which was presented in the Literature Section of the Guardian newspaper. This game is still regarded as a good resource for cross-cultural topics.
- Librarian’s Choice for the Multi-Cultural Literary Curriculum in the U.K.
- BBC Radio presented Muhamad’s Desert Night (the British re-print) on their summer reading program for kids in 2007.
In 2009 the Smithsonian’s Museum of African Art invited me to do two reading programs of One Night.
Thanks for helping me share the good news with all kids.
Review from Publishers Weekly
In a striking first-person voice, debut picture-book author Kessler’s text mingles the proud self-assurance of the Tuareg with their reverence for Allah and nature. Schoenherr’s (America Alive: A History) page-spread watercolors, with their deep-toned backgrounds and often spare images, evoke the cultural nuances of the “blue people”. Ages 4-8.
From Publishers Weekly
Clad in billowing blue robes, the nomadic Tuareg people travel the vast Saharan sands. Muhamad, a young Tuareg, leads a herd to graze each morning before dawn, marking his position by noting the acacia trees and termite hills. One evening he sees a goat laboring to deliver her first kid, and he knows he must stay with her, alone in the darkening desert, “for I must deliver safely all goats to my father.” While he waits with his charge, he reminds himself of the wisdom of his elders, and he quietly realizes that his demonstration of duty is proof of his manhood. In a striking first-person voice, debut picture-book author Kessler’s text mingles the proud self-assurance of the Tuareg with their reverence for Allah and nature. Schoenherr’s (America Alive: A History) page-spread watercolors, with their deep-toned backgrounds and often spare images, evoke the cultural nuances of the “blue people”-and the space and pace of life in a landscape that stretches beyond national boundaries. Resonant and stirring. Ages 4-8.
From School Library Journal
Grade 1-6 Muhamad, a boy of the nomadic Tuareg tribe, tells of the night he slept alone in the desert with his herd awaiting the birth of a goat’s kid. He has incorporated the wisdom he has gained from his grandmother’s proverbs into his life and thoughts and has earned the woman’s praises; his father is teaching him the ways of manhood, taking pride in his intelligence and courage. Muhamad’s narration detailing the beliefs and daily customs of his people is set against Schoenherr’s double-page…
Ages 6-9. In this picture book for older children, Muhamad, a young boy of the nomadic Tuareg people of North Africa, becomes a man when he spends his first night alone in the desert tending to a new mother goat and her kid. Told in Muhamad’s voice, the story reflects the culture of the Tuareg, a nomadic people with strong ties to family and the desert way of life. Kessler’s poetic text has rhythm and repetition, as Muhamad repeatedly praises Allah, “Al Hamdillilai!,” for making him “the wealthiest of boys.” Schoenherr’s artwork is striking, with vivid double-spreads contrasting the brightness of the sun on the yellow sand with the peacefulness of the desert under the moon. Kessler based Muhamad on a young boy of the same name she met while spending time with the Tuareg, a people who, she explains, are now threatened because of their nomadic ways.