Room for Everyone by Naaz Khan, illustrations by Mercè López

Room for Everyone by Naaz Khan, illustrations by Mercè López. A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2021. 9781534431393

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Format: Hardcover picture book

What did you like about the book? Musa and Dada set out for the shore on a Friday that is ‘hotter than peppers’ on the island of Zanzibar, off the eastern coast of Tanzania.  The siblings board a small bus called a daladala, ready for a fun day swimming and feasting on fish.  The generous bus driver stops to let on an old man and his bike with no seat, much to Musa’s dismay since the bus is already crowded.  As the bus moves along its route, it stops frequently to pick up more riders, each with their own outrageous cargo, expanding in numerical order, from a herder with ‘two little goats’ to a vendor with ‘nine tender coconuts.’ Each time, the passengers squish and wiggle to make room while Musa complains and worries.  But by the time the bus allows ten divers with their snorkeling gear to board, everyone is laughing so hard that even Musa welcomes them.  Arriving at the beach packed to the gills and near a breakdown, the daladala’s passengers and contents spill out, and at last Musa and Dada splash in the sea.  

This fun-filled story is full of rhyme and rhythm, and descriptive language featuring hilarious details such as the old man’s sweaty feet and the ‘ickity stench’ of fish that are carried on board.  Readers will laugh as the bus gets more and more crowded with people, animals, and items such as umbrellas and jugs of milk.  Gorgeous, exuberant, mixed-media illustrations are infused with local scenery and authentic fabric patterns, and the text includes a number of Swahili words.  The layout is interesting, with the words weaving in and out around the action in the pictures, and the numerical phrases (“five mamas”) and random words in brightly colored font, larger than the main narrative.  With its comical plot and Seuss-like rhyme patterns, Room for Everyone begs to be read aloud, but rich vocabulary, cultural detail, and intricate illustrations will be appreciated by independent readers too.  The author includes a small Swahili glossary, and a note describing the inspiration for the story.    

Anything you did not like about the book?  I wish I had looked at the glossary before my first read-through, as I presumed Dada was Musa’s father. “Dada” actually means “sister” in Swahili.

To whom would you recommend this book? A welcome addition to any K-2 classroom or library working on enhancing their culturally responsive collection, Room for Everyone reinforces the importance of community in a humorous and lighthearted way!

Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries

Where would you shelve it?  Picture books

Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City:  Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.

Date of review: December 31, 2021

This entry was posted in *Book Review, *Picture Book, *Starred Review, Africa, Counting, Illustrator, Mercè López, Transportation and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.