Since the launch of MALAIKA’S COSTUME, a picture
book by Nadia Hohn, I’ve been amazed at the energy Nadia has put into her
presentations. Not only does this amazing author talk to the kids with passion
and excitement, but she dons her costume and dances with her audience. (Be sure to
check out the video below).
Carnival time. The first Carnival since Malaika’s mother moved away 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?
So happy to have you here, Nadia. Where did you get the idea for MALAIKA’S
I used to write stories and make books as a child. The Greatest Carnival Ever is one of the few books I still have
that I both wrote and illustrated for a project when I was in Grade 5. A book that was featured on Reading Rainbow
about Carnival in Montserrat also inspired me. I always loved the idea of a
book culminating with a Carnival.
later in the winter of 2010, I took a writing course at George Brown College
with author Ted Staunton. He gave us a
picture book assignment and this is when I wrote MALAIKA’S COSTUME. I was so excited about the details of the
story. I have also played Mas’– which
means I wore a costume and danced– in the Caribana parade, Toronto’s annual
summer Caribbean Carnival, and loved the experience.
MALAIKA’S COSTUME was published I
started to read reviews of my book, and what readers often saw was the story of
immigration and globalization. Only
then, did I realize how much I was influenced by what had occurred in generations
of family— patterns of migration to the US, UK, Canada, Cuba, and Panama—in
which members left Jamaica for work in order to send money back home to help “make
a better life” for their family members.
This theme of immigration and separation is Malaika’s story and is part of
my family history as it is for many other Caribbean people. The story is also largely influenced by
Trinidad’s Carnival tradition with all of its characters and by the backdrop of
rural Jamaica, where my parents come from and which I have visited.
never before seen anyone put their heart and soul into presenting their book as
you. What are you thinking as you’re dancing in front of the kids in the
NH: Hmmm…. What am I thinking? I am thinking that I truly am living my dream,
which is teaching about African-Caribbean culture through music and the
arts. I am an elementary school teacher
and am two courses away from getting my diploma in early childhood music. The pedagogies (Orff, Kodaly, African, and my
own teaching experience and research) that I have learned and teach are
multi-genre/modal so music is taught through language, play, movement,
storytelling, socio-emotional connection, and song. These are all components to effective
learning and contribute to a positive and safe learning environment. I incorporate all of these into my book
presentations. I never wanted my
teaching to be limited to a classroom, so I take that space with me whether it
is at a festival, stage presentation, bookstore, or a school gymnasium.
there be sequels to MALAIKA’S COSTUME?
NH: Yes, the sequel will be out in fall
2017. The working title is MALAIKA’S
WINTER CARNIVAL. The French translation of Malaika’s Costume will be out in
spring 2017. I am working on a play
adaptation and I feel another of Malaika’s
stories in me. It’s been sitting in
my brain for a few months. I think it’s
time I commit it to paper.
next for you? I hear travel to a faraway land in in the offing?
NH: I am currently researching biographies on
two women as well as working on my middle grade manuscript and play
adaptation. I also have a young adult
novel in the works.
I will be teaching early years music with some
art in Abu Dhabi, UAE for about two years.
I am super excited. I will be
doing more travel writing.
Lots of writing, workshops, conferences, and
possibly study, as usual.
you like to share one of your deepest dreams?
NH: My deepest dream is to be the Jacqueline
Woodson (author) for Canada, someone who helps to keep traditions, songs, and
stories alive through my writing. I
would like to contribute and write about the African-diasporic experience
whether it is in Canada, Jamaica, Brazil, or the rest of the world through my
songs, stories, books, and work.
the age of six, Nadia L Hohn began writing stories, drawing, and making
books. Nadia is the author of the Music and Media books in the Sankofa
Series to be published by Rubicon Publishing in 2015. She was awarded the
Helen Issobel Sissons Canadian Children's Book Award for her picture book
manuscript , Malaika's Costume, in 2014. In 2016, Malaika's Costume was
published as a picture book by Groundwood Books and won the 2015-2016 ETFO
Children's Literature Award. Nadia Hohn loves to write (songs, blogs, journals,
stories), play piano, cook vegan dishes, travel, study arts and cultures of the
African diaspora especially Caribbean folk music, Orff music education, and
run. Nadia is a public school teacher of French and the arts in Toronto.
She is currently working on a middle grade novel and researching biographies.
More about Nadia: Winner of 2015-2016 Elementary Teachers
Federation of Ontario (ETFO) Children's Literature Award for Malaika's
Winner of Issobel Sissons Canadian
Children's Book Award for Malaika's Costume manuscript in 2014
Founder of Sankofa's Pen
(African-Canadian Writers Children and Young Adults ACWCYA), find us on