REVIEW: MAYA, BY MAHAK JAIN AND ELLY MACKAY

mayaMaya
Written by Mahak Jain
Illustrated by Elly MacKay
Published by Owlkids Books

There’s a small list of illustrators whose name on a book is basically a guarantee of something special. Oliver Jeffers is one. Julie Morstad is another. So is Jen Corace.

Elly MacKay is undoubtedly one as well. Her hand-painted, illuminated paper models are nothing short of magical, breath-taking and inspiring.

From her solo works (If You Hold A Seed, Shadow Chasers and the genius Butterfly Park, all from Running Press) to her cover designs for Penguin’s L.M. Montgomery reissues, to her illustrations for other authors, her work is always beautiful and engaging.

With Maya, MacKay lends her considerable talents to a story by Mahak Jain, about a little girl and the power of stories… In this case, the power of stories to help the titular Maya maintain a sense of connection to her recently deceased father, and to help her deal with the fear that comes from having your world shaken.

On one particularly scary night, Maya’s mother distracts her with the story of a banyan tree. The story allows Maya to escape into her imagination the way so many creatures escape into the tree, and she finds solace in its branches, discovering that the once terrifying animals hidden there are considerably less terrifying than that which she projects upon them: The over-whelming elephants are dancing and  joyful; the rustling is simply the sound of the snakes making their way through the leaves; the imposing, growling tiger is just looking for comfort.

The tale is beautifully told, though the story-within-the-story could be a bit better delineated for young readers, and it is magnificently paired with MacKay’s images. In fact, MacKay’s use of light may have reached a whole new level here.

Highly, highly recommended, and very -very- close to essential.

–J.H.


Kinderlit.ca received a copy of Maya in exchange for an honest review. Read about our Review Policy HERE.

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