Welcoming a new baby into an established household is not always easy, especially when some family members don’t quite understand what is going on.
This charming Moroccan import for young children ages 2 and up tells a new baby story from the perspective of three cats: Minouche, Pasha and Amir. Even if, like me, you’re not too fond of cats, you will love this trio. Each has its own personality, and each is affectionally portrayed with a beautiful soft outline and fluffy fur. The cats are clearly devoted to their humans, Myriam and Sami. They especially love to curl up in Myriam’s lap, although that lap is now changing as the mother-to-be’s belly expands. Little do the cats know that their lives are about to change too.
Author Amina Hachimi Alaoui deftly takes the reader through the various emotions that young family members (or cats in this instance) may experience in the run-up to the birth of a new child and her first few days at home. The cats feel the movement in Myriam’s belly; they are confused by the young couple’s sudden departure one morning and the long wait for Myriam’s return. And, when she does come back with Alya, her baby girl, they immediately realize that things are not the same as before. Fortunately, Grandma is there to explain and reassure:
My sweet cats, say hello to Alya. She was just born. From now on, Myriam will take care of you and the baby too. To love is to share.
Nathaniel Penn’s translation from French captures the story’s gentle simplicity, which is enhanced by Lebanese illustrator Maya Fidawi’s warm, tender illustrations. Visual references allude to the Moroccan setting, including typical horseshoe arches and Myriam’s babouche (heelless) slippers.
Alya and the Three Cats was originally published in French and Arabic in 2016 by Moroccan publishing house Yanbow Al Kitab.
Alya and the Three Cats written by Amina Hachimi Alaoui and illustrated by Maya Fidawi
Translated from French by Nathaniel Penn
Chouette Publishing/CrackBoom! Books, 2020
Awards: Shortlisted for the 2016 Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature in two categories (children’s book of the year and production)
Laura Taylor is the founder of world children’s literature blog Planet Picture Book. She is a small business copywriter, NAATI-certified translator of French into English and member of AUSIT and IBBY Australia. When she is not writing, she is reading, and chasing after her two young children. She tweets regularly @plapibo and posts at www.planetpicturebook.com