Sanda, The Girl with the Magical Smile
The picture book, Sanda: The Girl with the Magical Smile, takes places in northwestern Tanzania and centers around the life of a little girl named Sanda. It is a relatively lengthy children’s book, that is written more for girls, over the age of 10. Small children may have a difficult time following along with the story, and may not fully understand some of the themes and concepts that the author incorporates into the text.
The illustrations were nice, but did not really enhance the story. For example, the story centers around the ceremony in which the children’s teeth are filed down, and focuses on how much this procedure is seen as beautifying one’s smile. However, there were not a lot of clear illustrations that showed the teeth. There was little done to illustrate why the teeth are seen as beautiful when filed in that part of Tanzania. The teeth should have played a bigger role in the illustrations, since that was the focus of the story. The author also stresses that there is something magical about Sanda’s smile, that her smile has the ability to bring people good luck. The subtitle of the book also alludes to the “magical smile”. It would have been great if the story had spent more time stressing this message.
I wish the story had handled the aunt in the story differently. The aunt’s relationship with the main character was abusive. It could have been incorporated into the story in ways that would have been more impactful as a teachable moment.
Overall, the story is positive, and emphasizes the different ways people see and define beauty. This is an important message. The book introduces children to a different culture, to a different part of the world, and allows them to see ideas around beauty, youth, gender, etc… through a different lens.
Reviewed by Msia Clark, MSW, Ph. D., Howard University
Published in Africa Access Review (March 31, 2020)
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