Fatuma's New Cloth

Fatuma's New Cloth

from 9.99

Written by Leslie Bulion Illustrated by Nicole Tadgell

Fatuma is excited to go to the market with Mama because she gets to pick out a new kanga cloth! And when they return home, Mama will make Fatuma her delicious chai. Various market vendors offer their suggestions for "the perfect chai," but Fatuma can’t see how their offerings make chai taste so good. When they get to the kanga shop, Fatuma finds a kanga in her favorite colors, and the words on it say, “Don't be fooled by the color. The good flavor of chai comes from the sugar.” With Mama’s wise guidance, Fatuma learns that it’s what’s on the inside that counts, rather than outward appearances.

Join Fatuma and Mama to learn about a new culture, what makes chai special, and that the value of people lies within, all while learning a new language!

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    Women in East Africa wear bright cotton kanga cloth over their dresses to keep them clean of dust and cooking stains. A woman might wrap one kanga around the waist of a dress and another over her shoulders, or head and shoulders. A small girl like Fatuma can wear a play dress made from one knaga folded in half with a neck hole cut out in the middle. Kangas are also used as baby slings.

    Each kanga pattern is printed with a Swahili saying. Many of the sayings have more than one meaning. The kanga that inspired this story was printed with the saying, “Usihadaike na rangi tamu ya chai sukari.”  In English this means, “Don’t be fooled by the color. The good flavor of tea is the sugar.” It also means that you can’t see the goodness in people by looking at them. When people say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” they mean the same thing.

    Chai is the Swahili word for tea. East African chai is often cooked with milk and is quite sweet. Tea masala, or tea spices, can be added for more flavor.

Here is a recipe for East African chai:

  •     2 cups of water
  •     2 cups of milk
  •     3 teaspoons of loose tea
  •     2 teaspoons of sugar
  •     2 cardamom pods
  •     1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
  •     1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger
  •     1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

Boil all ingredients in a medium saucepan for five minutes.
Strain into a teapot. Serve with additional sugar and milk to taste.


“Parents will welcome the message that the value of people lies on the inside where we cannot see. In addition, parents seeking to teach their children the lessons of acceptance of other people's beliefs and culture will find the story an excellent aid.” - Amazon Customer

“A refreshing and relevant take on the ""you can't judge a book by its cover"" fable, this story tells of a young girl's coming-of-age discovery that what really matters is inside of her.” - Amazon Customer