CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 24 . . . . February 24, 2012
In this latest “Tales of the World” offering from Sleeping Bear Press, an eight-year-old Turkmenistan girl describes her life. Living in Afghanistan, Zulviya and her family survive by weaving rugs – “we belong to the loom”. Working from sunrise until the “owl calls” at night, Zulviya suffers from bleeding fingers, numb legs and an aching back from hours of sitting. She has never attended school because it would be a two day walk from her village. She wonders if students have to take their loom with them to school.
Despite her sad situation, Zulviya has a resilient spirit. She is proud of the rugs she and her family create and the artistry involved. To ease the repetitiveness of her job, she makes a game of trying to “tie a knot for every beat of [her] heart.” As another escape, she dreams up new patterns using colours from her world: yellow like the thrush that sings in the almond tree; purple like the mulberries she’s forbidden to eat because the juice could stain her fingers; and brown like the walnuts her brothers collect to make rug dye.
Pascal Milelli’s beautiful oil paintings have an impressionistic quality. They convey the warmth and closeness of Zuviya’s family. The traditional rugs have rich, vibrant colours as do the Afghanistan landscape scenes.
Gloria Whelan’s poetic language is deeply affecting. The shadow of the loom hovers over the beds “like a dark ghost.” Zulviya knows her life will follow the same path as her mother and grandmother and great-grandmothers, but she has internal strength: “My hands belong to the loom but the pattern in my head is my own.”
Waiting for the Owl’s Call is a poignant story of child labour. An author’s note provides more information about organizations, such as RugMark, that are working to end the exploitation of children in the carpet industry.
Linda Ludke is a librarian in London, ON.
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