Based on a “fantastically fun daladala ride” that author Naaz Khan once took in Zanzibar, Room for Everyone is an entertaining and bighearted joyride of a picture book that features fabulous illustrations by Mercè López.
Musa and his sister climb aboard a daladala, a type of Tanzanian minibus, heading to the shore “to feast on fish at the Friday bazaar by the blue crystal waters of Zanzibar.” The bus and Khan’s pleasing prose bounce along rhythmically. The text is full of satisfying alliteration, flowing dialogue and rhyming couplets that are a delight to read aloud.
The daladala has only a few passengers when the siblings board, but as they travel along, the driver spots people in need of a ride and yells, “It’s hotter than peppers out there in the sun! Come in, there’s room for everyone!” The additions include an older man with a bike that’s missing its seat; a herder and his two goats; three vendors carrying baskets of fruit; a farmer with four pails of milk; and so on. By the time the daladala finally reaches the shore, it’s packed with people, fish, chickens, large kitenge umbrellas, coconuts, a team of scuba divers and much more.
Room for Everyone is an energetic counting book. Numbers on each spread stand out in a larger font and contrasting color. Key words and phrases also receive special attention with changes in size and color: For instance, in yellow and salmon lettering, “six stinky chickens” and “squawking” leap off a page’s jade background.
The book’s palette is especially rich, featuring saturated yellows, sapphires and teals balanced against occasional warmer, softer hues. López’s delicate, fine-lined drawings are expressive and dynamic, filled with movement and momentum.
Throughout the journey, Musa sustains a concern that the bus is overcrowded, but everyone manages to carve out space or wiggle their way in. After all, as the daladala’s passengers and driver alike shout, “There’s plenty of room for everyone!”