Benrali Art Books – Review Of Manni AND The Turtle’s Dream and Keys

All was quiet that night on Shell Beach,
All but the turtles rushing to sea.

That night the full moon spoke to me,
“You will leave the forest of palm trees.” – from Manni –

Manni, From A World Beyond Stars is written and illustrated by Aman Waseem Ben Ali (writing under the pen name Benrali), an American born Guyanese author-illustrator.

Manni is a baby sea turtle, born one moonlit night on Shell Beach in Guyana. He is drawn to the sea where danger lurks, and finds an unusual guide to help him navigate the adventures which await him.

This picture book is filled with amazing, brilliantly colored illustrations which capture the world of the sea turtle. The author has fused cultural concepts and written the verses using the ghazal, an Arabic and Indo-Persian form of rhyming couplets, as a foundation for the story. The result is a captivating narrative poem which has a dreamlike quality.

Benrali has integrated the folklore of Guyana into his story by introducing spirits called moongazers which come from the stories of the indigenous Arawak Indians. The moongazers in the book are elusive creatures who provide protection and guidance to the sea turtle as he enters the sea and seeks his family.

Although clearly a picture book which children would enjoy, Manni is also an art book which will delight adult readers who appreciate colorful and intricate art, as well as multi-cultural stories and poems. Because of the magical quality of the story, the concepts in Manni might not be as easily grasped by children.


The author also sent me his first book: The Turtle’s Dream and Keys which I found even more accessible for younger readers and equally inspiring for adults. Benrali has created a book which celebrates the beautiful coloration and patterns on the shell of a box turtle.

Jupiter’s colors are like slipper orchids, hard to find in nature, colors that I imagine are a memory of ancient seas, colors that remind me of fish from coral reefs. – from The Turtle’s Dream and Keys –

Jupiter, the box turtle, awakes from his winter sleep and pushes out from the garden sand to feel the sun and enjoy the springtime. He naps beneath the ivy and dreams of the creatures who roamed the earth millions of years ago and are now extinct. He imagines a place where anything can be changed.

Benrali’s artwork in The Turtle’s Dream and Keys is remarkable and imaginative. I found myself completely drawn into Jupiter’s world and dreams.

Parents who are looking for a book which mixes science and art, and one that is easy to read and understand, will find The Turtle’s Dream and Keys a lovely addition to their child’s library. Adults too will be drawn to the beautiful artwork and simple story. This is truly a book which will appeal to people of all ages.

Highly Recommended.


Aman Waseem Ben Ali (pen name Benrali) is a freelance author-illustrator, print maker and writer who graduated with a BFA from Parsons School Of Art And Design in New York City. He went on to attend and graduate from Hendriks Graphic Design Institute in Long Island. Benrali’s award winning prints have been exhibited widely including at the San Bernadino Museum, Salmagundi Club, and Douglaston Arts Coalitions. His poems have been published in literary journals including Cider Press Review, Poetic Voices Review, Beggars Press Review, and Wild Angels Poetry Review. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. Learn more about Benrali and his work by visiting the author’s website.

Read an interview with Benrali on Biblio Reads where he talks about his work.

FTC Disclosure: I received these books from the author for review on my blog.

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  1. Those drawings are amazing!

  2. Wow, these are seriously beautiful!

  3. These look like such beautiful books, and I know a child who would just love the stuffing out of them. Thanks for sharing them with us!

    • Amy on May 8, 2011 at 09:44

    The illustrations are gorgeous, the colors so vibrant and alive. The stories are also filled with wonderfully rich details and themes that speak to children of all different ages.
    I’m going to look up these books and tell some friends about them. Thank you!

    • Wendy on May 30, 2011 at 07:51

    Kathy: I agree!

    Pam: They are even better “in person”

    Heather: You’re welcome 🙂

    Amy: I hope you’ll enjoy them!

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