My Paper House

The Paper House9781459800519_p0_v1_s260x420.jpg.My Paper House

Lois Peterson, Author

Orca Young Readers, Fiction, 2012

Suitable for ages: 8-11

Themes: Nairobi, Garbage Dump, Poverty, Survival, Love, Hope

Opening: “Safiyah stood ankle-deep in garbage near the top of the dump. Below her lay the Kibera slum, a patchwork of rusty tin roofs. A thick blanket of cloud and dirty smoke hid the concrete buildings and busy road of nearby Nairobi.”

Synopsis: Ten-year-old Safiyah dreams of going to school like her best friend, Pendo. She wants to learn to read and write and wear a school uniform. But going to school isn’t possible, because Safiyah can’t pay the tuition. Her mother is dead and she lives with her sick Cucu (grandmother) in the Kibera slums of Nairobi. Safiyah earns money from the items she finds in the dump and sells them on the streets so she can buy food and help her Cucu. On one of her scavenger trips to the dump, Safiyah finds a stack of magazines with beautiful pictures of things and places she’s never seen. She uses some of the pages to fill in holes inside their tin hut. The magazines inspire her to create something very beautiful that draws attention to her talents and a way to pursue her dreams.

Why I like this book: Lois Peterson has written an uplifting story about a very strong and determined girl who finds a way to survive the slums of Nairobi and still hold onto her dreams. It is also a realistic story about how a community comes together to support each other during times of dire need. There is also an element of suspense as readers wonder what Safiyah will do with her pictures. The ending is creative and unexpected. This is an important book for children to learn about the challenging lives of very poor children in other parts of the world. I appreciate this book because Peterson brings awareness to the lives of children living in Nairobi slums.

Resources: Visit Lois Peterson at her website.  This is an excellent classroom book.  Teachers will especially want to click on “For Kids” for resources and activities to use with The Paper House in class She also has a video trailer.

King For A Day – Multicultural Children’s Book Day

King for a Day9781600606595_p0_v1_s260x420King For A Day

Rukhsana Khan, Author

Christiane Kromer, Illustrator

Lee & Low Books Inc., Fiction, Oct. 1, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Kites, Basant Festival, Disabilities, Pakistan

Opening“Basant is the most exciting day of the year! With feasts and music and parties, people celebrate the arrival of spring. And many will make their way to the rooftops of Lahore to test their skills in kite-flying battles.”

Synopsis:  Malik is up early and perched in his wheelchair on the rooftop. He is ready to launch his home-made kite, Falcon, into the skies. He sends his brother to the streets to catch the kites he hopes to set free today. His sister helps him launch his kite. Falcon is small, but built for speed. Malik works his string so that Falcon dives and breaks the strings on the kites of the next door bully. He moves on to circle other kites plucking them from the sky. His brother returns with a pile of kites. By the end of the day Malik has succeeded in showing that he is the best kite fighter and flyer — the King of Basant. As Malik watches the bully shove a girl to the ground and grab her kite, this king shows his kindness to the girl in a special way.

Why I like this book: Master storyteller Rukhsana Khan has written a celebratory story about a boy who is clearly more focused on his abilities than his confinement to a wheelchair. Choosing a child with physical challenges will inspire other children. Malik has talent, technique, self-confidence, and determination. He wants to win the annual kite battle in Lahore. And, Malik beats his bully neighbor with his kite-flying skills and not hurtful words. Khan has turned this centuries-old tradition into a contemporary story for children. Christiane Kromer’s illustrations are exquisite and there is a feast of color on every page.  She focuses on so much detail that you can feel the breeze of the soaring kites on this perfect day. Her pen and ink illustrations are a mixed collage of beautiful fabrics, laces, cut paper and folk art designs of Pakistan. King For A Day is a beautiful collaborative effort between author and illustrator.  Visit Rukhsana Khan and Christiane Kromer at their websites.

Resources:  Khan has devoted a page at the end of the book to the Basant Festival, which is celebrated across South Asia to herald in the spring. Making a kite would be a fun activity for kids. Watch this Kidspot Youtube video and learn how to make your own home-made kite. With markers you can write fun or  inspirational messages or write you name on your kite if it blows away.

Special Note: Monday, January 27,  I am joining other bloggers in celebrating Multicultural Children’s Book Day, which celebrates diversity in children’s literature. The event is co-hosted by Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press. Please visit the website to view multicultural books in all genres.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Yasmin’s Hammer – International Day of the Girl

Yasmin's Hammer9781600603594_p0_v1_s260x420Yasmin’s Hammer

Ann Malaspina, Author

Doug Ghayka, Illustrator

Lee & Low Books, Inc., Fiction, 2010

Suitable for ages: 5-11

Themes:  Child Labor, Educating Girls, Bangladesh, Family Life, Hope

Opening:  “Before the sun climbs into the sky I jump into Abba’s rented rickshaw, my hammer in one hand and my sister, Mita, by my side.”

Synopsis:  Yasmin and her family move from their rural village by the sea after a cyclone destroys their home and their Abba’s rice fields.  They settle in Dhaka, Bangladesh, a crowded and noisy city,  where her family begins a new life.  Yasmin and her sister, Mita, must work daily as brick chippers to help support the family.  Her father peddles a rickshaw and her mother works as a maid in a rich man’s house.  Yasmin dreams of going to school and receiving an education.  This determined girl, works harder and faster than the others and earns extra taka coins.  Yasmin has a plan to improve the life of her family and follow her dreams.

Why I like this book:  Ann Malaspina lets Yasmin narrate this inspiring story.  It is an important look at how crucial education is to a child living in a third world country.  Yasmin is a very strong and passionate character with dreams to inspire her. Doug Ghayka’s colorful oil paintings give the reader a feeling of the sites, sounds and smells of the busy streets of Dhaka and capture the family’s struggle to survive.  This is an excellent book for school libraries.  You may visit Ann Malaspina at her website.  She wrote this story after visiting South Asia and learning about the 218 million children in Bangladesh who must work.

Resources:  Make sure you check out the backmatter at the end of the book as it gives important information about Bangladesh, cyclones, the economy, child labor and special links to important websites.  There is also a glossary.  Talking about child labor and education are engaging subjects for young minds.  There is so much they take for granted.

Today is the UN International Day of the Girl Child.  It is a day “to recognize girls’ rights and the unique  challenges girls face around the world. For its second observance, this year’s Day will  focus on “Innovating for Girls’ Education”.  Check out the highlighted UN page to find ways to participate and make a difference in locally or globally.   You may also want to look at websites focusing on the education of girls:  Girl Rising, The Girl Effect and the Girl’s Education Collaborative

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

The Carpet Boy’s Gift

The Carpet Boy’s Gift

Pegi Deitz Shea, author

Leane Morin, illustrator

Tilbury House Publishers, Fiction, 2006

Suitable for:  Ages 7 -12

Themes:  Pakistan, Child Labor, Child Abuse, Carpet Factories

Opening/Synopsis: “Master says I have only two more months until my peshgi   (family debt) is paid back.  With that thought, Nadeem quickened his knotting of the scarlet weft threads on the loom and then beat them tightly into place with his panja.  I’m sure Master means it this time, Nadeem hoped.”  Nadeem dreams of being free, playing soccer with his little brother and going to school.  He works in a dimly lit carpet factory from “dawn to dusk” breathing the dust of the wool that makes many kids sick.  One day Nadeem meets Iqbal Masih, a boy who marches past the rug factories shouting “We are free.” Iqbal hands Nadeem some Freedom Letters abolishing child labor and urges Nadeem to pass them to the other children.  Before the master intervenes, Iqbal hands Nadeem a pen and tells him he can go to school now.  The next day Nadeem hands the Freedom Letters to all the children at the factory and bravely confronts the master.  He makes a very risky and courageous decision that changes his life forever.

Why I like this book:  Pegi Deitz Shea writes a very important story about the power of children working together to end child labor in Pakistan.   Her fictional story honors the legacy of a boy, Iqbal Masih, who risked his own life to free children from slavery so that they could attend school.  Iqbal escaped from a factory and attended a rally held by the Bonded Labour Liberation Front (BLLF), an organization working to help bonded children.  He began to sneak into hundreds of rug factories so he could educate the other kids about their rights.   He became famous worldwide.  Leane Morin’s illustrations are beautiful watercolors that show a lot of emotion and are unique.  Each photo has a border with a special design –like a carpet border.

Resources:  There is a comprehensive section of backmatter full of resources for kids who wonder what they can do to about child labor around the world.  There is the true story of Iqbal Masih,  information about the United Nations and the work it does for the rights of all children, and UNICEF and its mission for children.   There are many kid-friendly sites listed  and a kid-to-kid global project that helps others.  You can also check out Reach and Teach for more classroom activities for this story.

To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Good Fortune in a Wrapping Cloth

Good Fortune in a Wrapping Cloth

Joan Schoettler, Author

Jessica Lana, Illustrator

Shen’s Books, Historical Fiction, 2011

Suitable for:  Ages 5 and up

AwardsNational Council for the Social Studies in association with the Children’s Books Council as a Notable Social Studies Trade Book of 2012; and ForeWord Magazine 2011 Book of the Year Finalist.

Themes: Korean wrapping cloths, Sewing, Mother and daughter relationship, 18th Century

Opening/Synopsis:  “Eomma, listen.  Horses.”  Ji-su pressed closer to her mother.  Stay.  Don’t go to King Yongjo’s court.”  Eomma told her again, “It is an honor for me, and our family, to sew bojagi for the royal household.  The Sanguiwon master searches for the finest seamstresses.  He saw one of my bojagi at the market and chose me.  I must go to Hanyang.”  Ji’su begs to go with her Eomma (mother) to the King’s palace, but she is too young.  As her mother leaves, she hands Ji-su a gift.   She unfolds bojagi (wrapping cover) and finds Eomma’s box containing a needle, thread, a thimble, a ruler, a pair of scissors, a small iron called an indoo, and an irons with a bowl to hold charcoals called a darimi.  Ji-su knows what she’s to do and asks her old aunt to teach her how to sew bojagi.  This is the only way she’ll see her mother again.  She begins to work on her stitches.  Seasons pass as Ji-su perfects her bojagi.  One day the Sanguiwon master visits her village.  She eagerly shows him her work.  He sees her potential and tells her that if she can make more bojagi before the Dano Festival, he will look at her work again when he passes through.  Nothing matters to Ji-su but perfecting her stitching.  Will her stitching be good enough for the royal family and reunite her with her mother?

Why I like this book:   Joan Schoettler has written a beautiful love story about a mother and daughter.  Ji-su is very determined and courageous girl, who works through many seasons to perfect her artistry with the hopes of being reunited with her mother.  The story is filled with Korean words and there is glossary at the end.  Jessica Lanan has captured the beautiful culture and landscape of ancient Korea in her soft illustrations.  They are simply stunning.   Schoettler viewed a collection of bojagi wrapping cloths at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.  She met a Korean-born fiber artist known internationally for her bojagi, and was inspired to write this book.  The Korean wrapping cloths called bojagi that were sewn from Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897.)   The wrapping cloths were used for everything and believed to be good luck for the person receiving a bojagi.

Shen’s Books  is a publisher of multicultural children’s literature that emphasizes cultural diversity and tolerance, with a focus on introducing children to the cultures of Asia ranging from China,  Japan, Korea, the Southeast Asia,  and the Pacific Islands.

Saraswati’s Way

Saraswati’s Way

Monika Schroder, Author

Frances Foster Books, Fiction, 2010

Suitable for:  Ages 10 -14 years

Themes:  Indian boy wants to study math, Poverty, Child labor, Hindu culture

Award:  2011 Bank Street – Best Children’s Book of the Year

Schroder has written a powerful, compelling and inspirational novel about twelve-year-old boy from India, who has a gift with numbers.  Akash sees numbers as patterns in his head.  He desperately wants to learn more from the village teacher, but he knows more than his teacher.  Akash shares his dreams of applying for a scholarship to go to a city school with his Bapu (father).  He is told that if the gods want him to have an education, he will.  He prays to Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and wisdom, to grant his wish and to help him.

But, life deals Akash a blow when Bapu develops a fever and dies.  His Dadima (grandmother) sends him to work in the landlord’s rock quarry to pay off the family debt.  When Akash mathematically figures out that the landlord is charging interest on the loans, he realizes he will never pay off the family debt.   Late one night he hops a train headed to New Delhi to pursue his dreams.  He is now a street child rummaging for food and stealing to survive.  He wonders if Saraswati has abandoned him.  The streets of New Delhi hold unimaginable dangers, and temptations.  Akash must find a way to make money to pay for a math tutor.  His dreams of attending school present him with some difficult choices.   He can follow a street-smart boy, Rohit, and earn a lot of money dishonestly.  Or he can work with Ramesh,  a kind elderly newspaper vendor, who sees something very special in Akash.   He remembers his last conversation with Bapu before he dies.  “What you desire is on its way.” 

Monika Schroder, an elementary school teacher in New Delhi for seven years, really captures the essence of India – its color, heat, smells, beauty, poverty and child labor practices — through the eyes of a very determined orphaned boy.   In an “Author’s Note” at the end of the book she estimates there are between 100,000 to 500,000 street children.  Schroder also says about 80 percent of the people in India practice Hinduism.  There also is a glossary of Hindu words.   “A boy like Akash has a slim chance of fulfilling his dream in contemporary India,”  said Schroder.  “Yet I wanted to write a hopeful book about a child who, with determination, courage, and some luck achieves his goal against all odds.”

  

The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq

The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq

Jeanette Winter, Author and Illustrator

Harcourt, Inc., Juvenile Literature, 2005

Suitable for:  Grades 2-5

Themes:  Libraries, Saving books, War, Middle East

Opening/Synopsis:  “Alia Muhammad Baker is the librarian of Basra, a port city in the sand-swept country of Iraq.  Her library is a meeting place for all who love books.  They discuss matters of the world and matters of the spirit.  Until now — now, they talk only of war. ”   Alia is worried about the approaching war.  She asks the governor to move the 30,000 books to a safe place, but he refuses.  This feisty and spirited librarian takes matters into her own hands and secretly brings books home every night.  When war turns Basra into a burning city, she begs shopkeepers and friends to help her hide the books before it’s too late.   As the fires burn out, the library is gone.  Alia waits and waits for the war to end.  She dreams of a new library.

Why I liked this book:  This is a true story based on the heroic efforts of a woman who is passionate about saving her town’s precious books.   Jeanette Winter’s text is simple and straightforward.  It is a non-threatening way to present war to children.  It also teaches children that people have the same passions and love of reading worldwide.  Thus driving home the theme, we really are all the same no matter where we live.  The book is beautifully illustrated in acrylics.  Winter’s simple colorful illustrations evoke the emotions of war  and hope for the future.

Activities:   There is a note from the author at the end of the book that gives history about Alia and the invasion of Iraq in 2003.   A New York Times reporter heard about the story and brought it to the world’s attention on July 27, 2003.  This is a good discussion book to introduce children to war as the story is not frightening.   Kids have seen the images of war on TV.  It is also a book about how one person can make a difference.  Listen to what they think and feel about war.  Discuss with children how people all over the world love to read just like they do.  Talk about ordinary heroes like Alia, and ask kids to share stories about local heroes.  Get children involved in donating some off their own books to local literacy programs.  You can read a Harcourt interview with Jeanette Winter and see  photos of Jeanette with Alia.

To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.  Or click on the Perfect Picture Book Fridays  badge in the right sidebar.