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.

Soul Moon Soup

Soul Moon1886910871Soul Moon Soup

Lindsay Lee Johnson, Author

Front Street, Fiction, Reprint edition 2008

Suitable for Ages: 10-14

Themes:  Artist, Homelessness, Loneliness, Poverty, Different Families

Synopsis:  Phoebe Rose dreams of becoming an artist.  Her father is her biggest supporter until one day he leaves and never returns.  Phoebe  and her mother find themselves forced to live on the streets.  They are homeless wandering from one soup kitchen and shelter to another.  Their only possession, one suitcase that holds all of their belongings and memories.  Phoebe’s spirit begins to fade, she stops drawing and sinks into despair.  When someone steals their suitcase, her mother sends her to live with her Gran at Full Moon Lake.  Healing is slow, until she finds a friend in Ruby, who encourages Phoebe to draw again.  Slowly Phoebe begins to find strength within herself until her mother returns and she has to make some decisions.

What I like about this book:  This moving story of sadness, loss, relationships and finding yourself, also has an element of beauty.  It is narrated in a series of poems or verse by Phoebe Rose as she describes the emptiness, loneliness, and hopelessness of existing day-to-day on the streets.  Lindsay Lee Johnson tells a compelling, lyrical and soulful story through the voice of an 11-year-old girl.  Her story will linger in your heart long after you’ve put the story down.  You really get a glimpse into Phoebe’s pain and suffering.  The plot is strong.  This book is a stark reminder that there are many children who are homeless and live on the streets in our cities.  I highly recommend this book because it help teens understand the humanity of the homeless.  Hopefully, it will encourage them to find a way to get involved.

Resource:  I reviewed A Kid’s Guide to Hunger and Homelessness: A Guide to Action by Free Spirit Press, in June.  It shows many ways kids can get involved through youth groups.

Ivy Homeless in San Francisco

Ivy Homeless in San Francisco

Summer Brenner, Author

Brian Bowes, Illustrator

PM Press, June 2011, Paperback

Suitable for: Pre-teen Fiction,  (Ages 9 and Up)

Themes:  Homeless, Poverty, Hope, Friendship

Ivy Homeless in San Francisco, is a compelling and riveting novel that reflects the alarming increase in the number of children who are homeless and living in poverty in America.  Ivy is one of those children.  Summer Brenner has masterfully crafted a book that is realistic, heartbreaking and funny.  It won  the 2011 Silver Award Winner for the Children’s Literary Classics Book Awards under the category of pre-teen fiction, and the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award.  This is a  book that should be required reading for kids in Grade level 4 and up, because the face of homelessness is changing.  It offers students insight into the lives of those who live on the streets or in shelters.

Ivy is your average 11-year-old girl who lives in an artist loft with her father, Poppy.  She attends school and has a circle of friends.  One day everything changes when Poppy loses his job and  they are evicted from their home.  Ivy and her father find themselves homeless, living in sleeping bags in the park above the city at night, eating in shelters, and washing and brushing their teeth in public restrooms.  Ivy is embarrassed her friends will find out at school.   Because they are always on the move, Ivy begins to miss school.  Her classroom becomes the life she’s living, with nature lessons, visits to museums and libraries with Poppy.  Life may be harsh among nature’s elements, but it can also bring resilience, hope, adventure, quirky new friendships, kindness and an unexpected surprise.

 Reach and Teach is a peace and social justice learning company, transforming the world through teachable moments.  To learn more about homelessness and to find educational resources, lesson plans, and concrete ways to get involved in reducing the impact of homelessness on people of all ages, please visit www.reachandteach.com/ivy.  Recent studies show that one in 50 kids are homeless.  That represents 1.5 million children a year.  For more information contact the National Center on Family Homelessness and the National Association for the Education of  Homeless Children and Youth.