The Water Princess by Susan Verde

water-princess-61zdiscxojl__sy498_bo1204203200_The Water Princess: Based on the Childhood Experience of Georgie Badiel

Susan Verde, Author

Peter H. Reynolds, Illustrator

G.P Putnam’s Sons, Fiction, Sep. 13, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes: Clean water supply, Carrying water, Africa, Georgie Badiel,  Multicultural

Opening: “I am Princess Gie Gie. My kingdom…the African Sky, so wide and so close. I can almost touch the sharp edges of the stars.”

Book Jacket Synopsis: With its wide sky and warm earth, Princess Gie Gie’s kingdom is filled with beauty. But clean drinking water is scarce in her small African village, and despite her commands, Gie Gie cannot bring the water closer; she cannot make it run clearer. Every morning, she rises before the sun to make the long journey to the well, and every evening, after the voyage home, Gie Gie thinks of the trip that tomorrow will bring. And she dreams. She dreams of a day when her village will have cool, crystal-clear water of its own.

Why I like The Water Princess:

The Water Princess is Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds’ newest jewel. They have created an inspiring story based on the childhood of fashion model Georgie Badiel, who grew up in Burkina Faso, West Africa.  The opening is like a prayer. Princess Gie Gie opens her arms wide and extends them to the expansive African sky. She is the ruler of her own kingdom and she feels powerful. She tames wild dogs with a song, makes the tall grass sway when she dances, and makes the wind play hide-and-seek. No matter how hard she tries, she cannot bring water closer to her village.

Verde’s text is rich and beautifully crafted. The narrative is strong and lyrical. “Water come! Do not make me wake before even the sun is out of bed!” I demand. “Come, please,” I say. It reflects the long journey that she and Maman walk to and from the dirty water hole daily. It is no easy task. The brown water is  boiled for drinking and used to prepare the family’s meal. The rest is used to wash clothing and bathing.

Reynolds’s paintings are breathtaking. They capture the dark purple and gold of the African night sky and Princess Gie Gie’s regal appearance with beads in her braided hair. They highlight the dusty African landscape and deep earth tones. One of my favorite illustrations is a silhouette of the women and children parading single-file to the water hole.

The Water Princess will introduce children to the fact that clean water is not available to people living in other parts of the world. In the story Princess Gie Gie dreams of finding a solution. “Someday…”  And  Georgie Badiel (AKA Princess Gie Gie) never gives up on her dream to bring a well with clean water to her village. Badiel shows kids how one person can make a big difference in their community. With Ryan’s Well, Georgie is working to bring this vital source of life to others in her country. Learn more about the inspiration for the story and the Georgie Badiel Foundation. 

Resources/Activities: The story tackles the issue of global water problems. It is important to read the Author’s Note which is perfect for helping children understand that everyone needs clean water because of the illnesses that are related to contaminated water.  Georgie’s situation can also be compared to clean water problems in America, like Flint, MI.

Join illustrator Peter H. Reynolds, author Susan Verde and collaborator Georgie Badiel for the launch of The Water Princess on Saturday, September 17 at 11 a.m. at Blue Bunny Books in Dedham Square, Massachusetts.  Visit Verde and Reynolds at their websites.

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

One Plastic Bag by Miranda Paul

One Plastic Bag61EOyyzSCzLOne Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia

Miranda Paul, Author

Elizabeth Zunon, Illustrator

Millbrook Press, Nonfiction, Feb. 1, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Isatou Ceesay, Gambia, West Africa, Plastic bags, Pollution, Recycling

Opening: Isatou walks with her chin frozen. Fat raindrops pelt her bare arms. Her face hides in the shadow of  a palm-leaf basket, and her neck stings with every step.

Synopsis: As a girl, Isatou watches the people of her village carry items in plastic bags. When the bags tear, they toss them in the dirt.  The bags accumulate in heaps. They become a breeding ground for mosquitoes and disease. They impact the crops.  Goats rummage through the smelly bags for food. When her grandmother’s goats die from eating bags, Isatou knows she must do something. Now a woman, she begins to collect the dirty bags, washes them with omo soap and hangs them on a line to dry. Some of her friends begin to help. Others mock her. She comes up with an idea to recycle the bags into something useful. She and her friends crochet them into plastic purses, sell them in the market for a profit and help their community.

Why I like this book:

  • Miranda Paul skillfully captures this inspiring and true story of Isatou Ceesay and the women of Njau, Gambia, who are on a mission to recycle discarded and dangerous plastic bags to save their village.
  • The text is simple and lyrical. The story is character driven. The West African setting is realistic and the plot completely engaging for children. Children will grasp the importance of recycling and be intrigued by Ceesay’s solution.
  • It carries a strong message for children about how one person can see a problem, find a solution and make a difference in their community.
  • The story also shows how a group of women can create a product, make a profit, improve their own lives and help their village.
  • This is an excellent book for classrooms and youth groups, especially with Earth Day on April 22.
  • Elizabeth Zunon’s illustrations are warm and richly textured with cut-outs that form a collage of beauty. She also creates a colorful collage of plastic bags for the end papers of the book. Visit Zunon at her website.

Resources: There is a very informative Author’s Note from Miranda Paul, a timeline of events, a glossary of words, and suggested reading. Visit the One Plastic Bag website for worksheets and a teacher’s guide. There is a special 2015 Earth Day Contest for kids Pre-K through 8th grade. Entries must be received by May 7, 2015. The contest is now open.

Miranda Paul has traveled to Gambia as a volunteer teacher, a fair-trade and literacy advocate, and freelance journalist.  She has another book, Water is Water, due out in May 2015.

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

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.

Rain School

RainSchool9780547505008_p0_v1_s260x420Rain School

James Rumford, Author and Illustrator

Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, Fiction, 2010

Suitable for Ages: 4-7

Themes:  Africa, Educating Children, Schools, Multicultural

Opening“In the country of Chad, it is the first day of school.  The dry dirt road is filling up with children.  Big brothers and big sisters are leading the way.”

Synopsis:  Thomas and the other children are excited about their first day at school and pester their older siblings with questions.  When they arrive at the schoolyard, there is no school.  But, there is a teacher who says, “We will build our school.  This is the first lesson.”  The children are so eager to go to school that they quickly learn to build a frame, make mud bricks and dry them in the sun, and build their school and mud desks.  After they spend a year filling their heads with knowledge, school is over.  Summer arrives, and torrential rains destroy the school.  But, the children leave knowing they will return to build their school again.

Why I love this book:  James Rumford, a former Peace Corps volunteer who taught school in Chad, drives home a very strong message in Rain School.   Learning and going to school is very important to children in third world countries.  They want an education!   Such a strong contrast to what many children in first world countries take for granted.  Rumford’s text is very simple and his bright and colorful ink and pastel illustrations tell a powerful story.  This book should be in every school library.  Visit James Rumford at his website.

On Monday, September 9, I will review A Girl Called Problem, by Katie Quirk.  It is an MG novel about a Tanzanian girl who wants to attend school even though the boys and men don’t want her to attend.   

Song of Sahel Event Launched

Today is a special day for the members of a blog I follow On the Plum Tree, as they respond to a crisis in Africa with the launch of a book, music and art.   Dr. Niamh Clune and a group of very talented international poets, artists, photographers and musicians have created a beautiful anthology,  Song of Sahel, which can be purchased on Amazon.

This labor of love was inspired after Dr. Clune’s husband was asked to respond to a crisis last spring in Niger to set up refugee camps to cope with those pouring across the Malian border in hopes of escaping the civil war.

She began to share her husband’s experiences in Sahel with members of Plum Tree.  Many were inspired to write poetry about the pain and suffering that was occurring in Sahel.   The response from the group nudged Dr. Clune to make a call across her social networks for poets, musicians, artists and photographers to submit a piece of work about the poverty, famine, and disease that was occurring in Sahel.  The response was remarkable.  The project grew wings and the Song of Sahel took flight.

Today is the official launch of Song of Sahel, which will run for 48 hours.   This is an important global project, as I have seen some of the poetry, artwork and listened to the music of a very talented group of artists.  Join them on Facebook where event will be hosted on Plum Tree Books.   The music will be available for download at Juno.  Click here to visit the beautiful art auction .   All proceeds from the sales will go directly to a very worthy cause — SOS Sahel. 

I hope you will take time to visit the site.  Song of Sahel is inspiring and a  feast for the soul.