Tuesday, September 2, 2008

One Hen, etc.

Milway, Katie Smith. 2008. One hen: How one small loan made a big difference. Ill. by Eugenie Fernandes. Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press.

Vacation is over and it's back to business...I have a canvas bag full of new books to look over. I'll start with One Hen.

One Hen is the true story of how a small micro-loan to a young African boy, Kojo, enables him to sell eggs, buy chickens, pay for school, go to college, and eventually become a successful businessman in his own community, helping others on his way to success.

Micro finance seems an unlikely subject for a picture book, however, One Hen does a fine job of introducing a complicated subject in an uplifting manner that children of many ages will understand. On the simplest level, the book may be read as a picture book to small children, employing only the large print text and colorful, busy, acrylic paintings. The large print text is only one line per double spread, and tells the story in a cumulative style, "This is the hen that Kojo buys with the loan he got. These are the eggs that Kojo sells from the hen he bought..."
Smaller print, enclosed in text boxes tells the story in more detail, " Slowly, slowly, Kojo's egg money grows. After two months he save enough to pay his mother back. In four months he has enough to buy another hen. Now Kojo can sell five eggs a week, and he and his mother have more to eat." Fernandes' artwork is busy, bright and cheerful, depicting life (even a poor life) in Ghana as colorful and purposeful.

The story is followed by a photo and biography of the real Kojo, a page listing suggestions of how children can help others in Kojo's situation, a listing of other people who have been helped by micro loans, and finally a glossary of unfamiliar African (calabash) and financial (profit) terms.

This is a book that may have a limited audience but it's worth checking out.

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