Archive for December 23, 2010


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Sivu’s Six Wishes by Jude Daly

A retelling of an old Taoist tale, this is the story of Sivu, a stonecarver.  Sivu could make amazing things from stone but despite his skill, he never made a lot of money and turned bitter.  One day, when carving a statue for a wealthy man, Sivu dreamed of how great that man’s life must be.  Suddenly, Sivu was the wealthy man.  He had plenty of power and wealth, but everyone despised him.  Then Sivu was stopped by the mayor’s procession and he dreamed of being the mayor with all of his power.  Suddenly, Sivu was the mayor.  But again, everyone hated him.  Sivu looked out over the gardens and saw the sun.  He wished he could be the sun, and he was.  He shone down, far too fiercely, and created a drought.  Then a storm cloud came over the sky and Sivu the sun could not move it.  He wished he could be the powerful rain cloud, and he was.  Now he rained too harshly and caused a flood.  Eventually, the wind blew him out to sea.  Sivu wished he was the wind, and he was.  He blew and blew, until one day he came across something that he could not move.  He wished he could become that, and he did.  He was a huge rock, completely unmovable until one day…

This is a story that makes the themes of power, wealth, and desire come alive.  Daly has created a very readable text that moves briskly from wish to wish, examining each one and then going on.  She has set the story in the present day, making it all the more accessible to modern children.  This is both an old story and a new one, vibrant across time.   Daly has illustrated the book with modern illustrations that are bright colored and busy.  They convey both the hustle of the modern day and the timelessness of the story with ease. 

Recommended as a way to get children talking about envy and contentment, need, wealth and power, this book leaves nothing to wish for.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Eerdmans.

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Yasmin’s Hammer by Ann Malaspina, illustrated by Doug Chayka

In Dhaka, Bangladesh, Yasmin rides to work in the morning in her father’s rickshaw.  Though Yasmin longs to go to school, she has to help earn money so that her family can eat and her father can someday purchase the rickshaw.  Yasmin thinks about the quiet days in her village before the cyclone forced them to move to the noise and bustle of the city.  Now she must work breaking bricks for use in building roads and buildings.   Even Yasmin’s little sister must work in the brickyard so the family can survive.  Yasmin comes up with a plan of how she can both help her family and make sure that she can be educated too.  Each day she works harder and faster than anyone else, and the boss gives her extra coins.  These she saves for her secret plan that no one in her family knows about.

Sprinkled with Bangladeshi words, Malaspina’s text is poetic and strong.  She captures the city and the country in tangible ways, through colors, sounds and smells.  This is a book about child labor, though it is not overly dramatic.  It is a quiet story of desperation in the face of poverty.  The focus is on the importance of education for children and the struggles that a family must overcome to offer it. 

Chayka’s illustrations are filled with warm light.  They capture the hustle of the city streets, nicely contrasting it with the quiet of the countryside.  Bright colors, enliven his paintings that invite readers into this story.

This is an important book that offers a glimpse of children living in very different circumstances than we see in our part of the world.  It is one that will spur discussions and also have children realizing how well off they are to not have to work and to be able to go to school.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Lee & Low Books.

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