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.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

32 thoughts on “The Carpet Boy’s Gift

  1. Wow! What a topic for a picture book. I’m so glad to see this – inspiring, based on history, a wonderful example of how we can be the change we want to see in the world. And I always love adding picture books for older readers to our list. Thanks for a very thought-provoking addition! 🙂


  2. Great subject, Pat. I love these feel-good stories and it’s so nice to know it really happened. Let’s hope one day there will be an end to child labour.


    • Erik, that’s great! I’m glad to know that you learned about Iqbal Masih in school. If you look at Craig’s response, you’ll see there is a very large movement of kids involved trying to stop child labor. Kids helping kids, like in the story.


  3. Our library has this book and we have enjoyed the terrific illustrations. Iqbal is a great role model, as Susanna says, to be the change.


  4. Thanks Pat for this review! One of the most amazing outcomes of Iqbal’s life is an organization called Free the Children, started by 12 year-old Canadian Craig Kielburger. He read about Masih’s assassination in the newspaper and decided he needed to learn more about child labor. A documentary about Craig called “It Takes A Child” shows his incredible journey to East Asia and his activism in Canada and around the world to free children from slavery. Today, Free the Children has over 500,000 young volunteers working on projects around the world. They host Me to We Days at which tens of thousands of young people come together to launch each of their one year projects to make the world a better place. You can watch the Me to We Days via web streaming.

    If you ever needed a boost of real hope that this next generation will make a difference, watch 40,000 kids in a stadium go crazy over a speech by the Dalai Lama! You’d think it was a Justin Bieber concert, but no, they’re fired up over healing the planet.

    The real Carpet Boy’s gift is still giving! Our job is to make sure his story, and stories like these, keep getting told. Thanks Pat for being part of that magical chain of storytellers.


    • Craig, thank you for sharing this interesting information with us about a Canadian boy being inspired after Iqbal’s death and did something to help free children from slavery. I wasn’t familiar with “Free the Children” and the documentary. I believe as you do, there is a growing generation of young people who are socially conscious and are motivated to launch a program. This gives me much hope.


  5. As I prepared to click on the link to this book from Susanna’s post, I thought, “I bet this is Pat’s book…” and it was. And what an amazing book. Wow. That such things go on in our world… Powerful, important book to share with older kids. And thank you for the suggested activities to extend the thought process in kids’ lives.

    I love the added information in Craig’s comment. Wow.


    • Beth, I do the same thing. In fact I thought a book review by Erik was your selection, but was wrong. You surprised me with another. Yes, this is a powerful book and I waited until we started PPBF to share it. I hope this book is in many classrooms. Erik read it at school and learned about child labor. I like the idea of kids helping kids — and we do have a generation of kids who are socially conscious.


  6. It’s too bad the trend these days is not to publish picture books for older readers because my son (age 7) loves them and would be fascinated by a book like this. Thanks for the review!


    • Carrie, I agree with you. Especially with tough subjects that you want to share, but not give a lot of detail. There are many publishers that do publish PB for older kids. Fortunately, I’ve done a lot of networking and digging that I’ve found publishers like Tilbury House, and Reach and Teach.


  7. I am always so blown away by your selections, Pat. Picture books like this one are so important and it makes me happy to know that someone was brave enough to publish it. Thanks for another great contribution to PPBF.


  8. Wow, Pat, this is a powerful story. I was going to ask if it was nonfiction, so I appreciate you mentioning that it’s historical fiction. I think my sensitive soul might be a little young for this right now, but I know I can come back to your site and find it later when he’s better able to handle these challenging topics. Again, Pat, thanks so much for this fabulous site. I have mentioned it to several social worker friends.


    • Kirsten, the book is for older children. You know when your child is ready. Erik studied about child labor and Iqbal Masih in school. I appreciate your mentioning my blog to some of your social worker friends.


  9. wow. fascinating subject matter. i was very happy and surprised to read that Erik was learning about this in school. will have to keep this book in mind for when my kids are older.


  10. Love this book, Pat. I just connected with a brilliant lady named Paige who has put together an app for, or should I say against, bullying. It’s called Awesome Upstander and I’m going to be mentioning it on my PPBF post on Friday. It’s a video game that encourages kids (and adults) to stop being ‘bystanders’ when bullying is going on…instead, they should become ‘upstanders’ and intervene and support the target (victim). It shows kids how to gather a group together to be powerful and counteract the bully’s plan. This book that you review has that element in it. Thanks for a great review…a book that belongs in every school library!


    • Vivian, glad you liked the book. Agree this belongs in libraries. It’s an important story to share with older kids. Like the theme of kids heping kids. Will look forward to your post on Friday. Sounds like an excellent app on an important subject. (Sent you an e-mail.)


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