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.