Ten Cents a Pound by Nhung N. Tran-Davies

Ten Cents a Pound

Nhung N. Tran-Davies, Author

Josée Bisaillon, Illustrator

Second Story Press, Fiction, Apr. 18, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 5-9

Themes: Family Relationships, Love, Sacrifice, Educating girls, Poverty, Multicultural

Opening: Mama, I see your hands / Coarsened and scratched, / By the twigs and bark of the trees, row on row, / By the leaves and berries, picked one by one. / I will stay with you.

Synopsis: A young girl is torn by her desire to stay home with her family and the familiarity of their village, and her desire to go to school and discover the world beyond the mountains that surround them.

Every time the girl insists that she will stay, her mother repeats that she must go — that there is more to life than working in the coffee fields. Their loving exchange reveals the struggles and sacrifices that they both will have to make. But her mother is determined to give her a better future.

Why I like this book:

Nhung N. Tran-Davies’ endearing tale is about an Asian mother who works in the coffee fields to earn ten cents a pound to buy her daughter books, pencils and shoes that will make it possible for her  to attend school. She wants to give her daughter the opportunities that she never had. The daughter is concerned because she sees her mother’s stooped back, calloused hands, and strained eyes. She can’t bear to leave her mother, but she knows that education is the only way for her to make a better life for herself and her family. There is love, heart and a deep bond between mother and daughter.

This lyrical and sensitive picture book begs to be shared and discussed with children. It is important for readers to understand the difficulties children face in order to attend school around the world. Josée Bisaillon’s  illustrations are exquisite and expressively depict the mother’s struggle, while showing the whimsy of the girl reading and dreaming of far away places. They work beautifully with the text and illuminate the message in the story.

Resources: This story will generate lively classroom discussions. and is a great exercise in empathy. Ask children what would they do to get to school? How important is school to you? Why do children in poor villages want to go to school? Ask children about how they would feel if they didn’t have a pair of shoes to wear to school?

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 website. 

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.

23 thoughts on “Ten Cents a Pound by Nhung N. Tran-Davies

  1. What a lovely book to help kids understand the issues that other kids face in too many places in our world. I especially like the focus on the girl’s conflicted feelings about what I’m sure is a difficult decision for many children & their families, especially when school is far away, too costly, and/or only one child of many can attend. Thanks for sharing!


    • Thank you. Many kids take school for granted. I think it’s important for them to see how badly children in third world countries want to learn and the extremes they go to. And like your share today, it is a beautiful and tender mother-daughter story.


  2. What a powerful story. To stay with her mother or leave for school? Both choices have their ups and downs. Even though this is a story from another culture, making hard decisions and weighing out the consequences is something everyone can relate to.


    • A beautiful mother-daughter story. What a sacrifice the mother makes to send her daughter to school. And the daughter’s struggle to leave her mother behind. This is a great discussion book for classrooms.


  3. Looks lovely. My kids and I enjoyed a series of films we used to check out on VHS from our library that followed children throughout their day in different countries. So important for our kids to know things are different elsewhere.


    • I agree, it is important for kids to know things about kids in other cultures. Will have to see if my library has the tapes. One of my favorite shares a few years ago, was The Way to School. It was about how kids traveled by dugout boats, used zip lines to cross canyons, or traveled by dog sled.


  4. Stunning language in that opening. Such a real internal conflict for many children. Also a bit of an eye-opener for the source of our daily java!


    • Thankfully we don’t drink coffee, but the same thought crossed my mind. I can’t imagine the internal conflict — and I am sure there are kids here who deal with the same conflict for other reasons.


    • It’s a beautiful story about a mother and daughter relationship. It is a tough decision for the girl, when she sees sacrifices her mother makes for her. This story has a broad appeal, because many children will relate to sacrifices their parents make for them.


    • You love multicultural and this books is a tender story about the relationship between a girl and her mother. Kids need to know the challenges many children face so they can attend school.


  5. What a wonderful book, Patricia. It is so important for children to learn about the lives of others and to understand that not everyone’s lives are the same as theirs or enjoy the same privileges.


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