A Good Trade
Alma Fullerton, Author
Karen Patkau, Illustrator
Pajama Press, Fiction, 2013
Suitable for Ages: 5-8
Themes: Ugandan children, Poverty, Traveling for water, War
Opening: “In a small Ugandan garden, a single poppy blooms white in a sea of green. On a mat inside his hut, Kato wakes at the break of dawn.”
Book Jacket Synopsis: Kato wakes early to begin his morning routine, a long barefoot trek beyond village gates through grasses, down a steep hill, and along fields dotted with cattle and guarded by soldiers. His destination is the village well, where he will pump a day’s supply of water into two jerry cans. Like very day, Kato lets the water splash over his hot tired feet before carrying his heavy load back home, where the day’s chores await him. But this is no ordinary day. The aid-worker’s truck has come, and in the back is something so special the little boy rushes home to look for something to repay the aid-worker for this unexpected gift for his village.
Why I like this book:
Alma Fullerton’s text is rich, spare and beautifully crafted. Her narrative is strong and lyrical as she shares Kato’s daily trip to get drinking water for his family. He is barefoot like the other children in his village. The water he collects is essential for cooking, drinking and bathing.
When Kato spies the aid worker’s truck that brings shoes to the village children, he hurries home with his water cans. He finds a white poppy and returns to give it to the aid worker as his expression of gratitude for her generous gift.
This important book shows children how difficult life can be for kids living in war-torn areas and in drought. For many children school isn’t an option because their days are filled with chores. Fullerton’s story raises cultural awareness for the global plight of children like Kato. Young readers will appreciate the things they take for granted, like running tap water, shoes and transportation. It addresses tough issues in a hopeful and age-appropriate manner and is an excellent read-aloud for the classroom.
Karen Patkau’s digitally rendered illustrations are colorful and lush. They work beautifully with the text and illuminate the message in the story.
Resources: This is an important story that will generate lively classroom discussions about how difficult life can be for children around the world. Ask children about how they would feel if they didn’t have a pair of shoes? Would they be able to walk barefoot every day to collect water from a well? How would they bath or wash clothing? What will they eat? This is a great exercise in empathy.
Alma Fullerton is the award-winning author of the picture books A Good Trade, Community Soup and In a Cloud of Dust, When the Rain Comes. Check out my review of her most recent picture book, Hand Over Hand. Visit Fullerton at her website.
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.