Saturday, June 14, 2008
One Hen: How one small loan made a big difference, written by Katie Smith Milway, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes - review
One Hen: How one small loan made a big difference, written by Katie Smith Milway, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes
An elementary-level book about micro-loans. Yes.
It is tempting, when surveying the small genre of "kids can make a difference" books, to just buy them all, in the hope that each one, however shoddily executed and however much it glosses over things such as adult assistance, extreme privation, or the opposite, will inspire a kid to embark upon a project that will not only help the world, but also empower him or her and, in turn, inspire his or her classmates.
How wonderful, then, to come upon One Hen. In this story, Kojo, a small boy in Ghana, buys a hen with the coins left over from the money his mother borrows from the village collective, and gradually parlays the hen's produce into an education, a farm, a family, and his own microloan organization. Microfinance is an appealing topic - it's easy to explain and easy to understand. Poultry farming is also a good subject for little kids. The hen lays two eggs: eat one, sell the other, repeat until you've made enough money to buy another hen. Heck, the cumulative economic potential of small-scale farming is an easy sell for grownups too. Our xmas gifts have come from the Heifer catalog for years.
In Kojo, the story has an appealing human face, and in fact, an afterword tells the story of a real Kojo, Kwabena Darko, a chicken farmer who started poor and now sits on the board of Opportunity International, a global microfinance nonprofit organization.
There's quite a bit of geographic name-dropping, as eventually Kojo's eggs go to places like Bamako and Ouagadougou. Two full pages address "What can you do to help?"
Best of all, the story is well- and clearly-written, and the illustrations, in happy-colored acrylics, are friendly and informative, and yet have that slightly epic quality of UNICEF posters.