________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 18. . . . January 12, 2017

cover

Ten Cents a Pound.

Nhung N. Tran-Davies. Illustrated by Joseť Bisaillon.
Toronto, ON: Second Story Press, April, 2018.
24 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
ISBN 978-1-77260-058-8.

Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.

Review by Kay Weisman.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.

   

excerpt:

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.

Silly child, in your hands, hold these books,
Leaf through the pages and you shall see
The world beyond these mountains and our villages,
Beyond these coffee trees, row on row.
Ten cents a pound is what Iíll earn
To buy these books and set you free.

 

Told by a young girl and her mother in alternating spreads, these lyrical verses convey a childís desire to stay at home with her family and her motherís wish that she have opportunities at school and in the world beyond the mountains where they live. The child wants to protect her motherís coarsened, scratched hands, but Mama tells her to hold books in her hands because education will set her free. When the girl wants to protect Mamaís calloused and blistered feet, Mama gives the child shoes to carry her beyond their village. Mamaís aching back and strained eyes are also concerns for the daughter. In response, Mama gives her child a backpack filled with writing supplies so that she will be able to tell her story to the bigger world. At last, the girl understands and sets off from her village with promises to return and visit Mama soon.

     Tran-Davies, a physician and social justice advocate who came to Canada as a Vietnamese refugee in 1979, writes in succinct, yet elegant prose that conveys the heartfelt emotions of both mother and daughter. Mama may not be able to change her own situation, but she knows the path that will offer her daughter greater opportunities. Bisaillonís colourful, mixed media artwork depicts a mountainous coffee plantation and the isolated village where the two live. Simple shapes and earth tones predominate, accented by striking red coffee beans and the beautiful scenes that the young girl imagines. This works, both as a story celebrating the mother/child bond, as well as a catalyst for discussions of the realities of life in many poor countries.

Highly Recommended.

Kay Weisman works as a youth services librarian at West Vancouver Memorial Library.



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