My Brigadista Year

When thirteen-year-old Lora tells her parents that she wants to join Premier Castro’s army of young literacy teachers, her mother screeches to high heaven, and her father roars like a lion. Nora has barely been outside of Havana — why would she throw away her life in a remote shack with no electricity, sleeping on a hammock in somebody’s kitchen? But Nora is stubborn: didn’t her parents teach her to share what she has with someone in need? Surprisingly, Nora’s abuela takes her side, even as she makes Nora promise to come home if things get too hard. But how will Nora know for sure when that time has come?

Gift Days

Young Nassali longs to read and write like her brother, but since her mother’s death, Nassali is responsible for looking after her younger siblings and running the household. There is no time for books and learning. Then one day, she wakes up to discover that her chores have been taken care of. It is her first gift day. From that day on, once a week, her brother gives Nassali the gift of time so that she can pursue her dream of an education, just as her mother would have wanted.

The Girl Who Buried Her Dreams In A Can

This is the story of a little girl with big dreams. All the girl ever wanted was an education. But in Rhodesia, education for girls was nearly impossible. So she taught herself to read and write with her brother’s schoolbooks and to count while watching cattle graze. When the girl became a young wife and mother, she wrote her goals on a scrap of paper and buried them in a can—an ancient ritual that reminded her that she couldn’t give up on her dreams.

When The Slave Esperança Garcia Wrote A Letter

In 1770, the slave Esperança Garcia bravely penned a letter to the governor of Piauí state, in Brazil, describing how she and her children were being mistreated and requesting permission to return to the farm where the rest of her family was living. Before she wrote her letter, Esperança Garcia lived on a cotton farm run by Jesuit priests, where she learned to read and write — a rare opportunity for a woman, especially a slave. But one day she was separated from her husband and older children and taken with her two little ones to be a cook in the home of Captain Antonio Vieira de Couto, where she and the other slaves were beaten.

What the Snakes Wrote

Rufus the farmyard dog first notices the strangely shaped snakes on the ground outside his house. The word they form with their bodies, DOG, looks oddly familiar. As Rufus goes about his patrol, the snakes follow behind. Soon dozens of snakes join in, until the farmer’s field is covered in words. What are the snakes trying to tell Rufus?

The farmer, busy covering up an old well in a far corner of his field, doesn’t realize that his action will destroy the wintertime home of the harmless snakes. But Rufus’s determination helps the snakes find a way to tell the farmer their predicament and save their home.

Tina Holdcroft’s illustrations are an energetic and fun-filled complement to a charming story that subtly presents the benefits of literacy as well as the importance of preserving animal habitats. A brief afterword gives young readers additional information about snakes.

When I Was Eight

Olemaun is eight and knows a lot of things. But she does not know how to read. Ignoring her father’s warnings, she travels far from her Arctic home to the outsiders’ school to learn. The nuns at the school call her Margaret. They cut off her long hair and force her to do menial chores, but she remains undaunted. Her tenacity draws the attention of a black-cloaked nun who tries to break her spirit at every turn. But the young girl is more determined than ever to learn how to read.