Jimmy The Greatest!

Jimmy lives in a small Caribbean town where there’s not a whole lot to do. Fortunately though, there is a boxing gym, and one day the owner, Don Apolinar, suggests that Jimmy start training. He also gives Jimmy a cardboard box full of books and newspaper clippings all about Muhammad Ali. Jimmy reads and re-reads as he never has before. He is swept with admiration for Ali who said, “I am the greatest. I said that even before I knew I was.” He starts to feel good, realizing that he doesn’t need to have a lot of fancy stuff, that he’s a pretty good boxer himself, and that he can look forward to the future. But by the time Don Apolinar has to leave for the big city, Jimmy realizes that he can have a great life running the gym, creating a library, dancing and boxing . . . right where he is.Jairo Buitrago’s simple yet inspiring story is complemented by Rafael Yockteng’s funny, expressive illustrations, making this a book that will speak to many young readers.The Spanish edition, ¡Jimmy, el más grande!, was recently named one of “Los mejores libros del año” (Best Books of the Year) by Venezuela’s Banco del Libro.

No Ordinary Day

Even though Valli spends her days picking coal and fighting with her cousins, life in the coal town of Jharia, India, is the only life she knows. The only sight that fills her with terror is the monsters who live on the other side of the train tracks — the lepers. When Valli discovers that that her “aunt” is a stranger who was paid money to take Valli off her own family’s hands, she leaves Jharia and begins a series of adventures that takes her to Kolkata, the city of the gods. Valli finds that she really doesn’t need much to live and is very resourceful. But a chance encounter with a doctor reveals that she has leprosy. Unable to bear the thought that she is one of the monsters she has always feared, Valli rejects help and begins an uncertain life on the street.

See the review at WOW Review, Volume 5, Issue 3.

Painted Dreams

Because her Haitian family is too poor to be able to buy paints for her, eight-year-old Ti Marie finds her own way to create pictures that make the heart sing. Ti Marie dreams of being an artist. Whenever she gets some time away from watching her little sisters and helping Mama in their market stall, she finds a cement wall or a scrap of waste paper and lets her imagination soar. Using whatever she can find to make a mark–bits of red brick, charcoal, white rocks–Ti Marie makes beautiful art. If only she had real paint, brushes, and clean white canvas, what wonderful pictures she could paint then! But Mama says there is no money for such things. Still, Ti Marie finds a surprising way to make her dreams come true.

A Hen for Izzy Pippik

When Shaina finds a magnificent hen, she knows that Izzy Pippik, the hen’s owner, is sure to return for her. In the meantime, Shaina decides she will care for the animal. But when dozens of eggs hatch and rowdy chickens scatter throughout the village, Shaina must fight the entire town if she has any hope of protecting the birds. Inspired by Jewish and Islamic traditional texts, this is a beautiful tale about doing the right thing, even in the face of adversity.

Beatrice’s Dream: A Story of Kibera Slum

Beatrice is a thirteen-year-old orphan in Kibera, Nairobi – a Kenyan shantytown built on refuse and rubbish and one of the biggest slums in Africa. In this book she describes her life: her walk to school, the dust that blows between her teeth and the mud she wades through, her teacher’s down-to-earth encouragement, her fear of being alone, how safe she feels at school…This sensitive account in words and photographs reveals the realities of life for some of the world’s most deprived people – and offers hope as Beatrice follows her dream.About Kibera slumKibera is in Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, in east Africa. It is one of the largest slums in the world with over half a million people living there – about a quarter of the population of Nairobi. The slum covers 2.5 square kilometres (630 acres). There are no roads and few of the residents have modern toilets, clean drinking water or electricity. The crime rate is high and disease spreads rapidly in the unsanitary conditions.Many people come to Kibera from rural areas to look for jobs in the city. A large proportion of the children have become orphans because so many adults have died from AIDS – many people in Kibera are infected with the HIV/AIDS virus.A number of organisations work in the slum offering medical care, finding jobs and houses, and encouraging people to take part in sports and education. KIKOSHEP (Kibera Community Self-Help Program) provides care and advice for people with HIV/AIDS. They also have a youth centre where youngsters like Beatrice can go for health information and advice. The centre shows films and arranges sports and social events.I first met Beatrice at the KIKOHEP primary school. Since then, she has graduated at the top of her class and is eligible to go on to secondary school. In Kibera, this is most children’s dream – they see education as the best way to escape from the slum.But sadly, many girls are sent away by their families into arranged marriages or end up on the street as prostitutes, so they are never able to realise their dream.The Kenyan Government and the United Nations have now started building new homes in Kibera so that they can move thousands of people out of the slum into better living conditions.

The Hangman in the Mirror

Françoise Laurent has never had an easy life. The only surviving child of a destitute washerwoman and wayward soldier, she must rely only on herself to get by. When her parents die suddenly from the smallpox ravishing New France, Françoise sees it as a chance to escape the life she thought she was trapped in.

Seizing her newfound opportunity, Françoise takes a job as an aide to the wife of a wealthy fur trader. The poverty-ridden world she knew transforms into a strange new world full of privilege and fine things — and of never having to beg for food. But Françoise’s relationships with the other servants in Madame Pommereau’s house are tenuous, and Madame Pommereau isn’t an easy woman to work for. When Françoise is caught stealing a pair of her mistress’s beautiful gloves, she faces a future even worse than she could have imagined: thrown in jail, she is sentenced to death by hanging. Once again, Françoise is left to her own devices to survive . . . Is she cunning enough to convince the prisoner in the cell beside her to become the hangman and marry her, which, by law, is the only thing that could save her life?