Work And More Work

Tom lives in the countryside in the mid 1800s, and he’s curious what is it like in the town, the city, and the world beyond? It’s all “work and more work,” everyone tells him. Determined to find out for himself, Tom sets off with a bit of bread and cheese in a bundle. He encounters crowded marketplaces, bustling wharves, and storms on the high seas.

Tia Isa Wants a Car

Tía Isa wants a car. A shiny green car the same color as the ocean, with wings like a swooping bird. A car to take the whole family to the beach. But saving is hard when everything goes into two piles — one for here and one for Helping Money, so that family members who live far away might join them someday. While Tía Isa saves, her niece does odd jobs for neighbors so she can add her earnings to the stack. But even with her help, will they ever have enough?

Beneath My Mother’s Feet

“Our lives will always be in the hands of our mothers, whether we like it or not.” Nazia doesn’t mind when her friends tease and call her a good beti, a dutiful daughter. Growing up in a working-class family in Karachi, Pakistan, Nazia knows that obedience is the least she can give to her mother, who has spent years saving and preparing for her dowry. But every daughter must grow up, and for fourteen-year-old Nazia that day arrives suddenly when her father gets into an accident at work, and her family finds themselves without money for rent or food. Being the beti that she is, Nazia drops out of school to help her mother clean houses, all the while wondering when she managed to lose control of her life that had been full of friends and school. Working as a maid is a shameful obligation that could be detrimental to her future — after all, no one wants a housekeeper for a daughter-in-law. As Nazia finds herself growing up much too quickly, the lessons of hardship that seem unbearable turn out to be a lot more liberating than she ever imagined.

Rata-Pata-Scata-Fata: A Caribbean Story

This is the story of Junjun, a little boy who wants to help his mother, but who doesn’t really want to exert any effort in the process. Instead, he invokes the nonsense phrase, “rata-pata-scata-fata” to accomplish several tasks she sets before him: getting a fish for dinner, finding a lost goat, and collecting a bucket of tamarinds. Lastly, she asks him to fill the rain barrel. Junjun lies on the ground, repeats the words several times, and the chores are completed. Of course, no magic is really involved, only coincidence-or is it?

The Gift of the Sun: A Tale from South Africa

In this witty book based on an African folk tale, Thulani prefers sitting in the sun to doing his chores. Tired of milking the cow, he trades her in for a goat. When the goat gets into the corn seed, he trades it for a sheep. Sick of shearing, he buys some geese, which then get exchanged for some sunflower seeds. With each trade, his hard-working wife gets more and more exasperated.