Theme: Economics

Beatrice's goat
Beatrice’s goat

Author: Page McBrier (2003); Karin Littlewood (illus.)
Description: Beatrice’s Goat is the result of the Heifer Project director’s request for Page McBrier and Lori Lohstoeter to create a children’s book. In order for the author and illustrator to comprehend the linkages between rural Perry, Arkansas and Kisinga, Uganda, they traveled to Uganda to document the true story of Beatrice and the Heifer Project goat. Beatrice’s goat, Mugisa, has brought many new things to the family. The story describes how the sale of Mugisa’s milk and two kids financed a new house, roof, furniture, and schooling for Beatrice. The steady income from the goat enables the family to buy medicines, clothing, and needed supplies. Soon Beatrice’s friend will also have a goat. The book illustrates positive results of a non-profit organization; since so much news from Uganda is negative, it is important for readers to learn that Ugandans are working to improve their lives. The book also focuses on children, their schooling, and responsibilities, rather than on what adults do to or for children. © Africa Access

Fatuma's new cloth
Fatuma’s new cloth

Author: Leslie Bulion (2002); Nicole, Tadgell(illus.)
Description: Fatuma’s New Cloth is a charming story about a little East African girl who visits the market with her mother in order to purchase kanga cloth for a new dress. During her trip to the market, Fatuma helps us explore the East African perception of the world as she learns about her people’s culture and traditions. Fatuma also comes to learn that different people have different opinions and that they may interpret things very differently. This is especially apparent in her experiences in buying the kanga cloth and her favorite drink, chai, a tea that is commonly prepared and served amongst East Africans. We learn the importance of the market in the life of Fatuma’s community and see how she interacts with each of the vendors at the market, where in time, she will learn the skills she needs to bargain and purchase goods to take home to her family. We also learn about the social importance of kanga cloth in East Africa. Kanga cloth is a colorful printed cotton cloth with traditional motifs that is usually bought in pairs to be worn by both women and men in East Africa (predominantly Kenya and Tanzania) as part of their daily dress. © Africa Access

My rows and piles of coins
My rows and piles of coins

Author: Tololwa, M. Mollel (1999); E. B. Lewis (illus.)
Description: In this story set in Tanzania, the protagonist is a Maasai boy, living in a rural northern area. His father grows an export crop (coffee), his mother markets other crops, and he, Saruni, helps them both, especially his mother. Using an old squeaky wheelbarrow he hauls his mother’s beans, corn, pumpkins and other crops to market. Industrious and thrifty, he saves the coins he earns helping mother, patiently waiting for the day he can buy the bicycle he has his heart set on. Eventually, he gets a bike but it is not new and it comes to him in a surprising way. He shows no disappointment. He is delighted he has a bike of his own, one that he can use to help his mother. The story presents opportunities for discussing a number of topics. We learn, for example, that some parts of Africa are chilly during North America summers, that women play important economic roles in the family and community, and that a bicycle can be an important economic asset. A glossary of Maasai terms and author’s note about Tanzanian currency complete the book. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

One hen: How one small loan made a big difference

Author: Katie Smith Milway (2008); Euginie, Fernandes (illus.)
Description: Milway’s book does a wonderful job of presenting a positive, simple story of Kojo, a level-headed, hard working boy happy to lend a helping hand to his family and his extended village. Latching on to a loan his mother obtained, he is smart enough to figure out a way to multiply the little his family has, and later share with others around him. Kojo seems to have created a modern variation of the ‘susu,’ an economic and cultural practice among the Akan in Ghana where several people contribute to a joint fund which is then loaned to one of the group. As this person pays back the loan, someone else in the group then benefits from the expanded loan. This continues with everybody at some point benefiting as the pot grows. It is a form of what is now popularly called ‘microfinance,’ a way for usually poor and moderate income people to have access to small, sustainable credit as a way to live decently. Kojo uses the small loan to buy one hen and sell the eggs that the hen lays. Soon, there are more hens and more eggs, and the rest is an appreciable experience in success and growth for everybody connected with Kojo. © Africa Access

The boy who harnessed the wind
The boy who harnessed the wind

Author: Kamkwamba, W., & Mealer, Bryan. (2012); Zunon, Elizabeth (illus.)

Description: In 2001, a drought hit the country of Malawi in sub-Saharan African. “Without water, the sun rose angry each morning and scorched the fields, turning the maize into dust. Without food, Malawi began to starve.” William Kamkwamba was fourteen at the time, living in the village of Wimbe. Fascinated by machines, William was inspired by a diagram of a windmill in a library book to scavenge parts from the junkyard: “a broken bicycle, rusted bottle caps, and plastic pipe, even a small generator that powered a headlight on a bike.” He made them into a windmill, mounted it on a tower, and turned on a light with the wind. William and coauthor Bryan Mealer recount his efforts in this rich, expressive telling that concludes, “Light could not fill empty bellies, but another windmill could soak the dry ground, creating food where once there was none …” An essay at story’s end provides additional information on how William built another windmill in 2007 that he used to power a pump that watered his family’s garden year-round. Elizabeth Zunon’s oil paint and cut-paper illustrations are a distinctive and appealing accompaniment to an inspiring account. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Baking cakes in Kigali
Baking cakes in Kigali

Author: Gaile Parkin (2010)
Type: Novel
Description: Set in an international apartment complex in Rwanda, heroine Angel Tungararza has moved from Tanzania with her husband, Pius, who’s taken a job at the local university; before long, she develops a reputation as a masterful baker and a sagacious friend. Though haunted by the deaths of her grown daughter and son, Angel plunges back into motherhood, caring for her five grandchildren, tending to Pius, baking cakes and dispensing advice. Meanwhile, the sour undercurrents of AIDS and genocide play quiet but instrumental parts in shaping Angel’s world. © Africa Access