Sometimes you discover a picture book that not only informs you, but inspires you as well. "Beatrice's Goat", by Page McBrier and illustrated by Lori Lohstoeter, is a story about a young girl living in Uganda who has many younger brothers and sisters and responds to the responsibility of helping her mother with all of the chores. She wants desperately to go to school, but cannot afford to buy the books or uniform that is required. As she helps her mother tend her siblings, hoe and plant the fields, tend the chickens and grind the cassava flour that they would take to market to sell, she realizes that she may never save enough money to pay for the necessary school items. Then, one day, her mother gives her wonderful news! Their family has been selected as one of twelve families that will be given a goat.
Her mother goes on to tell her that the goat won't arrive for sometime because they must prepare for this "lucky" gift. They have to get some things ready before the goat arrives. They must build a shed from posts and banana fibers to provide a place for the goat to live. They must plant elephant grass for food along the edges of their cassava field. Finally, after much hard work and preparation, the goat arrives. The family is truly excited and Beatrice names her "Mugisa", which means luck in Ugandan. Not long afterward, Mugisa gives birth to twin kids. Beatrice begins to sell the goat's milk to her neighbors and is able to begin thinking about where this money should go. It could go to new clothes for her siblings or blankets for beds. But her mother, who is so very wise, has a better place for this money. She tells her daughter, who helps her so much and works so hard for her entire family, that this money is to go to pay for Beatrice's school expenses. Beatrice is so excited and happy to finally get to hold the well worn books and "study each word over and over until it stuck in her mind like a burr."
This book is based on a true story about a little girl by the name of Beatrice who lives in Uganda. But it's more that just a story. The book demonstrates how effective "Heifer Project International" is by providing livestock to people in need. It's a project that helps people lift themselves out of poverty. There is an afterward by Hillary Rodham Clinton that also states her support to this deserving service enterprise. In fact, some of the proceeds for buying this picture book will be donated to the project. This is a wonderful picture book for ages 4 though adult.
"Oy, Joy!", by Lucy Frank, is a wonderful book that is full of emotion and laughter throughout the entire story. It very cleverly begins with a "match quiz". Joy, and her friend, Mable, are beginning their 9th grade year in school and decide to take the "match quiz" to see what kind of boy would fit with them. This "match quiz" is set up in the first chapter so that the reader can also take this quiz. Already, the reader is hooked. Joy gives the reader her opinion on every question on the quiz, as well as everything else. When she finds out that her great uncle is coming to stay with them because he suffered a stroke and can't make it on his own, her life becomes very complicated. She lets the reader know how upset she is to lose her bedroom to her uncle and everything else that changes because of his presence. For example, she has to move in with her little bratty brother and life becomes very cramped. Her family lives in a small apartment in New York City and space is very limited to begin with. But, she discovers many new and enlightening things about this great-uncle. And, he ends up changing her life. This is a thoroughly entertaining and endearing book that will keep you reading from cover to cover. It is best for ages 11 though 15.
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