Wednesday, January 2, 2013

What's Mr. Giso Making "Room to Read?" Pick #6

Beatrice's Goat
Written By:  Page McBrier
Illustrated By:  Lori Lohstoeter
Afterword By:  Hillary Rodham Clinton

"If you were to visit the small African village of Kisinga in the rolling hills of western Uganda, and if you were to take a left at the crossroads and follow a narrow dirt path between two tall banana groves, you would come to the home of a girl named Beatrice."

"Beatrice lives here with her mother and five younger brothers and sisters in a sturdy mud house with a fine steel roof.  The house is new. So is the shiny blue wooden furniture inside.  In fact, many things are new to Beatrice and her family lately."

"And it's all because of...?"

If you haven't guessed yet, the answer is a goat.  A goat that Beatrice names Mugisa which means "luck."  See, before Mugisa, Beatrice spent her days taking care of her younger brother and sisters, hoeing and planting in the fields, tending the chickens and grinding the cassava flour they took to the market to sell.  All Beatrice wanted most was to be a schoolgirl.  In fact, she would often hide behind a jackfruit tree and, carrying her younger sibling, Paskavia, would pretend she was a student too.  Unfortunately, Beatrice knew this was not a reality, for she was unable to save enough money for two essential requirements--a uniform and books.  Here is Beatrice in Uganda at the age of nine.

One day while pulling the weeds, Mama comes to Beatrice.  Mama had a different look on her face; her eyes almost sparkled which never happened.  She explains, "...some kindhearted people from far away have given us a lucky gift.  We are one of twelve village families to receive a goat."  Beatrice thought that was sort of nice and was a bit curious, but knew this would mean more work for her.  Being the devoted daughter that she is, Beatrice helped prepare for this "gift" without even knowing what magic it would bring.  This goat would change her life forever!

Mugisa, the goat and Beatrice the young girl from Kisinga are both  real.  This poignant book recounts the hope brought to Beatrice's family and countless other families thanks to the charity known as Heifer International which strives to help families like Beatrice's have a better tomorrow.  Just one goat provided Beatrice and her family with nourishment, a roof, an education and a dream.  This picture book takes you on the journey of a young girl who is granted her wish--an education!  In fact, after earning scholarships, Beatrice attended Connecticut College and graduated in 2008.  In May of 2010, she earned her Master's degree from the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.  Here she is at her first graduation.

Both from Connecticut, the author, a teaching artist and arts-in-education consultant and the illustrator, an art teacher, were given the uplifting experience of traveling to Africa to meet the real Beatrice before creating this book.  The way that the magical prose and illustrations come to life truly attest to the fact that they know Beatrice and Mugisa personally.

This picture book was given to me by one of my first graders.  It quickly instilled upon me the true meaning of giving.  It's one of my new favorite reads, so I hope you have a chance to enjoy it.  As always, just scroll to the bottom of my blog to find this and my other favorites.  A portion of buying this book goes to helping families like Beatrice's.  To learn more about Heifer International, click here.

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