I naturally gravitate towards diversity in my reading, and my blog has had this as a focus since its beginning, but this challenge has pushed me to seek out texts in a more targeted way. Today’s story, however, came to me from the publishers Lee & Low, who sent me a review copy. They are one of the few minority-owned publishing companies in the United States and their mission is “to publish contemporary diverse stories that all children could enjoy.” Twenty-two Cents, Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank is non-fiction and falls into categories #1, #2 and especially #6 on my list. For the purposes of these posts, where appropriate, I will be mentioning the ethnicity of authors and illustrators.
Title: Twenty-two Cents, Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank
Written by: Paula Yoo (Korean-American)
Illustrated by: Jamel Akib (English-Malaysian)
Published by: Lee & Low Books Inc, 2014
Themes/Topics: cycle of poverty, lending, Grameen banks, Muhammad Yunus, economic innovation, compassion, micro-loans
Suitable for ages: 8-11
Non-fiction, biographical, 40 pages,
MUHAMMAD’S stomach growled as he and his brothers and sisters watched their mother mix rice flour, sugar, and coconut to create the dough for sweet pithas. She moulded the dough into oval cakes and dropped them into hot oil. each pitha floated to the top of the pan, frying to a crispy golden brown. Then she placed the pithas on a plate to cool.
Eight-year-old Muhammad eagerly reached for a pitha. But before he could take the first bite, someone knocked on the door. Outside stood a weary woman and a little girl. The woman said they hadn’t eaten in days.
This storybook follows the life of Nobel peace Prize winner, Mohammad Yunnus from his early years growing up in a family of nine children in what was then the Indian province of East Bengal, to his acceptance of this prize in 2006 jointly with Grameen Bank “for their efforts to create economic and social development from below.”
The book opens with a scene reflecting the values of Mohammad’s family: sharing what they had with the poor, the importance of education and a love of storytelling. The young boy also joined the scouts at his father’s encouragement and immersed himself in his troops charity activities.
His education took him to the US in the form of a Fulbright scholarship, where he hoped studying economics would equip him to help the poor of his nation rise up out of debt. Mohammad returns to his homeland, the now Bangladesh, after the end of the brutal war with West Pakistan. The post-war economic devastation he discovered and personal encounters with women in immoral debt to unscrupulous money lenders spurred him to make his economic theories more practical. Undeterred by banks refusal to lend tiny amounts to local craftswomen trying to feed their families through small business transactions and in need of loans as small as 22 cents, Mohammad set up the Grameen Bank in 1977. This was a very early model of microcredit enabling women in particular to borrow very small amounts that they would be able to repay without difficulty and with onerous interest rates. Part of this loan-system also included educating these women about banking and education.
Why I like This Book:
The Grameen bank has loaned over 10 billion dollars worldwide since its inception and more than 94% of those borrowers have been women. This is a story of empowerment and the power of one life to make a difference. It underscores the value of education and the importance of empathy and tells the story of the Mohammad Yunnus’ remarkable innovation to help many low income people become financially independent and lift themselves out of poverty. He understood the essential difference between charity and long term strategies to ensure self-respect and independence for these people. It is a remarkable story narrated in clear compelling prose.
Every page is richly illustrated with sweeping energetic brushwork, each page an evocative painting in its own right bringing to life equally post-war poverty in a Bangladesh village to peace protests in front of the White House.
The book contains two pages at the end about Grameen Bank and Muhammad Yunnus’ awards as well as a comprehensive bibliography.
This is a lengthier picture book of may 300 words for upper elementary children. I would add it to any project on poverty and development.
- Five micro-credit programs that are breaking the cycle of poverty
- The Grameen Foundation
- An organization I have personally used to give loans, Kiva.