[Nonfiction Wednesday] Dream Big, Start Small in Katie Smith Milway’s “One Hen: How One Small Loan Made A Big Difference”

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Myra here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2016 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year.

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I have seen this book highlighted by one of my higher degree students who enlisted in my course elective “Using Multicultural Children’s Books to Promote Socio-Emotional Learning.” After seeing that this is part of the CitizenKid collection of books “that inform children about the world and inspire them to be better global citizens,” I knew it would be perfect for our current reading theme.


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One Hen: How One Small Loan Made A Big Difference

Written by: Katie Smith Milway Illustrated by: Eugenie Fernandes
Published by: Kids Can press, 2008 ISBN: 1554530288 (ISBN13: 9781554530281) Book Awards: Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction Nominee (2009), Massachusetts Book Award for Children’s/Young Adult Literature (2009)
Borrowed a copy from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Told in a seemingly-simplistic cumulative tale (think This is the house that Jack built…), the reader gets to know young, resourceful Kojo who helped his mother eke out a living when his father died. While there is a longer narrative that is framed in one side of the page, the other half is filled with the bold and bright illustrations of Eugenie Fernandes (of My Name Is Blessingwhich bleed out into the framed longer text and contain the rhythmic-like, simplified version of the story (see below):

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One of the things that struck me as I was reading the story was Kojo’s amazing sense of self-agency. There was no self-pity about why he had to take on his father’s responsibility; his situation was also not portrayed as too wretched for words, just plain different; and the narrative told in a matter-of-fact manner that honours the characters’ sense of dignity and capacity for transformation.

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The image above is one of my absolute favourites – the way the books are set free, and the children educating themselves to support not just their family but the entire community. I especially liked how the book creators included a photo of the real “Kojo,” a man named Kwabena Darko from Ghana’s Ashanti region.

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There is also detailed information provided about what the readers can do to help, as well as short mini-stories of people who have been helped by microcredit organizations from the Philippines, Uganda, and Peru. For teachers who wish to use this book with their students, here is a comprehensive 17-paged PDF file that contains a long list of discussion questions and possible activities that can be done in the classroom.

Other books that you can pair with this include The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore especially since it is also presented in the format of a cumulative verse against a backdrop of Susan L. Roth’s stunningly-glorious collage artwork, and Twenty-Two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and The Village Bank by Paula Yoo.

I was also able to find this TEDx talk of the author Katie Smith Milway talking about how to spark social entrepreneurship. Enjoy!

4 Comments on [Nonfiction Wednesday] Dream Big, Start Small in Katie Smith Milway’s “One Hen: How One Small Loan Made A Big Difference”

  1. Cool. I didn’t realize there were more picture books about microcredit beyond Twenty-two cents. Thanks!

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  2. Love the pairing you shared–I don’t know any of the books, so I need to remedy that.

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  3. I enjoyed The Mangrove Tree. I am going to try to read this one too. Sounds very inspirational.

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  4. I love the pairing books part you included. I’ve been interesting in microlending/microcredit and it’s amazing how little can do so much!

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