Ten Cents a Pound
Written by Nhung N. Tran-Davies
Illustrated by Josée Bisaillon
Published by Second Story Press
Publication date: 18th April 2018
Summary (from Goodreads):
A young girl is torn by her desire to stay home with her family and the familiarity of their village, and her desire to go to school and discover the world beyond the mountains that surround them. Every time the girl insists that she will stay, her mother repeats that she must go—that there is more to life than labor in the coffee fields. Their loving exchange reveals the struggles and sacrifices that they will both have to make for the sake of the young girl’s future. The sweet, simple text captures a mother’s love and her wish for a life of opportunity for her daughter.
There should be a copy of this book in every primary classroom. Not only does it burst with detailed, warm illustrations, but it has positive messages about books, learning and education as a path to a better life.
I am always on the look-out for books from different countries and cultural backgrounds. Having lived in Vietnam for a year I have fond memories of the country, the food and the wonderful people that I became friends with while there. When most people think of Vietnam they think of the Vietnam-America war and the waves of emigrants.The war left lots of scars, but there is so much more to Vietnam than that – the beautiful landscape and the vibrant culture and language.
I was particularly interested to see a story that looks at generational differences, with the mother wearing herself down with manual labour and putting all her hopes into her daughter getting an education and using the pages of books to set herself free. I worked in rural Vietnam where most families were involved in agriculture; yet a trend was that the children would be sent to the cities to get an education and aim for a future doing a ‘professional’ job.
This book was both heart-breaking and inspirational because it shows the lengths that a parent will go to to help their child succeed and the conflict for the child between staying with the mother she loves and taking advantage of the opportunities her mother’s labour has created for her.
What I liked: Beautiful illustrations, bursting with warmth and feeling (see more from Josée Bisaillon in the book Leap!), Vietnamese author and protagonists, multi-generational tale, importance of books and education.
Even better if: More books like this please!
How you could use it in your classroom: This would make an interesting text to use with classes of any age – for younger readers this could provide them with a different perspective, especially when some see education as something to be endured rather than appreciated. The positive messages about learning, education and hard work are all ones I wish that my pupils would take on board! It is important to have books from a variety of cultural contexts to allow all children to see themselves in the books they read and to appreciate the fascinating diversity of our world.
(Thank you to Netgalley and Second Story Press for my e-ARC)
See my review of A Different Pond, another story from a Vietnamese author, looking at the experiences of immigrants to America.
Learn more about the benefits of bilingualism.
Thanks for reading!