Okay, speaking of race and representation and kids getting to see themselves, I have read some great books lately! Take a look…
Can a sewing project make a difference half-way across the world?Lacey Little Bird loves spending time with Kahasi, an elder on her reserve who is like a grandmother to her. From her Lacey is learning about their people, the Siksika Blackfoot tribe of Alberta, including the art of beadwork.
Lacey hears about a project to help grandmothers in Africa who are raising their grandchildren because their parents have died from AIDS. Even though Africa is far, far away, Lacey wants to help and emails the grandmothers with a plan to raise money by selling beaded purses.
What difference can a young Blackfoot girl from North America make in the lives of grandmothers in Africa? A lot, as Lacey discovers. Her decision to help will bring about amazing changes in her life and her community.
Here’s a review from CM which is more school-focused than me (the review, not CM in general). I do see that the book would be useful in a classroom, but I also think that its appeal as a book and a story rather than a curriculum tool shouldn’t be underestimated. (And that kneejerk reaction is why I work in a public library rather than a school. Teachers, I know many of you who are truly awesome, but I was not cut out to be one of you. I gravitate towards reading for fun…)
Lacey is an appealing kid, who’s not perfect, but is thoughtful and determined. She goes to school and helps out at the outreach high school for teen parents from her community. The author doesn’t shy away from the reality of life in Lacey’s community. Lacey’s family has a lot of mouths to feed and not a lot of money, and home is especially chaotic with seven kids in the family, her mom sick and her dad on the road with his band. Lacey likes to slip away to the quiet of her grandmother’s house, where her Kahasi is teaching her traditional beading techniques. (I’m not sure why the publisher’s blurb says she’s like a grandmother to Lacey when she is her actual grandmother, and tells her stories of how the other person in her family who does fantastic beadwork is Lacey’s dad…)
Her sister is dealing with a short-tempered, potentially abusive boyfriend, a baby, and the decision whether to finish school and try to go onto college or stay home. There’s violence too–Lacey’s not sure it’s worth the project of growing plants to beautify the high school because she’s sure someone’s just going to come along and wreck them.
But she’s a determined kid, and is set on making bags and purses to help the African grandmothers even when she doesn’t know how she’s going to do it or where she’s going to get the materials. She has her moments of doubt and frustration, but ultimately, it all comes together into a fantastic story about how one person can start something that involves a whole community and truly makes a difference.
And the best bit? Lacey and the African Grandmothers is based on true events, real people, and the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign.