Sunday, January 10, 2010

REVIEW: Listen to the Wind

Mortenson, G. & Roth, S.L.  (2009).  Listen to the Wind:  The story of Dr. Greg and Three Cups of Tea.  New York:  Dial books for Young Readers.


Appetizer:  This information picturebook shares the story of the children in Korphe, Pakistan and how after Greg Mortenson's arrival, he worked to give the children a school where they could go to learn.

I always struggle with children's books who try to show the actual author's experience from some one else's perspective.  The fact that Greg takes on the role of the hero in the text adds to my reservations.  (Sure, the children and townspeople of Korphe do help him too, but that's not the focus.)  I think I would have preferred this story if it focused more closely upon the children's daily lives, instead of staying so close to Dr. Greg's visits and efforts to give the children a school.

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Journey to Change the World... One Child at a Time ( The Young Reader's Edition)Now, this book is based off of the popular and inspiring series Mortenson has created for adults, beginning with Three Cups of Tea.  And it's the rare adult author who can transition into writing for children well.  So, Greg Mortenson took on a challenge with writing this book.  It's an excellent story to share.  I just wish he'd gone further outside his own perspective.  Make sense?

I absolutely love the collages Susan Roth created for the book though.  Love.  They're colorful and striking.  I particularly liked an image of the students seeing a page of Listen to the Wind that their teacher is holding up for them to see.  But despite appreciating the illustrations, it wasn't enough to save the rest of the book for me.

Dinner Conversation:

"We are the children of Korphe.  We live in a village in the mountains of Pakistan.  Our families grow and gather the food we eat.  Our mothers weave and sew the clothes we wear.  We make up our games, and we make our own toys."

"Before our school was built, we had lessons outside.  We wrote with sticks, on the the ground."

"...a stranger stumbled into our village.  He was cold, hungry, and sick.  We gave him tea and food and a bed near the fire.
He told us his name was Greg Mortenson and that he was a nurse."

"He asked Haji Ali, our wisest man, to help him think of something special he could do for Korphe.
Haji Ali answered Dr. Greg with a puzzle.  "LISTEN TO THE WIND," he said.
...Korphe needed a school.
Dr. Greg promised to come back
and help us build one."

To Go with the Meal:

While I'd like nothing more than to say that Listen to the Wind could be a valuable window into the way another culture's children experience the world, that use of the seemed secondary.  Instead, I felt the book was focusing on how super-cool-awesome Greg Mortenson was.  Personally, that didn't really do it for me.  I would have preferred if the story followed the children's experiences more closely instead of flashing to "one year later" Dr. Greg returned, keeping his promise!!!!!OMG!!!YAYZ!!!!thatDr.Gregisawesome!!!!!!!

Sorry if I seem too harsh, few but dear readers.  Mortenson can put a sentence together, which is more than I can say for some authors out there.  But, am I the only one getting sick of narrative after narrative of super-awesome white person saving group of minority figures/oppressed people/people from a different cultural background?

Of course, a teacher could pick up where the book falls short by continuing discussion on the geography, history and cultures of Pakistan.

Listen to the Wind could be used to discuss education throughout the world and how depending on culture, class, need, environment, money AND SO MANY OTHER FACTORS schools can take a number of forms.

This picturebook could also be used to show the actual construction process that goes into building a school and the efforts it takes throughout a community and sometimes even involves help from around the world.

Tasty Rating:  !!

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