This little boy was very lucky in life. He had a mommy and daddy, a baby sister, and lots and lots of toys. He lived in a big house in a nice American suburb with two garages in which to park the two cars owned by mommy and daddy.
The book I was reading to Little Boy was Beatrice’s Goat by Page McBrier, based on a true story. Here is what happened:
Just Reading a Story
Little Boy and I are snuggled together on the sofa with the book. Beatrice, I read, is a little girl who lives in a small village in Uganda in Africa.
She desperately wants to go to school but her mother is poor and has no money for school fees. I point out to Little Boy that he is very lucky to be able to go to kindergarten. He is not impressed. After all, everybody goes to kindergarten.
So he thinks.
Village in Uganda
Onward: One wonderful day Beatrice is given a goat by Heifer International (one of my favorite do-gooder organizations by the way). The milk from the goat is good for her and her family and there is enough to sell to the other villagers and . . . but let me not spoil all the wonders of this story for you. This is really about my reading this story to Little Boy.
Boy meets foreign world
As we are turning pages, we are also looking at the pictures, of course. One of them shows the little girl’s mother coming home from the market with her baby on her back and an enormous stalk of bananas balanced on her head. (Actually, they are plantain, or matoke as they’re called locally. They’re used to cook the national dish also called matoke.)
I point at the mother. “Don’t you think it’s smart she’s carrying all those bananas on her head?” I ask Little Boy.
He looks at me as if I’m nuts
“No!” he says. “It’s stoopid!”
His response takes me by surprise, but it’s been a while since I was a five-year-old, so how do I know what’s going on in his little head?
“Why is that stupid?” I ask.
He sighs, impatient with my ignorance. “Because she shoulda put them in her car!”
Of course, what was I thinking
I smile at his disparaging face. I have news for him.
“She doesn’t have a car.”
He throws his chubby arms up in the air and looks at me as if I am the dumbest person he has ever encountered. “Everybody has a car!” he shouts.
So there you have it, the world according to Lucky Little Boy in America.
Clearly, I have a job to do here . . .
Since Little Boy won’t have the opportunity to spend time in a foreign country anytime soon, I went on a quest for multi-cultural children’s books for him. I found many, and I trust you know how to find them by googling. Let me just mention one here that tickled my fancy:
by Karen Lynn Williams
This is great story about an African boy who makes his own toys from bits of wire he finds and collects in his village. Just imagine, he doesn’t get his toys in the store! And they don’t need batteries!
The word galimoto refers to toys handmade from scraps of wire, wood, tin cans, etc. by children in various African countries, such as the car on the photo above. Here’s another fun one:
Suggestion: If you have children or grownups in your life who already have everything and you are desperate to find them something to give for birthdays, Hanukkah, Christmas, or other holidays or accasions, why not give them honey bees, or a goat, or chickens . . . donated to a poor family in their name, that is, via Heifer International. Children are often delighted by the idea!
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Do you have any stories about children and their reactions to cultural differences? If you have any titles of multicultural children’s books that you have found interesting and entertaining, please pass them on.