Ten Cents a Pound by Nhung N. Tran-Davies

In this book a little girl worries about her mother’s hands - scratched and course from picking coffee beans. Her mother replies that she does this work so that the little girl’s hands can hold books instead. The little girl worries about her mother’s sore back, calloused feet, and failing eye sight. In alternating replies the mother dreams about a back pack of school supplies, shoes to walk to a school beyond their village, reading and writing about places far beyond that. All that accomplished pound by pound, ten cents at a time. Eventually the little girl relents that she will leave her mother, but someday she’ll return. With a page count of only 22, and text on alternating pages, every word is precise, each image well crafted. The little girl and her mother speak in first person, which engages the reader very effectively. The earthy browns and greens of their village contrast with colourful and sometimes metamorphic images that burst from the little girl’s books and imagined scenes from her future - butterflies, birds, flowers, a big, white school, etc. The author came to Canada as a refugee, and this book has obvious uses around diversity, helping refugees see themselves in books and helping other Canadian children to understand refugees and migrants. In that context it’s nice that the mother’s love and overcoming illiteracy and poverty, is the catalyst for change, not horrors like war, famine, racial intolerance or catastrophic natural disasters, as is so often sadly the case with refugees and migrants today. Also, Canadian children living in poverty may see themselves in this book, and their mothers’ sacrifices. More widely, the mother’s love and sacrifices make this a fantastic choice for Mother’s Day collections, displays or programming. I just reread this picture book for the fourth or fifth time and it made me cry… again. I don’t mean it brought a tear to my eye. I mean it made me sob, so that I had to blow my nose and wipe my eyes, and recover. This beautiful, moving book will win much acclaim for its poignant message, and gorgeous presentation. I recommend it to your library. Once you read it, perhaps you’ll want a personal copy to give on Mother’s Day. As always, Bravo, Second Story Press!


Hardcover LBN pr1300365

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