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Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Good Trade, written by Alma Fullerton and illustrated by Karen Patkau. Pajama Press, 2012. $19.95 ages 5 and up

"Across his sleeping village,
Kato skips,
swinging two empty jerry cans.

Beyond the village gate,
Kato races
through the grass
and down a rut-filled hill."

Having clean water is something that most of us take for granted. We turn on a tap and out it pours for drinking, washing, playing in, even bathing. Alma Fullerton has written an endearing new book about a child in Uganda, who doesn't know what that is like. In fact, every day he spends a part of his time fetching water for his family. He starts early in the morning, and walks barefoot a long distance to fill the two cans that he carries.

It is tiring work. Going to the borehill with empty cans is much easier than the return journey. As he approaches his village, he is quick to notice that an aid worker has come to the village bearing a very special gift for all of the children. Kato's heart is filled with gratitude and great excitement when he sees what is in the truck.

He finishes his other chores quickly, with a mission in mind:
"Rushing through his chores,
Kato runs to the garden
and stops
when he spies
the single white poppy."

The author uses clear prose and descriptive language to make the reader aware of the life that Kato lives. We hear the silence of the early morning, see the soldiers as they stand guard, feel the sloshing of the water on Kato's bare, dusty toes, catch our breath with him as he hauls the water home and must stop to rest, and smile as he and the aid worker make their 'good trade'.

Karen Patkau creates a setting that allows a glimpse at Kato's life and his village, the bright and happy colors that the children wear (including their new shoes) and the muted landscape he travels over daily. Each page captures our attention and begs for discussion. Despite the hardships that are obvious, Kato is a happy boy who values the aid brought to make his life a little better. Lovely!

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