March became an “Observer” month for me on the Social Justice Challenge and I’m only now posting about the April topic – Hunger. At the beginning of the month we were asked to post a picture depicting hunger. For contemporary heart-rending photographs, read the post links here.
The picture I’ve chosen is an old one – an illustration by George Cruikshank from Oliver Twist, which we haven’t quite finished yet.
Cruikshank’s cartoon, where Oliver, having drawn the short straw, dares to ask for more gruel, is as much an exchange between the hungry Oliver and the pompous Mr Bumble, as it is a metaphor of the stand-off between the haves and have nots – or, today, poor countries in thrall to wealthy countries, in terms of debt. Hunger and poverty go hand in hand – but you often don’t have to look too far away from the have nots to find the haves.
Another book we read in April (and I’ve talked about both of them in my recent update of the PaperTigers Reading the World Challenge) is John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. The theme of hunger runs through the book. The contrast between the situation of the two boys, Bruno and Shmuel, is often thrown into sickening relief by Bruno’s unquestioning observation of his friend, who is fading away before his eyes. As he leaves the house to go and see Shmuel, Bruno often grabs a snack to take to his friend – but more often than not he ends up carelessly eating it himself because he happens to feel a bit peckish. It makes you want to weep. There is also an excruciating scene in the kitchen of Bruno’s house.
Both these books have historical settings, but we have related them to today’s world. We turned to that superb resource for both young and old, If the World Were a Village by David J. Smith (Kids Can Press, 2002, updated 2007). The section on Food, which I have mentioned before, says:
There is no shortage of food in the global village. If all the food were divided equally, everyone would have enough to eat. But the food isn’t divided equally. So although there is enough to feed the villagers, not everyone will be fed:
50 people do not have a reliable source of food and are hungry some or all of the time.
20 other people are severly undernourised.
Only 30 people always have enough to eat.
There are natural reasons for hunger – crops failing, drought, natural disaster – but human action and inaction, whether through conflict, economic policy etc. are as far-reaching and probably more insidious.
Have a read of this article, 12 Myths About Hunger - it dates back to 2008 but it is still thought-provoking and relevant. And one of the things I’m resolved to keep up for the rest of the Social Justice Ch
Last Friday, my daughter Emma, our neighbours Thea and Will, and I headed off to North Vancouver to attend the Fall Book Harvest Festival. What a fabulous afternoon we had!
For me, the biggest thrill was finally meeting author Margriet Ruurs in person. Here she is reading her newest book My School in the Rain Forest to the kids. They loved the photos in this book and it was a real eye-opener for them to see some of the schools that kids attend. Thea was most interested in the Egypt page (”Wow - they can see the pyramids from their school!”) and Emma wished she could move to Scotland so she could attend school in a castle! Besides showing readers how schools differ throughout the world, Margriet has another goal for this book: to generate student interest in service learning and to encourage students to adopt a library or school in need of books or teaching resources. Click here to read Margriet’s ideas on this.
The photo to the right shows a book that is truly hot off the press! Author Rebecca Kool had only received this copy of Fly Catcher Boy from the printer a few hours earlier and the kids were quite impressed when she showed them that this was copy #1.
Written in English and using Japanese words and expressions throughout the text, Fly Catcher Boy tells the story of Kenji, who is alone during a thunderstorm one night when he is startled by a noise outside and finds a wet and miserable cat on his doorstep. He brings the cat inside and after introductions to his grandmother the next morning, Kenji and his new friend set off on adventures in their small Japanese town. The book also contains a glossary for phonetic pronunciation and the kanji letter for each Japanese word.
Here’s David J. Smith with his book If the World Were a Village. This book is a classic in our house so Emma and I were especially pleased to get a chance to talk to David and to see his newest book, If America Were a Village. This book uses the same concept as If the World Were a Village and shrinks America down to a village of 100 people, thereby helping children to reach a clearer understanding of the ethnic origins, religions, family profiles, occupations, wealth, belongings and more that make up the Unites States. David also shared with us that next year he will be releasing a book based on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
At the start of the festival, every child was given a bag to collect book marks, stickers, autographs, pencils etc. from the authors and illustrators. By the time we were ready to leave, the bags were overflowing with treasures! We stopped for a piece of cake and then we visited the Kidsbook sales booth where Emma, Thea and Will each chose a book to purchase. Emma’s first choice was My School in the Rain Forest but I already had a copy on order: so she and Thea each went with Fred and Pete at the Beach by Cynthia Nugent, while Will chose Alfalfabet A to Z - The Wonderful Words from Agriculture written by Carol Watterson and illustrated by Michela Sorrentino.
Our congratulations go out to the Children’s Writers and Illustrators of British Columbia (CWILL BC) and to the North Vancouver City Library for putting on such a great event. To all the writers and illustrators who spent time talking with us, sharing their books, signing autographs and giving the kids special treasures, we say THANK YOU.
To see more photos from the event check out CWILL BC’s blog.