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I'm a divorced mom of 3 gluten-free daughters, devoted to finding time to read.

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Travel to another country on your couch!

I’ve mentioned before that our library is sponsoring a Community Reads program focusing on books from Haiti, which encouraged us to read books from other countries. The three books I’m discussing in this entry show a piece of life in another country. We currently live in a very homogeneous area, so I think it is especially important to show my kids another way of living. Today we will travel to Haiti twice, and once to Africa.

Painted Dreams, by Karen Lynn Williams shows the beauty of the art in Haiti. In the story, a girl from a poor family in Haiti has a gift for drawing. She can’t spend too much time on her art, as she needs to do chores and help her family. She admires the art of the local Bocor whenever she passes his home, and wishes she could paint with the beautiful colors. One day she finds some almost-empty tubes of paint, and sneaks off to paint the area of the market where her family sells fruit. The pictures in the book by Catherine Stock show the beauty of the art and the scenery in Haiti. The book is very gentle in showing the difficulties faced by a poor family, so children who are being read the book should not become anxious. We all loved seeing the different animals that are part of life in Haiti, but we rarely see here.

Running The Road To ABC, by Denize Lauture, illustrated by Reynold Ruffins is another story that depicts the life of children in Haiti. This book is not an ABC book, as one might think from the title. Rather, this is a book that shows the road the children run each morning to get to their school in order to learn. The book follows four children (2 boys and 2 girls) as they start from home in the pre-dawn hours, then run for miles – they pass people and towns, and they run as the sun begins to shine in the sky. The story has a wonderful rhythm to it, which mimics the rhythm of someone running. The illustrations are vibrant with the beauty of the colors of Haiti. This book also brought up a wonderful discussion in our house about the value of learning, but the book was also enjoyed just for itself.

I Lost My Tooth In Africa is a wonderful story about a family visiting their extended family in Mali, West Africa. It is written by a young woman, Penda Diakite, and illustrated by her father, Baba Wague Diakite. In the story (which is based on the real experience of the author’s younger sister), the little girl loses her tooth on a visit to Mali to spend time with her father’s family. She puts the tooth under a gourd, and the African tooth fairy leaves her a chicken and a rooster. This charming tale has wonderful illustrations which show the homes, day-to-day life, and animals in the family’s compound.

All three stories entertained the three children (3, 6, and 8 ), as well as the adult book reader. All three are highly recommended as books that entertain with some education about different life experiences tossed in as a side benefit. The primary wonder of the three books is the beauty of the illustrations and the fabulous storytelling.

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