Neema's Reason To Smile

illus. by Mehrdokht Amini. 38p. Lightswitch Learning. Apr. 2018. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781682655849.
PreS-Gr 2—A young girl in Kenya dreams of attending a government school—but the high cost of education materials stymie her. While she and her mother sell fruit, she observes a young girl like herself skipping merrily to school, and follows her into the classroom one day. She meets a sympathetic teacher, who is eager to help her fulfill her ambitions. This is a lovely story about following your heart and working hard to achieve your goals. Neema's journey is a compelling one that should engage even reluctant readers. It serves as an adequate nondidactic entry point for younger readers to understand the challenges that many children face in receiving an education. The collage-style illustrations are a bright and cheerful addition to the text. The author notes that much of the story is based on phone conversations she had with educators from the Jambo Jipya School in Kenya. Librarians will want to offer additional informational texts for readers to provide a fuller picture of the country. Material at the end of the book includes quotes and pictures from Kenyan children, discussion questions, a glossary of new words, and a suggested craft program.
VERDICT A solid addition for elementary school libraries.

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