Thursday, May 8, 2014

Shelf Life [kids]

My Name is Blessing by Eric Walters, 32 pages.
@SPL:  J FIC Walte

Muthini, a young Kenyan boy, knew that his name meant “suffering”. Born with no fingers on his left hand and only two on the other, he would sometimes hear others make cruel comments. But Muthini knew that he was loved and treasured by his grandma and his nine cousins, with whom he lived in a small hut. They had very little money or food, but there was certainly lots of love.

When M’s grandma can no longer provide for all the children as well as meeting his needs, she takes him to a local orphanage where she knows that he will be well looked after.  The first person M meets there is Gabriel, who changes M’s name to “Baraka”, which means “blessing”.  And M is indeed a blessing. – he comes to see beyond his physical disability – he has love and can love others, he can be defined not by that disability, but by his spirit and heart.  becomes part of the loving orphanage home (“…despite our suffering, we are blessed and that no obstacle in insurmountable with unconditional love and support on our side.”
  • This wonderful, sensitive, inspiring and touching tale is based on a real family who the author met in his work with M. and other orphaned children in Kenya.  (See the extensive afterword and photos at the end of the book about Baraka’s world and the orphan crisis in K.)
  • Muthini is good in school, brave, determined and accepting
  • Very “expressive” illustrations (the grandma’s sad and weary face, Muthini’s face as he overhears comments made by others about his hands) reinforce message of acceptance and hope and finding the positive despite poverty and disability
Eric Walters, who has written many books for children and teens, lives in Mississauga and is also the founder of The Creation of Hope, an organization which provides care for orphans in the rural Mbooni area of Kenya. Eugenie Fernandes is a well-known Canadian illustrator of children’s picture books.  

** Recommended for ages 4 to 8 years.
This review appeared in the Stratford Gazette on May 8, 2014. Written by Sally Hengeveld, Librarian.

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