Interviews Index

Here’s an index of my interviews with publishers, editors, authors, illustrators and others in the book world.

Editors & Publishers:

Denise Johnstone-Burt – Walker Books, UK (September 2011)

Kate O’Sullivan – Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, US (September 2011)

Geeta Dharmarajan – Katha Books, India (November 2010)

Manisha Chaudhry – Pratham Books, India (October 2010)

Radhika Menon and Sandhya Rao – Tulika Books, India (October 2010)

Patricia Aldana – Groundwood Books, Canada (April 2010)

Jason Low – Lee & Low Books, US (April 2010)

Tessa Strickland – Barefoot Books, UK (March 2010)

Sheila Barry – Kids Can Press, US (March 2010)

Dana Goldberg – Children’s Book Press, US (February 2010)
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Authors & Illustrators:

Lucia Gonzalez (February 2010)

Lynne Barasch (February 2010)

Grace Lin (February 2010)

Kashmira Sheth (October 2010)

Mitali Perkins (August 2010)

Matt Ottley, Rukhsana Khan, Jennifer Cervantes, Charles R. Smith Jr. and Kashmira Sheth(June 2010)

Carla M. Pacis (October 2009)

Frances and Ginger Park (April 2009)

Katie Smith Milway (February 2009)

Elisa Kleven (February 2009)

Deborah Ellis ,(December 2008)

Susan L. Roth (December 2008)

Pam Munõz Ryan (Sep 2008)

Linda Sue Park (May 2008)

Felicia Hoshino (January 2008)

Ann Martin Bowler (November 2007)

Amada Irma Pérez (September 2007)

Alan Gratz (July 2007)

Rose Kent (May 2007)

Ann Love & Jane Drake (March 2007)

Larry Loyie (January 2007)

Cynthia Chin-Lee (November 2006)

René Colato Laínez (September 2006)

Amelia Lau Carling (September 2006)

Linda Sue Park (June 2006)

Uma Krishnaswami (May 2006)

Pat Mora (April 2006)

Andrea Cheng (February 2006)

Yuyi Morales (October 2005)
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Others in the book world:

Chris Bradshaw – Founder, African Library Project (September 2010)

Maya Ajmera  Founder, The Global Fund for Children (December 2009)

Julie Kline – Chair, Americas Book Award (June 2009)

Susan C. Griffith – Chair, Jane Addams Children’s Book Award (June 2009)

Dora Ho – Chair, Asian Pacific American Literary Award (APALA) (June 2009)

Rose Zertuche-Treviño – Youth Services Librarian, Huston Public Library (September 2008)

Miranda Doyle – Librarian, Martin Luther King, Jr. Academic Middle School (July 2007)

Interview with Maya Ajmera, founder and president of The Global Fund for Children

Maya Ajmera is the founder and president of The Global Fund for Children (GFC), a philanthropic intermediary that makes small grants to innovative, community-based organizations working with some of the world’s most vulnerable children and youth. To date, GFC has awarded 2,606 grants, totaling over $15.3 million, to 376 grassroots organizations in 73 countries. In addition, GFC has a dynamic media program focused on children’s books, films, and documentary photography. She is also the co-author of many Global Fund for Children books, including the award-winning Children from Australia to Zimbabwe and Faith.

Maya is sought out nationally and internationally to address audiences on local and global philanthropy, global children’s rights, early childhood development, and social entrepreneurship. Her work and life story have been profiled by such media outlets as CNN, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Financial Times, NPR, and many others.

Maya serves on the boards of directors of Echoing Green, the Washington Area Women’s Foundation and New Global Citizens, and is a trustee of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. She also serves on the advisory boards of numerous philanthropic entities, including theAmerican India Foundation, the Global Philanthropy Forum, and the Emerging Markets Foundation.
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Can you please tell us a little bit about the effects of growing up spending your summers in India? How did it affect you, and how do you think it helped shape who you are and what you do today?

I was raised in eastern North Carolina in the 1970s as the daughter of Indian immigrants and my summer holidays were spent in India with my extended family. I attempted to navigate between both cultures and saw how children in other parts of the world lived. It really shaped my world view and taught me to become a global citizen from an early age.

When you were little, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?

I was the typical Asian kid who was supposed to become a doctor or an engineer. I thought I was going to become a doctor, and went on to work in laboratories and study neuroscience in college. I didn’t think there was another possibility until I received a Rotary Fellowship that allowed me to travel extensively in South and Southeast Asia.

And here you are now: working, through GFC, to create positive change in the lives of the world’s poorest children. In interviews, you often talk about your “moment of obligation,” when you realized you had to do something to help others. Could you tell our readers what that moment was and when it happened?

After college, I traveled to South and Southeast Asia on a Rotary Scholarship. In India, I spoke with a wise professor who told me, “If you really want to know people and to understand them, visit their homes and villages.” So I traveled with my backpack for a year.

One hot and dusty day in March, I stepped off a train onto a busy platform. There I saw 50 children sitting in a circle learning how to read and write. They had such an extraordinary determination to learn amidst all the chaos. Their teacher was in the middle, teaching them with flashcards, and I was amazed at what she was doing. I approached her after her lesson and we had a conversation in Hindi. She explained that these children worked, played, begged, and slept on the platform.

When I asked her how much it cost to run such a school, I was stunned by her reply. The cost of running a school for 50 children with 2 teachers for a whole year was approximately $400 USD. It was then that I thought to myself, how do you get small amounts of capital to the most worthy grassroots organizations that are social innovators and are really providing change to the poorest children in their communities? And it was then that I saw how a small amount of money can make an enormous difference if put into the right hands. I wanted to turn foreign aid on its head.

Could you please name and briefly describe a few of the groups the organization has been involved with to date, just to give us a taste of its scope and reach?

In Uganda, Nyaka AIDS Orphans School provided free high-quality education and extracurricular activities to children who have been orphaned due to AIDS. It operated free primary education and social services, basic healthcare for students and their foster families, HIV/AIDS community education, and nutrition and community gardens. Combining education and advocacy, its garden provided vegetable seeds to 400 families and its students built a rain-harvesting water tank for access to clean drinking water.

In Cambodia, Community Sanitation and Recycling Organization addresses the needs of Phnom Penh’s waste pickers through community development models and the Mobile Outreach and Education Program. Using “curbside classrooms” at 18 locations to build awareness about the environment and sanitation at the community level and to provide basic education to child waste pickers, its staff offers a curriculum that educates children about dangerous materials; child abuse protection and reporting; and health and hygiene.

These are only two examples, but we work with dozens of organizations that provide similar education opportunities, including some that provide secret schools for girls in Afghanistan, mobile boat schools for children in Bangladesh, night classes for women and girls in the red light districts of India, and schools in Bolivia that apply Montessori methods to engage working children.

I understand you have a hands-on approach to selecting grantees. Please tell us how you go about it. It must be a tough job, with so many needs to fill and so many deserving projects out there…

Grassroots organizations are incredibly undervalued and undercapitalized. For us, it is tough knowing that there are so many honorable organizations out there, but we have a team of dedicated program officers who seek out the most promising community-based groups that are in their earliest stages of development.

Our program officers are each assigned to a region of the world where they scout for new grantee partners with the potential to affect change on a local level. We don’t sit back in our offices getting proposals. We ask the kids on the street, “If you need help, where do you go?” And they’ll show you. We basically ask the customers what the best services in their communities are, and then follow through with due diligence to award them with grants.

We believe that grassroots organizations are in the unique position of serving their communities best because they know what is most needed and what will work locally, and can often accomplish this on grants of just a few thousand dollars per year.

In addition to its grantmaking program, GFC has also developed a strong and well-respected media program.  What do these media ventures encompass exactly, and how do they relate to the organization’s main work?

I wanted to show people in the United States that we live in a true global village. I wanted to show American kids how kids all around the world live. The images I always remember seeing of children around the developing world were of their suffering, but there is more to these children than just suffering. There is beauty, resilience, and culture.

In light of this, we harness the power of children’s books, films, and photography to promote global understanding. Our children’s books are filled with vibrant photographs that help children explore diversity and tolerance. The books depict positive images of children, which encourage children to take an active role in shaping their destiny and to become productive, caring members of a global society.

We also support films that portray the resilience of young people in order to raise awareness of the issues confronting them, and provide a connection to grassroots organizations that directly address the challenges identified in the films. In partnership with the International Center of Photography, we select promising young documentary photographers, who visit our grantee partners and highlight their powerful work.

Can you tell us a little bit more about the publishing arm of GFC and its partnership with other publishers? I understand the organization’s first grant was made using royalties from Children from Australia to Zimbabwe…

After I had my moment of obligation, I went to the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke. It was there that my mentor, Professor Bill Ascher, said, “What do you really want to do with your life? Do you really want to become a doctor?” I replied that I didn’t. What I really wanted to do was start the Global Fund for Children. I would use my graduate school training in foreign aid, the World Bank, and my experience and travels to put small amounts of capital into the most innovative and worthy grassroots organizations around the world.

In conjunction, I also wanted to publish children’s books. Professor Ascher said I needed to raise money, so I went to the Echoing Green Foundation and they invested in my vision of the children’s book publishing venture. My first book was Children from Australia to Zimbabwe, but when I peddled the idea to publishers, no one wanted to take me on because there was no market and I was an untested author. I decided to self-publish, and to accomplish it, I convinced funders to give me $5,000 a piece. In return, I promised to donate 3 copies to every public school in North Carolina.

We did that, and went on to sell through a local distributor in North Carolina. When all the copies sold out, publishers began to call me and tell me they liked the book and wanted to do others with me. I politely rejected their offers because I wanted to create the Global Fund for Children books imprint, and we found a wonderful publisher called Charlesbridge.

Together Charlesbridge and GFC have developed 24 booksto date; and we recently published Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan with Simon & Schuster.

Our first grant, made from the royalties from Children from Australia to Zimbabwe, was awarded to the train platform school in India that initiated my obligation to create GFC.

Faith, the title you co-authored with Cynthia Pon and Magda Nakassis, is a photo-illustrated book that celebrates the diversity of religious expression around the world. What inspired you to focus on this particular topic?

Religion is the topic of the century. Tolerance builds understanding across cultures, so while most multicultural children’s books accentuate differences, I felt we needed a book that celebrated faith by looking at the similarities children of different faiths share.

Do you recall, by any chance, when and how promoting global understanding and respect for diversity became a goal of yours, in relation to GFC’s work?

There weren’t many kids of Indian decent where I lived as a child. I wasn’t Caucasian and I wasn’t African American, so I had to navigate the road between cultures. My parents were always very open and encouraged me to experience attending houses of worship, sharing Shabbat dinner with my neighbor’s family, or going to Catholic mass. Living in that environment fostered my intrigue with people and really gave me a lens for seeing the world as a place or richness: so when I started GFC, I wanted to convey that richness to others and to children in particular.

In your opinion, what are some of the biggest challenges confronting the world’s children today? How does one stay one step ahead in order to be proactive in preventing issues from worsening to the point of affecting entire societies in the future?

HIV/AIDS is certainly an issue with which we contend. We have grantee partners working around HIV/AIDS prevention and education, and working on the ripple effects it creates in society, such as AIDS orphans and malnutrition. While this is a focus of many international development and relief agencies, GFC has a unique perspective on another challenge — the plight of boys globally.

We’re seeing more boys leaving school, living on the streets, and becoming unemployed, which has implications for global security. There also isn’t enough literature for boys out there. We have a children’s book calledExtraordinary Girls, and one of our hopes is to develop a book called Extraordinary Boys. It will help build up boys’ self-esteem and show how they’re talented and interesting, and how they can provide public service in their own right.

We would be interested in learning how GFC, as a grantmaker, approaches the funding of projects that address the education needs of boys and girls in places such as Afghanistan. Has the organization, to date, favored projects that serve one gender over the other? If so, what motivated it to do so?

In the late 1990s, we were one of the first funders of secret schools for girls in Afghanistan under the rule of the Taliban. For security purposes, I would like to allow our partners in Afghanistan to remain anonymous. The day after September 11th, I called the leader of this organization and asked, “What can we do to help you now?” She told me that something must be done for boys being pushed into extreme schools. In response, we started funding schools for boys that taught peace, tolerance, numeracy, and literacy.

As an organization that works on children’s issues, boys and girls are equal to us in the amount of attention they receive. Girls have their own unique issues and needs, as do boys, so it is our responsibility to address both.

What are some of the most challenging and some of the most rewarding aspects of your work?

The most rewarding aspect is realizing that 15 years of work has meant we’ve been able to award nearly $15 million to 362 organizations in 72 countries; that our work has reached more than one million children; and that we have more than 26 children’s books with over 2 million readers globally. We’ve built a lasting institution of change that goes way beyond me.

What is challenging is realizing that there is so much need, and that we need to be able to provide more resources and support to these innovative groups around the world. I would like to give away $10 million per year to 600 NGO’s globally, and I know that there is capital out there for us to be able to do that…

Since the end-of-year celebrations are approaching, do you have any holiday-related memories that relate to the topic of respect for diversity?

Our family followed Jainism, one of the smallest religions in the world. Jainism’s essence is concern for the welfare of every being in the universe, for the health of the universe itself, and for nonviolence. Mahatma Gandhi was among those greatly influenced by the principles of Jainism.

As a child, I was raised to be very open to other people’s holidays and traditions. Even though we weren’t Christian, we had a Christmas tree in our house and Santa paid us a visit. We celebrated the holidays by focusing on family togetherness and counting our blessings.

I believe that keeping an open mind and being exposed to different cultures and traditions is absolutely vital for every child.

Interview with Chris Bradshaw, founder of the African Library Project

Chris Bradshaw founded the African Library Project (ALP) in 2005, with the goal of increasing literacy in Africa. Since then, with the help of literacy activist volunteers and organized book drives, ALP has created over 500 small, free lending libraries in various countries of Africa, such as Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Malawi.

On September 11th, 2010 Harambee!, a special party and fundraising event, will mark the project’s 5th anniversary. Harambee (Swahili for “Let’s pull together to get it done!”) will be both a celebration of the organization’s past success and a fundraiser for establishing and sustaining more libraries in rural Africa and supporting its African partners in their efforts to promote literacy, educate their communities about HIV/AIDS, and change lives book by book. For more details about the event, see the sidebar.

Chris lives in Portola Valley, California.
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What motivated you to start the African Library Project?

I spent my Junior Year Abroad studying in Sierra Leone and traveling throughout western and central Africa.  I was deeply touched by the warmth of people and troubled by the potential lost in just trying to survive given the everyday challenges of extreme poverty.  As a 20 year old, I felt overwhelmed by this and did not know what I could do that would have much of an impact.

Fast-forward 30 years to 2004…on a homeschooling field trip to southern Africa with my husband and two children, ages 9 and 13, while pony trekking in the tiny, remote mountain kingdom of Lesotho, I discovered there was just one library in the entire country.  Noodling along on my horse, I couldn’t stop thinking about the US bookshelves overflowing with once-read books and landfills filling up with what would be a precious resource in Lesotho.

How did the first library come about and what was the process of going from one library to more libraries like?

When I got back to the village, I met with the manager of the lodge that had rented us our horses and asked if they had ever considered having a library.  “We have always wanted a library, but did not know how to get books!”  I offered to provide books if the local leadership would provide space and staffing for the library and commit to running it as a village enterprise.  Two months later, I contacted them and they happily reported that the library building was half done! I was committed.  The village decided to give the task of developing the library to a US Peace Corps Volunteer who was scheduled to arrive soon.  I thought this was a great idea.  If you have never seen a library, how would you know what to do?

A little miracle happened next.  When the Peace Corps Volunteer arrived, she was a retired librarian!  Together, along with many generous American book donors, we developed five small libraries throughout Malealea Valley, the first of now 562 African Library Project libraries.

Eventually, I decided to partner with Peace Corps Lesotho to establish libraries throughout the country.  I found it inspiring to work with the smart, capable and passionate Americans who serve in Peace Corps.  They and their villages were ecstatic to get books and many American schools and groups were eager to make a concrete and personal contribution to Africa.

How do you determine which countries (and which towns and communities) will receive book donations?

We’ve grown a lot since our first libraries.  We will work in any stable English-speaking African country where we can find a suitable partner.  Our partners are large African organizations whose mission is library development or education, usually NGOs or government branches, e.g., the Swaziland National Library Service.  Our African partners vet the local library projects, bring our containers in, distribute the books, train teacher-librarians and track results.  We ship 30-60 libraries each year to our partners, year after year, because it is efficient, economical and allows us to have a major impact by building a library movement within a country. 

What is involved in creating rural libraries?

Most African cultures don’t have communal public institutions, as we know them, with the exception of schools.  About 90% of our libraries are in schools and most of these are open to local villagers for checkout of books.  Sometimes, as many as sixteen villages will use a single African Library Project library, as it is the only source of reading material in the area.

To apply, a village or school must provide the space for the library, furniture, staff and a library committee dedicated to establishing and managing the library.  The African Library Project provides a manual on how to set up and run a simple library, the books, and ensures that the staff receive training and ongoing support.

Once the libraries are established, how sustainable are they?

We’ve learned a lot about sustainability since we started!  On my first trip back to visit the libraries, at one site I found our boxes of books had been sitting for six months untouched.  Since then, we’ve changed our systems to provide ownership by the African community from the very beginning of the project throughout.  Training the librarians is vital and providing a tracking system to measure results is helping our country partners find the libraries that need extra support.

Can you tell us a little bit more about ALP’s all-volunteer network?

I love working with ALP volunteers! Our board and administrative volunteers are a passionate and talented group of African literacy warriors who have a solid background in Africa and library development.  What a pleasure it is to work with them.

We have now had volunteers from 30 states and four countries organize book drives to help start a library in Africa.  These schools, youth groups, companies, individuals and families commit to collecting and sorting 1,000 gently used children’s books, raising the approximately $500 in related shipping costs and putting in the elbow grease to pack and mail them.  Children as young as six years old and adults in their eighties have rallied their local communities to help start a library.  Many of these grassroots volunteers report that their book drive really helped pull their local community together around a cause everyone believed in, bringing diverse groups together to work on it.  I love that!  Kids are often the driving force behind our book drives and they report learning all sorts of new leadership skills while organizing their African library project.

Of course our donors love that we are 100% volunteer and that all the books are donated because they know their contribution completely supports our core needs.

Do the book drives and donations focus on books for a particular age group?

Every book drive is partnered with a specific wannabe library in Africa and the book drive organizer collects the types of books requested by their African match.  We are starting and improving preschool, primary and secondary school and community libraries.

Literacy levels are much lower in Africa for two reasons: English is a second language; and without access to books, it is difficult to get really good at reading.  Even teachers top out at about the equivalent of a U.S.  8th grade reading level.  For these reasons, we send preschool-8th grade level books as these are what are requested by our African partners.

Can you tell us about some of the special projects ALP has undertaken in Africa?

In Botswana, there was a huge need for books in primary schools, so we started the “Botswana 100”, an effort to start 100 primary school libraries with the South District of Education.  We got a little carried away though.  We completed libraries in all of the South District and are now covering our third (of twelve) school districts with 199 libraries and counting.  We aim to blanket Botswana’s primary schools with access to books and completely change their educational and development opportunities.  Some wonderful innovations have come from the “Botswana 100”, including a Culture Corner in every library that serves as a little mini-museum to preserve Botswana culture.  One school added an hour to their school day every morning so that the entire school came in just to read!  The district initiated a pilot project for second and third graders to come in for an extra week of school to participate in a reading camp.

For the past two years, we have organized ALP African Partner Summits in Botswana and Lesotho to bring together our international teams and share best practices.  The best ideas have now spread throughout all of our libraries thanks to these conferences.

In Lesotho, where Peace Corps Lesotho is our main partner, the Ministry of Education is gradually increasing their role in library development.  This year we have a pilot project with the Butha Buthe District of Education for 20 schools to begin libraries, assisted by just three Peace Corps Volunteers acting as consultants instead of the usual one-on-one mentoring relationship.

We are working in the countries most affected by AIDS.  Because our libraries are in a unique position to reach young rural Africans, we work hard to raise additional funds to try to provide each library with a fantastic set of HIV/AIDS children’s readers that are set in southern Africa and written for African reading levels.  

Do you keep in touch with the communities you serve? What would you say are the most pressing issues facing them?

Good communication is one of the biggest challenges we face.  Most of our libraries are in remote areas without electricity, running water and sometimes even roads.  In some places, an ALP team visits these libraries to conduct library workshops.  In others, the teacher-librarians travel to a central location to get their training.  We’ve recently implemented a simple tracking system using SMS texting for the libraries to report monthly statistics.

The challenges facing most Africans are daunting: HIV infection rates of up to 30% of the population;  lack of clean, easily available water; inadequate food;  no healthcare and inadequate educational options and resources.  Solutions to all these problems are available, but basic literacy skills and access to information are fundamental to implementing change on a broad scale.

What have been ALP’s biggest challenges and accomplishments so far?

We’ve discovered that getting the books is the easiest part.  American bookshelves overflow with books no longer being read.  Getting the books to Africa efficiently and economically is another story.  Now, we’re shipping 30-60 libraries at a time in containers to African partners that can support large-scale library development of small libraries.

In Africa, there are many challenges.  Developing a reading culture in a continent with a strong oral tradition takes focused effort by teachers.  Many students with illiterate parents cannot get support in learning to read from home.  We must train teachers in basic library management skills as their exposure to libraries is limited to non-existent.  Teachers are not used to having books available so we need to include training on how to best use books in the classroom.  Administrators consider the books a great treasure and sometimes do not want children to use them in case they might damage or lose them.

As for our accomplishments, we’re very proud of the unique model we’ve created that has allowed over 500 book drive organizers from 30 states and four countries to start libraries in Africa. The roughly 25,000 Americans, especially kids, who have contributed to book drives have developed their global consciousness as they learn more about the African continent. During our first five years, we’ve recycled over 600,000 books to provide half a million Africans with quality, carefully selected reading material.  Working with our African partners, we’ve been able to start or improve 562 small libraries in remote areas of eight African countries.  Our African Partners Summits have spread exciting and valuable ideas in rural library development throughout southern Africa while creating professional connections between countries.

On September 11th ALP will be celebrating its 5th anniversary with a fundraising party to celebrate the spirit of  Harambee (a Swahili word that means “Let’s pull together to get it done!”). Looking back on these past five years, how do you see your journey?

Well, it hasn’t always been easy, but I’ve loved it.  We’ve undergone an organic and strategic process of going from one library to hundreds. We’ve had a huge impact, but there is so much more to be done!  I look forward to engaging more and more Americans and Africans “to pull together” (Harambee!) to change lives through what is essentially a simple redistribution of resources.

You have a won a Jefferson Award for public service. Has this recognition helped raise awareness of ALP’s efforts?

Yes.  Because the Jefferson is competitive, winning it lends credibility to those looking at our work, knowing others have taken a close look and found it deserving.  Anything that gives the African Library Project more exposure (like this interview!) has the potential to attract someone who wants to organize a book drive which will turn into a new library.

On a personal note, I find it a little hard to take in.  I love what I am doing and get massive fulfillment from it.  So many people contribute to our success, it seems crazy just to honor me.

What are your hopes for the future of ALP?

I am a pragmatic person who naturally thinks long term. Eventually, I hope to create an international movement that will cover Africa with libraries so that Africans grow up thinking of themselves as readers,  book buyers, writers, book store owners, publishers and book distributors.  I think this will revolutionize Africa and is a concrete contribution ordinary citizens can make to support development without trying to control it.

Authors at Play: group interview

I asked five authors—Matt Ottley, Rukhsana Khan, Jennifer Cervantes, Charles R. Smith Jr. and Kashmira Sheth— three questions related to childhood play, and their answers were as revealing as they were inspiring. Many years later, they sure haven’t forgotten how to play with the same abandonment as their younger selves! I thank them for inviting me to join their games and adventures! I had loads of fun!

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Do you believe that your experiences of free, unstructured play as a child have influenced your development as a writer? What particular elements of your childhood do you feel you’ve carried over with you into your adult life?

Matt Ottley: I had an unusual childhood in that I was born in the highlands of Papua New Guinea at a time when that part of the country had only recently been discovered by the outside world. One of my parents’ friends had been the first Australian to walk into the Western Highlands of PNG and make first contact with the indigenous people there. When I was a toddler it was not easy for my parents to obtain the kinds of toys that most children from developed countries have access to and so my first toy box was a box of bottle lids and old food containers (cleaned, of course!). My mum reckons this is the reason I have such a vivid imagination.

Rukhsana Khan: Having grown up on little else but unstructured play, I think having that time to amuse myself definitely factored into my development as a writer. As new immigrants my family grew up extremely poor. We didn’t have a lot of money for toys. In fact, we would get a toy once a year on Eid. As a result, we made games out of household things: toilet paper rolls held together (we didn’t have tape!) were binoculars, egg cartons were cash registers, a couple of times we got boxes of chocolates and the crinkly sheet of indented plastic where the chocolates had rested, became a very nice typewriter when I turned them over (the sound when I pressed the shapes sounded very much like the clicking of a typewriter!).

One of my and my siblings’ favorite games was “chair.” I’d be a chair and my sibling would take turns sitting on my lap, pressing buttons on my arms that would do different things, like massage their neck or tickle them. And we also played crab, where one of us would sit with our legs wide apart waiting for someone to step in range so that we could snap our legs together and trap the person.

We lived in a heavily wooded area, and we often went into the ravines to explore and play in the creek. I can still see the dappled sunlight filtered through the canopy of leaves, and smell the earth of the path.

Some of my earliest memories are of telling myself stories when I couldn’t fall back to sleep after waking up from a bad dream (my father was quite intimidating and hated us children coming to disturb him and my mom at night). I always started with Little Red Riding Hood, and then halfway through I’d remember there was a wolf in the story, and get scared again, so I’d have to switch to another story. More often than not I’d end up making up my own stories. I definitely draw on all these and other childhood experiences when I’m writing my books.

Jennifer Cervantes: As a child, I spent a lot of time imagining and creating. I can vividly remember asking “what if?” which led me on so many adventures. Once, I ran away all the way to my front yard. I had my pillowcase filled with my world belongings and I set up camp, including a fire pit without the fire. I skewered eucalyptus leaves with long scraggly branches (pretending the leaves were fish I’d caught) and cooked them over my imaginary fire pit. These kinds of experiences have certainly contributed to the way I can still see the world through that little girl’s eyes: the wonder, adventure, imagination, and magic are all still there and absolutely contribute to my writing.

Charles R. Smith Jr.: Growing up, I didn’t have all the technology that exists today for kids, so my friends and I played lots of sports in the streets and made up our own games at recess. This fostered confidence in my own creativity because, unconsciously, I learned to trust my creative instincts. An element from my childhood that I carry with me today is the sense that I don’t need others in order to be entertained. I learned to enjoy being alone without being lonely, and to use my imagination to entertain myself.

Kashmira Sheth: The time I spent daydreaming and being lazy has definitely played a large role in my development
as a writer. I believe the brain needs to have the luxury to wander in order to focus. When I was young, I used to spend many monsoon afternoons on the ebony swing in my grandparents’ home and make up stories and characters. I didn’t have many toys but was fortunate to have many friends.

My family’s love of sharing stories (oral as well as written) is something I have carried with me into my adult life. I loved being transported into a strange time, place, and predicament, and I still do. My writing allows me to take myself into different situations, and to bring my readers along with me for the ride.

Can you think of a few examples of children’s books where playing figures prominently or is key to the story?

Matt Ottley: One of my favourite books is Sarah Perry’s If, which is all about imagining the world in a completely wonderful and bizarre way. What if mice were hair, or if frogs ate rainbows, for example. The classic example of a picture book that is really about play is, of course, Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. One of my own books,Albert’s Rainy Day, is about the boats and trucks and a space ship that Albert makes out of his bedroom furniture one rainy day.

Rukhsana Khan: It’s funny but I don’t think ‘play’ features all that strongly in most children’s books. Maybe it’s because kids would rather do the playing than read about it? Most stories I remember involved action, doing things. Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia comes to mind as an imaginative, playful story.

Jennifer Cervantes: Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boyby Gary D. Schmidt is filled with the pleasures of play on the beach and  the imagination of a young boy yearning for something more.  Katherine Patterson’s Bridge to Terabithiais a classic book based on the discovery of imagination and where it can take you.

Kashmira Sheth: These titles come to mind right away: Cat in the Hat by Dr. Suess; May I Bring a Friend? by Beatrice de Regniers and Beni Montreso; Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh; Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume;Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary and My Garden by Kevin Henkes. My own picture book, Monsoon Afternoonabout an afternoon of play between a young boy and his grandfather, is also a good example of a book where “play” figures prominently.

Now let’s play pretend… We’re kids, and I’m new to your neighborhood. What game would you invite me to play and where do you imagine our game taking place?

Matt Ottley: Well, I’d suggest that we collect a whole lot of cardboard boxes and join them up to make a submarine, then we’d stock it with food, books, drawing stuff, maybe a potplant and someone’s guinea pig. Then we’d sail off to an amazing deepwater adventure where we’d see a pod of a hundred whales and a gigantic squid. We’d probably have to fight off a sea monster or two and then we’d emerge on an island that has a huge waterfall and a tall mountain in which we’d build our hideout. The island would also have a long flat bit on which we’d build the airstrip and a bit behind the mountain where we’d make the farm. This would all take place in my backyard, but it would really take place in the ocean and on the amazing island!

Rukhsana Khan: Let’s play in the backyard! First, we’ll play Red Rover. We’ll brace ourselves and try not to let Debbie come through our ranks. After that, we’ll play Crack the Whip to see who “flies off” first! Then it’s on to Mother May I? – I get to be mother! The fence is home.

If we had a skipping rope we’d sing and skip to 300! Then we’d play soccer, baseball, frozen tag… and when we got tired we’d play Red Light, Green Light. And Snail – although I might have to explain the rules of this one to you: we form a long chain with our friends and I lead everyone into an inner spiral (if you could see from a bird’s eye view you’d see we’re forming the shape of a snail) and then, when I and the second person in line get into the very middle, we hold hands and put up our arms to form a bridge. The third person in line goes under it and becomes the one to lead us out, spiraling in the opposite direction. It’s a LOT of fun!

Jennifer Cervantes: First, we’d build a fort out of old tarp and tree branches between the mesquite in the desert; this would be our invisible home base where only we had the magic to see it. Then we’d identify our special powers and code names before settling on our mission.

Charles R. Smith Jr.: I love sports, so I would invite you to play baseball, basketball or kickball since lots of other kids would be involved. Even if you “don’t play sports”, when you’re with a group of kids that do, it becomes a great way to make new friends.

Kashmira Sheth: I’d invite you to play Pirate Chase on the swing set in my backyard. Our game takes place in the ocean (playground mulch) and the swing set is our ship. We’re the good guys chasing pirates, or maybe we turn into pirates and are chasing a ship with rich cargo. Come on, let’s just try it. It’ll be fun!

Q&A with Patsy Aldana, founder and publisher of Groundwood Books

Groundwood

Established in 1978, Groundwood Books is a small children’s book publisher, associated with House of Anansi Press, that specializes in Canadian authored books (with a special interest in books by First Nations authors), bilingual books in English and Spanish, translations from around the world, and a non-fiction line aimed at young adults. Their catalog features a long list of award-winning titles that reflect individual experiences and are of universal interest.

Patricia (Patsy) Aldana, founder and publisher of Groundwood Books (and president of IBBY, the International Board on Book for Young Readers, since 1997), answered our questions about My Little Round Rouse, one of the seven titles selected for inclusion in our Spirit of PaperTigers Book Set Donation Project; her commitment to publishing books by First Nations authors; the multicultural titles on their Fall list, and more.

In our series of interviews with the publishers of the books selected for our Spirit of PaperTigers project, I normally start by asking how the book in question came about as a project for the publisher. Since we already know the answer to this question in relation to My Little Round House, both from our interview with author Bolormaa Baasansuren and from translator Helen Mixter’s article, My Little Round House: The Journey of a Picture Book from Mongolia to Canada, we’ll start by asking…

PT: What in particular attracted you to My Little Round House?

PA: I thought it was a really special book about people whose lives are very different from ours. I also thought it was a very unique look at a baby’s life, a life that despite being nomadic seemed wonderfully cosy and safe.

PT: The books you publish often tell the stories of people whose voices are underrepresented. What first motivated you to start on this path and how do you manage to stay true to your mission?

PA: Being a Guatemalan, I guess that seeing the world through the eyes of the marginal has always come naturally to me. There are so many books published from and for the mainstream that, for me, focusing on underrepresented authors and illustrators was one way to justify being a publisher. As a small Canadian house, this focus has also been a way for us to distinguish ourselves from the huge multi-nationals with whom we have to compete.

PT: How did the decision to stop selling rights to the American market and to start publishing your books in the US come about?

PA: As US publishing changed from the editor-driven houses that I first came to know (Margaret K McElderry, Dorothy Briley, Susan Hirschman, Phyllis Fogelman, etc.), it became harder and harder to sell rights to our books in the US. At the same time Canada began to cut funding to school libraries and as a result our domestic market really shrank. We had to publish ourselves in the US or die. And that meant we had to bring our best books to the US in order to establish our list. We had very little money, but we had the quality of our books and needed to show our whole list in order to make our way.

PT: Since 1998 Groundwood Books has been publishing stories in English and Spanish by people of Latino origin under its Libros Tigrillo imprint. What motivated the creation of this imprint, and how has this part of the business grown since then?

PA: Libros Tigrillo was made possible by our move into the US market. While there are excellent books for children published in Spanish, I felt there was room for a list that was oriented toward North American Latinos. What has been a crushing disappointment, however, is the virtual disappearance of the Spanish-language market in the US. We have had to abandon Spanish-only books and start publishing bilingual books.

I have always been opposed to the use of bilingual books, however given that Spanish-only books hardly sell at all, I have had to accept that books in Spanish can only reach Latinos if they are bilingual. This goes against everything I believe and know to be true about language instruction, the joy of reading in your mother tongue, and what I believe to be the wishes of the Spanish-speaking population. I find it shocking that such a large population of Spanish speakers are not served properly by bookstores, teachers and even (although this is less the case) by librarians.

PT: A 2005 Publishers Weekly article quotes you as saying: “Given that people are so interested in visual media, like graphic novels, I keep wanting to put illustrations into books for older children and older adolescents.” Have you been able to act on your desire to add illustrations to middle reader and young adult books?

PA: I have been able to, sometimes successfully, as in the case of Skim, and sometimes less successfully. But I will keep trying. We have a thrilling new graphic novel coming out in the Fall, Harvey by Herve Bouchard and Janice Nadeau, a very unconventional book that can be read by middle readers and yet has enormous adult appeal. I have high hopes for it. I have also just published a beautiful 96-page illustrated version of the Ring Cycle by Jorge Luján, called Brunhilda and the Ring, that adults have been enjoying, but that hasn’t been favorably reviewed by children’s book reviewers. They don’t seem to realize that it’s not aimed at children, that just because it has pictures it’s not necessarily for children.

PT: PaperTigers is currently focusing on the theme of Canadian Aboriginal Children’s Literature. Can you tell us something about the books by aboriginal authors and/or illustrators on Grounwood’s list?

PA: Everywhere in the world First Nations people suffer terrible discrimination, poverty and exclusion. I am especially interested in making sure that these people have a voice, and so Groundwood has always published as many aboriginal people as we can.

In Canada, not only did First Nations people lose their land and in many cases have had to make do with terrible, isolating living conditions on reserves, there was the systematic destruction of these peoples’ way of life through the system of enforced residential schools. These schools not only abused the children within them, they broke people’s contact with their elders and with the land, further rendering a traditional way of life almost impossible. The residential-school process strikes me as a kind of crime against humanity, and Canada is still a very long way from coming to grips with it and the consequences of it, much less in making adequate reparation for it.

Most manuscripts we receive from Canadian First Nations people are about the schools or, perhaps even more important, about what was lost—the kind of glorious natural world from which the schools terminally separated them.

Leo Yerxa, Larry Loyie, Shirley Sterling, Ninegeokuluk Teevee and now Nicola I. Campbell, who is the child and grandchild of school survivors, all deal with these themes. There is also Tom King, a great satirist and
humorist who is an important author of ours.

PT: You have recently announced the release of Teacher’s Guides for your bestselling Groundwork Guides series. Are there any plans to develop teacher’s guides for other books as well?

PA: Yes, if teachers find them useful.

PT: How, if at all, do you think the public’s attitude toward multicultural books for children has changed since Groundwood was established, in 1978?

PA: I think the biggest difference is that it is now widely accepted in North America that these books are a part of our national literatures. While there are many, many things in North America that one can decry, we have grown more accepting of a multi-cultural world in which we have got to live together, tolerate each other and like each other. Our European and Asian friends are far behind us in this. I also think we are much more critical about books and expect excellence no matter who they are written or illustrated by, though now that quality has to include authenticity. Tokenism no longer works.

PT: What would you say are the biggest challenges you face as a publisher of children’s books, and in particular of multicultural books? What are your hopes for the future?

PA: I don’t see challenges, but opportunities. As for my hopes for the future, they are:

-That public institutions continue to be adequately funded, because we live and die by libraries and school libraries and the librarians who are such passionate advocates of our type of publishing.

-That we continue to instill in children a love of reading by giving them great books that speak to their own lives and give them knowledge about other worlds.

PT: Could you please give us a taste of your Fall catalog?

PA: These are the “multi-cultural” books on the Fall list:

No by Claudia Rueda, a Columbian author-illustrator, is a classic picture book about a little bear who doesn’t want to go to sleep.

Hello Baby Board Books by Jorge Uzon show the major stages in his baby’s first year. Jorge is an internationally recognised Chilean photojournalist.

Doggy Slippers is a wonderful book of first poems about pets by Jorge Luján and Isol, an award-winning team.

Arroz Con Leche / Rice Pudding, the second book in our bilingual cooking poem series, features a poetic text by Jorge Argueta and wonderful illustrations by renowned Brazilian artist Fernando Vilela.

Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged by Jody Nyasha Warner, and illustrated by Richard Rudnicki, is a remarkable true story about a Canadian black woman who in 1946, almost a decade before Rosa Parks, refused to give up her seat in a whites-only section of a theater. The Nova Scotia government has just apologised for her arrest.

On the fiction front, we have…

No Safe Place, a gripping new YA novel by Deborah Ellis about teenage refugees in Europe.

Harvey, the graphic novel I mentioned earlier, by Hervé Bouchard, illustrated by Janice Nadeau.

Between Sisters, a wonderful novel about a fifteen-year-old girl in Ghana, by Ghanaian Canadian authorAdwoa Badoe.

PT: Wow. It sounds like we have lots of gems to look forward to! Thank you, Patsy, for taking the time to answer our questions. We are very grateful to Groundwood Books for donating copies of My Little Round House in support of our Spirit of PaperTigers project, and we wish you continued success!

To find out more about Groundwood Books, visit their websitefacebook and twitter pages.

Interview with Katie Smith Milway, author of One Hen

Katie Smith Milway is a partner at the Bridgespan Group, an advisory to nonprofits and philanthropy. She has written many books and articles on sustainable development and has coordinated community development programs in Africa and Latin America for Food for the Hungry International. She co-authored Cappuccina Goes to Town with her mother, Mary Ann Smith.  One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference is her first solo children’s book. Katie lives in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
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One Hen: How One Loan Made a Big Difference is the tale of Kojo, a young boy from Ghana who grows up to be the biggest chicken farmer in his country, thanks in part to a very small loan he used to buy a hen. The book is inspired by the real-life story of Kwabena Darko, founder of Sinapi Aba, a microfinancing organization that has helped thousands of Ghanaians to improve their lives through microcredit. When and why did you decide to re-craft Darko’s story as a book for children?

In 2004, two years after my first book, Cappuccina Goes to Town, came out (a whimsical story about a quirky cow who loves the color “Blooooooo” ), my publisher, Kids Can Press, asked me if I could draw on my international development experience and write a story that introduced kids to poverty alleviation for a new series of books for “a world that works,” called ” Kids Can Make A Difference.” As I pondered the right angle, it struck me that microfinance was one of the best windows into that world for kids, because it addresses poverty in increments of entrepreneurship that any child who has run a lemonade stand can understand.   But I also needed the right example.  A month or so later, I heard Darko speak at a microfinance conference hosted by Opportunity International, and decided he was it. He had actually made the leap from micro-entrepreneurship to major industry and really could take kids from the impact of a backyard business to the impact of a major business on a nation’s economy.  That said, microfinance is largely a women’s movement, so it was important in One Hen that Kojo’s mother received the initial loan, giving Kojo a few coins from it.

You have said in an interview that “Part of the fun of writing One Hen was ‘hearing the voices’ of West African children I had met.” Would you tell us a little bit about your experience of living and working in Africa and about the children you met there? 

I lived and worked in a dozen countries of Sub-Saharan Africa on and off for a decade (from 1984 – 1993), doing graduate school research, consulting on community development projects and on the management team of NGO Food for the Hungry.  And I truly fell in love with the sounds, smells, peoples and lands.  Each country and people group is different, of course, but throughout I consistently encountered strong, rural traditions around meeting, greeting, hospitality and storytelling. Memories of nights under the stars, kibitzing and playing music with Tuareg herders and their children; or of an afternoon break with village women and girls, laughing and munching on roasted crickets, flooded back to me as I wrote One Hen.  At the same time, traditional languages, like Bambara or Swahili, tend to be cadence rich, but have very simple grammar. Simple word choice and constructs carry over into conversations in English and French, too. It was this spare but complete style and the rich cadences that ran through my head, and that I attempted to capture, as I wrote the book.

Through Kojo’s inspiring story you introduce children to very important and timely ideas and values – from the basics of microfinancing and sustainable economies to the importance of family, community, education and hard work. One Hen makes for a kind of literacy interaction that provides rich learning opportunities. What feedback have you received so far from teachers and students? Have you heard of any One Hen-inspired classroom projects? 

It’s been very exciting to see and hear how teachers are using One Hen and the classroom resources on onehen.org to teach not only the 3Rs, but also financial literacy, entrepreneurship, youth philanthropy and global citizenship.

A few examples: JFK School in Canton, MA has created an entire 4th Grade curriculum around One Hen concepts.  The teachers use the story and online activities, video and photo library and lesson plans to teach reading, math, social studies, geography and public service.  In addition, JFK’s principal established a fund to provide loans to kids to start small businesses around baking, raking, etc. The kids must pay back their loans before school’s out this summer, and they plan to vote on where to donate the proceeds. In NYC, City Year teachers have introduced One Hen into after school programs in Harlem, Brooklyn and the Bronx to give kids who combat poverty every day a vision of entrepreneurship.  And at Heritage School, just outside Dallas, I did a full day of One Hen readings and activities for all 780 students, K-5, concluding with a village “trust group” role play, led by onehen.org microfinance partner Opportunity International, where kids had to confront both business choices and hardships of the working poor.

We now have a volunteer onehen.org program team that works to support classroom efforts, visit schools and host teacher focus groups to build out onehen.org  in ways that are truly relevant to the classroom. And teachers using One Hen are sending us lesson plans which we aggregate on our onehen.org Teacher and Librarian tab.  Teachers who are looking for support or to share their lesson plans can write to us…

Kojo’s story is a testament to the power of microloans and microbusinesses to break the cycle of poverty known to so many around the world. Kojo (Darko) grows up to be a successful chicken farmer who is able to give back to his community and help others as he was helped. What core message did you hope to get across to young readers? 

At the broadest level, I hoped to inspire kids to can-do and compassion; to expand their world view about the role they could play in helping themselves and others.  At a micro level, I delight in teaching kids about the country of Ghana and ways of West Africa;  how kids from different cultures and circumstances can share the same dreams and paths to achievement.

Mitali Perkins’s Rickshaw Girl is the only other children’s book I’m aware of that introduces the idea of microfinancing and its potential to change lives and communities. In your opinion, how important is financial literacy in today’s literacy equation?  

Yes, Mitali also lives in the Boston area and reached out to me when One Hen first came out.

I think the current meltdown of financial markets, spiraling out of lots of adults taking on mortgage and other loans they couldn’t pay back – with banks complicit in the equation – underscores the need to ensure the next generation is financially literate.  Microfinance is a great vehicle.  For one thing, it’s one of the few financial sectors that has been consistently profitable and growing, largely because micro-entrepreneurs create products with real value – transportation, garments, food products – and more than 90% of them pay back their loans.

I understand you read your book to investment bankers at a microfinance forum. What was that experience like, and how did they react to the story?

I was invited to present One Hen at Morgan Stanley last year: they had a special forum on microfinance, a market they were developing at the time – and it was a very positive experience.  I was invited back to speak to more bankers and their kids at “Bring Your Child to Work” day.

Microfinance as a sector dates from the early 70s and has been largely led by non-governmental organizations. Today, NGOs are building bridges beyond microfinance to create true banks.  Meanwhile, huge financial players like Morgan Stanley or Barclay’s are building bridges from commercial finance toward grassroots markets, so the options for people like Kojo to make the leap from micro-credit to commercial credit appear to be growing.

Have you ever met microfinance pioneer and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Muhammad Yunus? Has he read your book? Is his story similar to Darko’s in any way?  

I met Dr. Yunus briefly at the San Jose Museum Tech Awards, this past November.  He had read my book and sent an email via an aide mentioning how much Kojo’s travails in obtaining a bank loan reminded him of his own experience.  It was a thrill for me to shake hand with him.

How do you juggle your work with your personal writing? How much time can you spare for readings and school visits?

I made a decision, a year ago, to move back into the nonprofit sector and left a 14-year career at the global management consultancy Bain & Company to join The Bridgespan Group, a North American advisory to nonprofits and philanthropy that Bain incubated, back in 2000. The move took me back to my roots and has given me a much better work-life balance – in part because now I work in 3 time zones instead of 24!  Always a night owl, I used to be on the phone with China or India after our kids went to bed.  Now I spend a couple of evenings a week working on onehen.org content, teacher support, and chipping away at my next book.

As for school visits, we now have One Hen volunteer corps across the country, both through Opportunity International’s Women’s Opportunity Network and through a community of folks involved with the website, so we can usually find a “One Henner” in any state who can visit a school and lead kids in a discussion of the book and microfinance (anyone who’s interested, please contact us!).  I try to squeeze in local, Boston-area school visits and have taken time off for readings and discussions at all-school events in other states, and to train networks of teachers, like City Year’s after school corp.  In fact, when we have a major network of teachers who want to roll out the One Hen curriculum, we have even been able to get Kojo himself to help lead the training.

You have talked about One Hen’s accompanying website, OneHen.org in the U.S. and there’s also www.OneHen.org.uk in the UK: these are designed to provide additional resources for teachers and parents and to educate children on the benefits of microfinance. Through the website, children can answer quizzes and earn virtual beads that the website translates into actual loans for small-business ventures in the developing world. What was your involvement in conceiving and developing the website?

The website has been a veritable barn-raising!  I’ve led a team of 10-30 volunteers (at any given time) since October 2007, who have developed and aggregated content, tested games and features with focus groups, developed site partners and built community via our “Share Your One Hen Experience” section of the sites, where kids write in.  But we would not have a site at all were it not for the talent and generosity of online marketing firm, Sapient Interactive, which has supplied creative vision and all technical support, pro bono, to build and maintain both onehen.org  and its mirror European site, onehen.org.uk.  Meanwhile, the site wouldn’t have a home or grip kids’ imaginations, were it not for Opportunity International, which hosts it for free, and maintains a fund, donated by The Jenzabar Foundation and a number of individuals, that releases money to microentrepreneurs in Africa every time kids “donate” the beads they earn playing games.

I hear that you are planning a children’s book that introduces kids to another timely topic: organic and sustainable agriculture. Can you tell us a little more about this idea/project?

It’s still in development, but the goal is to drive home the message that if we nurture the soil, the soil nurtures us.  In an era of food crisis, any child can play their part in their home or school garden, or in supporting poor farmers through acts of giving.

Could you recommend some additional books that might further inform children interested in our world community and help them discover their own power? 

Sure. Beatrice’s Goat, which tells the story of the Heifer Project, is a great one to inspire kids to make a difference with their chore money, and David Smith’s If the World Were a Village is one of my favorites regarding teaching kids about the world’s resources – and each nation’s stake in them – in a simple, memorable way.  Another good one is Ryan and Jimmy – And the Well in Africa That Brought Them Together, which tells the story of a North American boy who began saving money to build a well in Africa, and drew supporters to the cause. His efforts eventually transformed the life of a Ugandan community, including a boy about his age, Akana Jimmy, who came across the Atlantic to thank him.

Finally, Kevin Salwen, former Wall Street Journal writer, and his daughter are at work on a book we’ll all want to read when it comes out later this year, entitled The Power of Half.  It’s about their family’s experience in selling their large, historic home and giving half the money to The Hunger Project to build a school, health center and more to help a village in Ghana move from poverty to self-reliance. Their story encourages others to find the ‘half’ they can contribute from facets of their life (e.g. money spent on consumption, time spent on TV/computers) and use it to do a little bit of good in the world.  “The big win, of course, is the impact it has on your family,”  says Kevin. “The collective activity makes it a family strengthener.  The outward activity helps the world.”

If you could choose a place anywhere in the world to send One Hen, where would it be and why?

If I could send One Hen anywhere in the world right now, it would be to Haiti, in Creole, to inspire children there to play an entrepreneurial role in rebuilding their nation. Happily, a Haitian Creole edition of the book is due out in 2010 through publisher EducaVision.