Posted on January 25th, 2013 by pajamapress
“Every morning at dawn, Kato leaves his Ugandan village to begin his challenging barefoot hike to fetch water. Carrying two jerry cans, the boy traverses through grass, down hills, and past cattle in fields guarded by soldiers. When he reaches the village well, he fills the cans with a day’s supply of water. After splashing his weary, dusty feet, Kato begins his long trek home, conveying the heavy containers on his head and in his hand. An aid worker’s truck near the village square catches his attention. The child becomes so excited by what he spots inside the vehicle that he dashes home to look for something special to present to the aid worker in exchange for the life-altering gift… a single white poppy from his garden for brand new shoes!
Alma Fullerton introduces us to the life of a young boy living in a war-torn country. Readers will quickly deduce that Kato’s days are fraught with hardship and danger as well as joy. The text is brief and subtle, yet descriptive enough so that we can feel Kato’s energy as well as his weariness, hear the splash of water and the laughter of the children, and sense the menacing presence of the watchful soldiers. Witness Kato’s elation when he finds the perfect gift to give to the aid worker: “Rushing through his chores, Kato runs to the garden and stops when he spies the single white poppy. Tenderly, he kneels to pick it. Between bouncy children, Kato weaves, cradling the poppy, careful not to crush it.”
Karen Patkau’s evocative digital illustrations provide further illuminating details about Kato’s environment: the Ugandan village where he lives, the territory traversed en route to get water, the changing hues of the sky, the brilliant colours of the children’s clothing, the friend with the artificial leg, the exquisiteness of the white poppy. The artwork is a perfect match for Fullerton’s understated text. Together they provide an enriching insight into one boy’s life in a distant country, and the preciousness of peace and goodwill.”
—Senta Ross is a former elementary teacher and teacher-librarian in Kitchener, Ontario.
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