Pajama Press

Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

A Good Trade is featured on Perfect Picture Book Friday

Posted on September 30th, 2013 by pajamapress

“Patkau’s bright illustrations originally caught my eye. I grabbed this lyrical book to teach my children about a corner of the world they have no other way to experience. Fullerton shows life in this war-torn part of the world in an age-appropriate way.”

– Kristin W. Larson

Click here to discover the recommended activities to teach this book.

Click here to see the full list of Perfect Picture Books.

The International Educator reviews A Good Trade

Posted on May 23rd, 2013 by pajamapress

“Something for the Young’Uns: Books with International Appeal”

“A Good Trade, by Alma Fullerton. This is the story of Kato, a young boy growing up in a Ugandan village. His daily routine includes chores and a long walk at dawn to the water hole.
One day, the routine is disrupted: an aid worker brings a life-changing gift of shoes for all
the village children, and Kato feels compelled to give her something precious is return. A good story to use when discussing life in rural Africa.”

—Margriet Ruurs

For more information about The International Educator, visit the TIE Online website.

Book Trailer for A Good Trade

Posted on March 15th, 2013 by pajamapress

To mark the American publication of A Good Trade by Alma Fullerton and Karen Patkau, Pajama Press is releasing a brand new book trailer. Click on the link below to view the video.

A Good Trade Book Trailer

You can also view the trailer on YouTube.

School Library Journal praises A Good Trade

Posted on February 25th, 2013 by pajamapress

Gr 1-3–Kato, a young Ugandan boy, serves his family by filling jerry cans with a day’s worth of water each morning. His journey to the borehole takes him down hills, past cattle fields, and by soldiers standing guard. On this particular day, he pauses on his way back into town to peek inside an aid worker’s truck and sees that it is filled with shoes. While finishing his chores, he finds a white poppy in the field and picks it for the aid worker who gives the village children new shoes, the “good trade” of the title. The illustrations are bright and geometric, computer-generated but quite textural, appearing almost mixed media. The large images are full of subtle details that show the lifestyle and daily activities common in the small, lush village. The text is spare and poetic and the pictures capture the tone and supply the bulk of the information. Young readers will enjoy this sweet day-in-the-life snapshot.—Jennifer Miskec, Longwood University, Farmville, VA

Resource Links calls A Good Trade “eloquently told, beautifully illustrated, and heartfelt”

Posted on January 12th, 2013 by pajamapress

Rated G: Good, even great at times, generally useful!

“Alma Fullerton, author of the award-winning novel Libertad, has created a simple and poignant story about the power of humanitarianism, gratitude, and simple acts of kindness.

In his poverty-stricken Ugandan village, one of young Kato’s daily jobs is to make the long trek to the village well to fill his two jerry cans with water. On this day, like all others, Kato passes by other groups of barefoot children along his way, as well as soldiers guarding fields of animals. When he arrives back to the village square, he notices an aid worker’s truck, and is overjoyed when he spots what is inside. He rushes to a field he passed earlier to pick the single poppy that grows there. Kato is first in line when the aid worker begins handing out her treasures to all of the village’s children—brand new pairs of shoes— and presents her in turn with all that he has to offer her, a beautiful symbol of peace.

A Good Trade is an eloquently told, beautifully illustrated, and heartfelt story. The children in the book, and Kato in particular, appear to be filled with a deep down happiness and certain light heartedness in spite of their country’s harsh situation. It is quite evident that they do not see their lives as being ones of misfortune, wheras it is simply their reality, and they are at peace with it. As a result, this story could serve as a humble reminder to children to be grateful not only for the material things they have that are normally taken for granted, but for the privilege of living in a country where they do not have to experience this type of day to day existence.

While there have been a few similar offerings in past years, such as Charlotte Blessing’s New Old Shoes, this story—with its simple message told through the eyes of a child who so joyously celebrates the good fortune bestowed upon his village—will have a definite place on library shelves.”

Thematic links: Uganda; War; Poverty; Gratitude.

—Nicole Rowlinson

Interview with Samaritan’s Feet

Posted on January 4th, 2013 by pajamapress

Kato, the main character in Alma Fullerton and Karen Patkau’s new picture book A Good Trade, is overwhelmed with gratitude when he receives a pair of shoes. Did you ever wonder why? What makes a pair of shoes so exciting? To answer that question, we’re interviewing representatives from organizations that have devoted themselves to shoes, kids, and changing lives. Today our featured organization is Samaritan’s Feet and our interviewee is Dr. Emmanuel “Manny” Ohonme, its founder.

What inspired you to start bringing shoes to kids in need?

Well, I’m the product of someone else’s generosity. I grew up in an underprivileged country myself; I grew up in Nigeria where people that lived in my neighborhood were living on less than a dollar a day, and shoes were a luxury.

We’ve also learned that over half the population of the world can’t afford shoes, and our conservative estimate is that over 300 million children across Africa and in different parts of the world wake up each day with no shoes. Further research showed that close to a million people worldwide are affected by sole-transmitted parasites. Many of them lead to different forms of infection. Some of them actually lead to death or amputation of feet.

And on top of that we learned that kids in different parts of the world can’t go to school because they have no shoes, and we felt like that was something that was unacceptable. We felt like that we should be able to solve that problem. So we set out with the really audacious goal to go see if we can at least inspire hope and hearts and reach the first ten million [pairs of shoes], and see where that takes us.

That journey started in 2003 and today we’ve helped over 4 million kids worldwide.

Where do your shoes come from?

Our shoes come from a lot of individuals. We only give children new shoes. 98 % of our shoes are tennis shoes and then the other couple of percent are school shoes that are more sandals or Croc-style EPA foam type of shoes. We get them donated through corporations, so we’ve had partners from Nike through Converse, to Sketchers, to Sears and K-mart and Wal-Mart, and different shoe companies are very generous in helping.

Many corporations sponsor shoe drives for us—either physical shoe drives or virtual shoe drives. Those virtual shoe drives allow us to raise funds so we can also procure shoes. We also manufacture shoes so that we can better forecast our needs in terms of gender or size mixes. That’s really grown quite significantly over the last few years with the economy the way it’s been; we haven’t been able to get as many shoe donations as we used to in years past, so now as part of our self-sustaining strategy, we ask many people to actually do virtual shoe drives for us and then those funds are used to manufacture shoes with our branded logo on them, or to purchase shoes from some of our suppliers.

Where do your shoes go?

Over 40% of our recipients are across North America. People always think that most of our recipients and customers are actually in the developing world, but we’ve found over the last four and a half years there’s been a huge increase in demand in North America. We’ve seen families having to make decisions every day: Do I pay the light bill, or buy groceries, or provide shoes for my kids to go to school? We’ve seen many families lose their jobs, so we started our Back to School national program, which this year helped over 50, 000 children.

We help children in over 86 communities across the US and then in parts all across East, West, South and even Central and Northern Africa, and into Eastern Europe, across the Caribbean, and in the Middle East. We span the globe. We’ve worked in over—I think it was 65 countries as of the last count.

Some people worry that an influx of donated shoes can disrupt local businesses and economies. Do you have any measures in place to protect or encourage sustainable economies in the places you work?

Absolutely. In Brazil, for example, all of our shoes are actually manufactured and produced within Brazil. We want a lot of our international locations to be self-sustaining. We want to make sure that the countries support their own, even if there’s such a dichotomy between the Haves and the Have-Nots. The Haves can help provide support to help meet the need of a lot of underprivileged people. We’ve helped blaze a trail and challenged a lot of the well-to-do people to help support them—because a lot of them just don’t know that there’s a need for shoes until we help open their eyes to the realities of people that are suffering because they don’t have any. And we’ve seen that be very successful.

In other parts of the developing world, places where we serve in remote, underprivileged communities, many of those people don’t even have stores, so there’s not even an option of being able to disrupt an economy that doesn’t exist. The other thing that we’re doing is really trying to create jobs. We’re looking for opportunities to actually start making and procuring shoes where they are in some of those local economies. We’ve been doing that quite a bit.

Do you have a favorite story or experience from you work with Samaritan’s Feet that you would like to share?

There are tons of stories. In the Amazon region of Brazil, where we’ve done work for many, many years, we went to this community on the other side of Igarape Mirim. Beyond that is a town called Boi Jadin—it’s actually a fishing community—where many of the folks still trade and barter. The kids have to have at least the equivalent of flip-flops to wear to school. Shoes are part of their uniform, and one of the families when we got into the town—we found out later on the father was praying that he’d have enough of an opportunity to trade enough so he could have the money to be able to buy flip-flops for his four children to go to school that year.

We walked into town, working through their local education program, and provided all of them brand new tennis shoes. And it was amazing—this father was just crying. They brought him to me and we talked to him, and he said, “You won’t believe this—I was just praying that I would actually have enough resources that I could sell enough fish that I could provide my children with flip-flops. And to be able to see my kids get up from the seats out there”—our volunteers wash their feet and put shoes on them and provide them with new socks and a new backpack—“and to see them wear Nike shoes, it seems like they’re walking out with a car.” He said he was watching a miracle happen in front of him. And to me that day that just struck me. Who would ever think that shoes would ever be compared in the same category as a need similar to a car? But to that fisherman that day it was like we’d given his family a Mercedes Benz. 

And to me it just reminded me why what we do matters. When we see the faces of these children lining up to receive something that they never thought they could have in their lives… We know we’ve given them good shoes, but the shoes serve as a vehicle for works of affirmation. They encourage children to believe in their dreams, and we’ve seen this come to fruition.

What is your organization’s vision for the future?

We are on a mission to help create awareness, because when we started nobody knew that footwear could be a humanitarian response and meet a real physical need. People didn’t know that people in places like Ethiopia and Burkina Faso, Peru, and Colombia, places like Cameroon, Burundi, and Uganda, are suffering from this condition called Podoconiosis. It’s a non-filarial type of elephantiasis. People didn’t know that people were suffering from this kind of condition because they have no shoes. They didn’t know that over a billion people in the world are affected by ringworms and hookworms that come in through their feet. People didn’t know that in northern Nigeria where I’m from, 40% of school-aged kids suffer from schistosomiasis [a disease caused by parasitic worms that can permanently damage internal organs].

I truly believe we’ve helped create awareness to the need for shoes. I know we’re going to reach our goal of ten million and I think after we do, we’re going to continue with one of the things that we already started doing as part of our sister organization we formed a couple of years ago, the Women Ambassador program. Beyond providing the shoes for kids to go to school, we’re actually in the process of building schools.

We built a school in the Amazon region of Brazil a few years back and now we’re trying to build a school in Burundi. We’ve teamed up with the President and the First Lady of that country. Their vision is to provide access to education to a lot of underprivileged children. During the civil war in that country they had over 300, 000 people assassinated in the genocide and over a million people displaced as refugees. Many people have come back now and education is one of the keys they’re using to unify them. The President has built over 2700 schools so we’ve committed to help keep building schools through our Women Ambassador division. We’re looking at building our first one next year and adding other ones to it as we see that grow.

We see ourselves manufacturing shoes in developing countries so we can create job opportunities for a lot of the underserved, underprivileged people, and so we can also show them that they don’t have to be dependent on the shoes coming from China—they have the resources to make their own shoes and meet their own needs locally. And we’ve started some other social enterprises and we see that growing.

At the end of the day, I think we’ve created a movement now. We have other organizations now helping to respond to the need for shoes. I was telling some of my colleagues in the nonprofit industry just a few weeks back when I was speaking at a conference, I think we should set a higher goal. You know, 300 million kids wake up each day with no shoes. I think that needs to be our goal collectively—that we can all come together and eradicate it, because that’s a problem that can be solved. No child should ever have to die because they have no shoes. No child should ever not go to school because they have no shoes. So I’m taking that as a personal challenge.

Dr. Emmanuel “Manny” Ohonme is the president and CEO of Samaritan’s Feet, which he founded in May, 2003. 

This interview has been edited for length.

To learn more about Samaritan’s Feet, visit

Interview with Alma Fullerton

Posted on October 12th, 2012 by pajamapress

A.Fullerton-2014Alma Fullerton is the award-winning author of Burn, Libertad, Walking on Glass, and In the Garage. On October 15, 2012 she will be marking the publication of her first picture book, A Good Trade. Illustrated by Karen Patkau, A Good Trade tells the story of Kato, a young boy growing up in a Ugandan village. His daily routine includes chores and a dawn walk to the borehole for water, but one day the routine is disrupted: an aid worker brings a life-changing gift of shoes for all the village children, and Kato feels compelled to give her something precious is return.

You are known for your free verse novels. Did you always want to write picture books as well, or was A Good Trade a new development for you?

I wrote picture books before novels but it took me a long time to get it right. I’m at awe by some of my friends who do it well—all the time.

How did you find the process of writing a picture book compared to writing a novel? Did anything surprise you?

With novel writing you have to paint a picture with words, but with picture books you have to leave room for the illustrator to do it in pictures. It wasn’t until I got into visual art myself that I was able to ‘see’ where I needed to leave things to the illustrator. What surprised me was the fact that I had more editorial edits on A Good Trade, going through every word, than I did with all my novels. After the process I swore I’d never write another picture book. Of course, that statement didn’t last long.

What inspired you to write Kato’s story?

The inspiration came from a picture of an African child I found on the Internet while looking for art references. So many of my stories come from pictures, or true stories I hear about.

One of the remarkable things about A Good Trade is that, using very few words, it manages to acknowledge the hardships of civil war and poverty in Uganda without lessening the joy and spirit of the story. Did you find this challenging? How did you approach it?

It was challenging and went through a lot of drafts to get it right. The text was always stark, but I have a fantastic critique group and a great editor who would tell me, “This verse doesn’t quite work.”

What was your favourite part of working on this book?

Finishing it? Honestly, I loved seeing Karen Patkau bring Kato to life with her fabulous illustrations. She was able to add the things the text didn’t say perfectly.

For more information about Alma Fullerton, visit her website at 

Interview with Karen Patkau

Posted on October 1st, 2012 by pajamapress

K.PatkauKaren Patkau is an award-winning artist and illustrator of children’s books. Written by Alma Fullerton, A Good Trade is a deceptively simple story about a special day in the life of a little boy growing up in Uganda. Karen joins us today to answer some questions about her work on the book.  

The text of A Good Trade is very brief, even minimalist. Do you find that an advantage as an illustrator, because it gives you a lot of room for interpretation, or is it easier when more of the story is fleshed out in the text?

I loved the brief, but powerful text of A Good Trade. Rather than giving me a lot of room for interpretation, it clearly defined what content had to be included in each illustration to tell the story. I was allowed more freedom when visually embellishing the story.

What was your favourite part about illustrating Kato’s story?

I tried to echo the message of this story with simple and bold illustrations. I developed a digital collage technique for the text that I really like. I used to do traditional collage and still like the strong use of colour, shape, texture, and pattern. Illustrating Kato’s story, in this way, was a very fulfilling experience.

What was your biggest challenge?

My biggest challenge was keeping the children, especially Kato, slightly abstract yet recognizable throughout the illustrations.

A Good Trade is a story of hope and gratitude, but it doesn’t ignore the realities of civil war and hardship in Uganda. How did you approach this balance in your art?

I approached the contrasts in this story in a straightforward way. I needed to show the magnificence of the African landscape, as well as the hardships of poverty and horrible reminders of war. I needed to show the exuberance of the Ugandan children and Kato’s beautiful spirit—his hope, joy, resourcefulness, and gratitude; despite their daily struggles.

Digital art is still a fairly new medium, especially in literary picture books. How do you find people respond to this style of art? Do you think it will one day be as mainstream as, say, watercolour illustrations?

I think the quality of picture book art is determined by the creativity and skill of the illustrator rather than the medium. During picture book presentations that I give, both young and old are very curious about my digital technique and process. Digital imaging is now an established method for anyone studying illustration. So yes, I do think it will become as mainstream as traditional mediums such as watercolour.

You can learn more about Karen at

A Good Trade creators “inspired”–CanLit for LittleCanadians

Posted on August 24th, 2012 by pajamapress

“…Kato’s story could be a sombre one, considering that for his whole life Uganda has been in the midst of a civil war in which children were abducted and terrorized to fight for the rebel forces. But, while not ignoring the presence of armed soldiers, A Good Trade accepts the unrest and horror as only one aspect of Uganda.  There are also the gardens, hills, trails, fields with cattle, and villages with neighbours and children.  And those who offer help.

…I believe that the pairing of Alma Fullerton’s text with Karen Patkau’s art style in A Good Trade is inspired.  It’s almost as if Karen Patkau’s art was destined to evoke the landscape and story of Uganda.  Her sultry skies alone capably recreate the shimmering heat of an African day.

Whatever forces, human or supernatural, that brought together these two artists, one of words and the other of graphics, knew exactly what they were doing.  There’s gratitude all around here: from Kato, from picture book lovers, from compassionate readers.”

Click here to read the full review