Children’s Book Reviews
Children's Book Reviews: Ten Cents a Pound
Publish May 16, 2018
In Ten Cents a Pound, by author, physician and social justice advocate, Nhung N. Tran-Davies, a young girl is conflicted about leaving behind her family to seek an education. Seeing her mother’s “coarsened and scratched” hands and “calloused and blistered” feet, the child empathically vows, “I will stay with you.” In a heartfelt, lyrical exchange that is both immediate and intimate, the mother encourages a life beyond their village. By working in the coffee fields for a wage of ten cents a pound, the mother provides her daughter with gifts beyond material objects: “shoes to carry you far” and books and pencils that will “set you free”.
Josée Bisaillon’s beautiful and arresting mixed-media collage illustrations convey the physical toll hard labour has exacted on the mother’s body, from her bent and stooped spine, to fading vision (hauntingly shown as a gauzy white streak of paint across her eyes). Tender scenes, like when the mother holds her daughter’s smooth, young face in her own rough, strong hands, will leave a lump in readers’ throats. Images of birds and butterflies in flight appear when the child allows herself to dream of what she can achieve. This is an unforgettable, poignant story of unconditional love and hope for the future.
Linda Ludke is a librarian at London Public Library. Her reviews have appeared in Quill and Quire, School Library Journal and CM: Canadian Review of Materials. When she’s not reading and writing she also loves searching for vintage treasures.
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