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Maria Salvadore

Reading Rockets' children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.

Listen to the wind! One person can change the world

May 1, 2009

Children often feel powerless. Can reading about one person's dedication to an idea turned into action empower young people?

I think the approach of Listen to the Wind: The Story of Dr. Greg & Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and Susan Roth (who also illustrated the book; published by Dial) does that and more.

It makes the amazing story of Greg Mortenson, adventurer turned humanitarian, come to life for young children through a child-friendly, engaging text and arresting, lush, colorful, and highly textured illustrations. In an artist's note, Roth explains how she came to create the collages used in the book.

The addition of photographs in Roth's note as well as actual photographs of Mortenson and the children of Korphe, the Pakistani village where "Dr. Greg" built the first school, adds powerful insight in an understated way.

Roth also talks about the resourcefulness of the people in Balistan; how materials are reused in unexpected ways. This had an impact on the artist which is reflected in the work. One commanding story begets others it seems.

The book also reminds readers young and old of the power of education; why else would children practice writing with sticks on the ground?

There's power in books — and children. Just listen to the wind.


I love The Librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winter. She also wrote and illustrated Wangari's Trees of Peace.

I like One Hen. Very similar to Beatrice's Goat. Awesome illustrations.

I personally like biographies such as Wilma Unlimited by Kathleen Krull (the story of Wilma Rudolph who succeeded in spite of physical and social obstacles). Have you come across One Hen by Katie Smith Milway? It makes micro-economics -- starting with one (real) boy understandable to younger children but is also sophisticated enough for even middle school. And you may want to take a look at picture books to pull themes of children making a difference on a very small level -- but I think it helps them see themselves in bigger roles. I particularly like What Does Baby Want by Phyllis Root (unfortunately, it's out of print but your local library may have it) in which the brother is the only one who quiets his howling sibling. Any other suggestions are welcomed!

I'm looking for other books along the same lines as Three Cups of Tea - making a difference in the world. I have Beatrice's Goat, and Wangari Plants a Tree (title not quite right on that one). Any other ideas?

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"Fill your house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks." — Dr. Seuss