by Ami Polonsky, published 2016
“The sounds of the sewing machines that masked the constant grumbling of my belly would surely mask the sound of ripping paper. The guard now had his head tilted back, his eyes shut…”
This recently-published children’s book takes on child labor directly and dramatically. It is inconceivable that it may be true, and yet, do we really know what goes on inside some factories? As part of being socially aware, this is an important children’s book for older children to read. It is deftly created, as it also addresses the issue of how one can actually make a difference. Perhaps even very small acts are all that are needed to change the course of a life.
There are a lot of thought-provoking ideas raised in the book, as we follow the adventure of a well-meaning young girl trying to ‘rescue’ someone who is trapped in child labor. Her efforts let us imagine what we would do in the same situation. At the same time, the young girl has her own healing to do, grieving from the death of a beloved sister.
This children’s book is set in China. I do not want to offend any of our Chinese friends and readers to suggest that this is the norm, or that it even goes on. But again, I raise the question: How do we know? An interesting article from a non-profit website explains that most but not all child labor has been eliminated from China. I think the point of reading a book like this is not to condemn a country, but to provide young readers with a topic to consider, and investigate for themselves.
The book is well-written, and outside the issue of child labor, it depicts the life of street children, which I know does still exist, and lets us vividly see the contrast between our comfortable lives and the lives of others. I recommend this children’s book for classroom, homeschool, or parent conversation. While Amazon ranks this as ages 8 to 12, I think it is better read by older children, at least 11 and up.