Neema’s Reason to Smile

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A heart-warming story about a child’s desire to go to school

 The kids are little older now and the novelty of going to school has wane. I have always shared with my nieces and nephews that they should not take education for granted … that going to school should not be a chore as there are many children in this world who would love the opportunity to learn how to read, write, and fuel their imaginations. However, they are unable to attend school because they cannot afford clothing, supplies, and books.

Neema’s Reason to Smile, written by Patricia Newman, is a vibrant and lyrical tale of a young Kenyan girl, named Neema, who dreams of going to school. We learn about Neema’s young life and how she must work selling fruit instead of receiving an education. She saves her coins in hopes of one day having enough money to pay for school, but it is one step forward two steps back for young Neema. One day Neema spots a little girl heading to school and follows her.  She ends up at a school and witnesses a learning environment she had only dreamed of. School was everything she thought it would, but alas, it was not meant to be for Neema; so she thought. For young readers, I believe this book is about responsibility to family, kindness and reciprocity. Although this story is considered fiction, the story is based on the real-life students at Jambo Jipy School in Kenya.

The book was engaging and illustrations well-done. My niece and nephew were attentive (with an occasional distraction as the family dog passed by). They asked questions about Africa, and found it sad that there are kids too poor to go to school.  My niece and nephew cheered when a teacher invited Neema to attend her class.  So, this little book was a reality check for them.

A couple of drawbacks I noticed included a few too many high-level words and harsh description of the “beggar”.

 

Rating: 4/5 stars

Donna Andrews

Super aunt of a 7-year-old girl and 8-year-old boy

 

 

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