“Kids of the World”. A house made of poop and a wonderful lesson on diversity.

Review of the book by Martyna Wojciechowska.

„ Zuzu, a 6 year old shepherd from Himba tribe lives in a house that’s made of clay and….cow poop”.

Andrés and Michał laughed so much that I couldn’t read on. It was the moment they fell in love that story; toilet humour never fails with preschoolers.

– Can you guess what’s Zuzu’s greatest treasure?

– A tablet! – shouted Andrés, who loved to play games on my tablet; he couldn’t imagine a major treasure for a little boy.

No, it wasn’t a tablet. Nor a computer. Nor a huge track for trains or cars. Nor a remote control car.

Zuzu’s greatest treasure was ….a wooden statue of goat made by his dad.

That got another laugh from my boys.

I continued to read about children from the little village who have to carry water from faraway  wells, who have no toys and play just with things they find on the ground: rocks, wooden sticks, pieces of string….but in spite of that are happy and, as Zuzu says, “you’ll never see a sad kid in the village, everyone’s smiling”.

For Andrés and Michał, who threw tanthrums whenever somebody touched one of their toys and who wanted to possess every single toy they saw in a tv ad, that was incredible.  How can children be happy if they don’t have any toys or computer games?

Though, a few things from Zuzu’s life appealed to my boys; he’s never been to school and he’s never taken a bath in his whole life.

Zuzu is one of characters of Martyna Wojciechowska’s book „Kids of the world” (“Dzieciaki świata”; link in Polish; the book has its own website with great interactive games for kids).  Wojciechowska, a well-known Polish traveller, TV presenter and editor of Polish edition of „National Geographic” writes about children she met on her trips to Africa and Asia.  The book was reviewed and illustrated by the author’s little daughter Marysia, what I find cool! All the stories are written from a child’s perspective, which make them more clear and appealing to young readers.

Unfortunately, this book hasn’t been translated to other languages; I hope it will be soon or otherwise I’ll translate it myself 🙂

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The book depicts Zuzu, a little shepherd from Himba tribe; Mebratu, a shoeshine boy from Ethiopia; Matina, a living gooddess from Nepal; Mali, a girl from Thailand who wishes to be….a giraffe; and Lien from Vietnam, who lives on a boat.

Each story includes a short paragraph with a psychologist’s explanations and questions that help children understand the story and relate to the characters. Mebratu from Ethiopia goes running everyday as he dreams of becoming an Olympic medalist. „You need to work hard to achieve your goals; do you have a dream? Is there something you do everyday to become better at it”? The author also proposes follow-up activities for children and parents, such as going out for the whole day  without any toys and playing just with „what they can find”, like Himba children.

This book inspires interest in the world, teaches young readers them values of diversity and tolerance. When describing face painting in Ethiopia, the author explains that every culture has its own definitione of beauty and everybody has to respect it. The story about Mali’s sister who prefers going to school to wearing neck rings teaches that despite tradition every child has dreams and ambitions that have to be understood and respected by their family.

My boys liked the most the stories about African boys, Zuzu and Membratu. I’m sure that the tale of Matina, who lives like a princess but dreams of being a normal girl, able to play with other children, would appeal to every little girl. Many girls would love to be „real princesses”; what may be a downside to such a lifestyle?

I would definitely recommend this book to all the parents who want to teach their children about the world in a fun and engaging way.

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