From School Library Journal
Grade 2-5--Inspired by the true story of Iqbal Masih, a boy from Pakistan who fought for the rights of child laborers, this tale follows Nadeem, a youngster who has been forced to work in a carpet factory under inhumane conditions to repay a "loan" made to his parents. His life is changed forever after he meets Iqbal, who informs him of a new law that will enable all children to stop working and attend school. Nadeem eventually gathers the courage to leave the factory along with the other youngsters; tragically, the real Iqbal was shot and killed at age 12 after working to free hundreds of boys and girls like Nadeem. This serious subject matter is handled with intelligence and care, giving young readers enough information to form their own opinions. Lovely, expressive watercolor illustrations, each bordered with a different design typical of woven rugs, perfectly complement the text. Four pages of additional information are appended, including a short biography of Iqbal and numerous references to print and online resources about child labor, the United Nations, and UNICEF.--Sue Morgan, Tom Kitayama Elementary School, Union City, CA
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Gr. 2-5. It's not surprising that 12-year-old Iqbal Masih, the Pakistani carpet boy turned child-labor activist who was murdered in 1995, inspired works for older readers; a picture book on the same topic, though, raises the knotty question of age-appropriateness. As in Francesco D'Adama's novel for middle-graders Iqbal
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Shea alludes to the real tragedy through a fictional character, Nadeem, an indentured slave whose chance encounter with Iqbal, and later the news of Iqbal's death, galvanizes him to defy his master and lead the children in his workshop to freedom. Shea doesn't shy away from ugly realities ("coughing blood" and "cuts healed over with boiling oil"), and four dense pages of back matter, including sobering United Nations estimates of children in the global workforce, contrast tellingly with the unguarded optimism of the story's ending. Perhaps most useful for introducing the topic to groups older than the usual picture-book audience, this problematic yet thought-provoking picture book, with earth-tone watercolors brightened by decorative borders, will leave children asking questions that have no easy answers. Jennifer MattsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved