From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 2–5—After his father dies, Kojo quits school to help his mother collect firewood to sell, but there is little money or food. However, his small Ashanti village has elected to try microlending, a system where the village loans money to one family to buy something that will hopefully improve their lives; once it is paid back, another family borrows it, etc. When it is the boy's mother's turn, Kojo uses a few of the coins to buy a hen. The story then follows him as he grows and slowly but steadily builds the proceeds from that one hen into the largest poultry farm in West Africa. Throughout, the author shows how his success impacts the lives of everyone it touches, from the people whom Kojo is able to employ to the taxes he pays that will build roads and medical facilities. The story is based on the experiences of an actual Ashanti poultry farmer and could open diverse avenues of discussion, including how a community's mutual support and teamwork operate for the good of all. Fernandes's large acrylic paintings capture the warmth of the climate and include numerous details, such as splashes of kente cloth, that authenticate the setting. There are also many illustrations that spark the imagination, such as the one of a tree with Kojo's first hen at its roots, growing more hens as the tree grows, with eggs blossoming from the branches. This distinguished book will enhance many curriculum areas. Tololwa M. Mollel's My Rows and Piles of Coins
(Clarion, 1999) is a good companion piece.—Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ
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Families in a Ghanan village pool their small savings into a community bank that makes loans available to members. When Kojo’s mother borrows money, he asks her for a few coins to buy a hen. The hen produces eggs for the family as well as a few for him to sell at the market, and Kojo uses that money to grow his business into a thriving enterprise. As a successful adult entrepreneur, Kojo now loans money to other aspiring businesspeople. Kojo’s inspiring, upbeat microfinance story makes the economic concept easy to grasp and admire. Sunny acrylic illustrations incorporate African animals and scenery into impressionistic full-page art that reflects the optimistic tone of the story. Back matter includes a photograph and short biography of a “real Kojo,” information on microcredit organizations, and a glossary. Grades 2-5. --Linda Perkins