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This book is an eye-opening, conversation starter for children ages 8 and up, as well as teens and adults. Here's what I love about it:
-Many of the photos are both beautiful and sad; some are haunting, and you will be changed after studying them.
-There's much food for thought here about the influence that ethnic group, socioeconomic status, family and community politics, and similar factors have on both a child's actual, physical place in the world and his/her perception of her place in the world. The book doesn't preach, but sparks much wonder.
-The book does not imply that materialism equals happiness. There's much for our children to be thankful for after reading this book, but without suggesting that children living in less modern locales, or with fewer toys and wealth are somehow "less than" themselves. In fact, this book led a young child I know to wonder aloud if both extreme poverty and extreme wealth might be challenging for children, in different ways.
-Here, there are also paths to be traveled when considering our own beliefs about personal space and the child's role in the family and community. There is an underlying theme of parents trying hard to do what they hope is best for their children.
A few things I wish were different about the book:
-The choice of locales is odd and somewhat lacking. The author's travel budget was limited, and it shows. For example, we meet eight children from Nepal, yet none from India. Many parts of the world were skipped altogether, including Australia, the Pacific Islands, and islands of the Caribbean, as well as most very cold climates.
Three of five children representing Europe were are from Italy, with the the other two from England and Scotland.Read more ›
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This is a book which should be in every school library and, if you can afford it, in your own child's (grandchild's) personal library. My grandchildren (ages 5 through 11) have read and reread it. The photographs of the children's rooms tell a story in themselves and the text contributes even more. They feel privileged when reading about the lives of many of of the children and are critical of the have-it-all children who are also pictured. In all, an incredible learning experience and one which opens many doors of communication.
I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did. Certainly the photographs were good, showing the children and their bedrooms (or what passed for their bedrooms) and describing their lives in short but emotional vignettes. Many of the stories were sad, and I'm not just talking about the children who lived in poverty either. One child, an American only four or five, was shown wearing heavy makeup and dressed in clothes that would have been better suited for a grown woman. Her biography explained that she participated in beauty pageants and had won a lot of trophies, and almost all her spare time was spent preparing for one pageant or another. It sounds like she never has time to just be a kid.
However, the diversity in the book was lacking. There were I think twelve American children featured. Mostly they were from families that were at least middle-class if not very wealthy, and all but four came from the New York City metro area. The whole of Africa had only four children, and Europe only five, three of them from Italy and two from the UK. South America had seven, six of them from Brazil. The tiny country of Nepal had eight children featured. Of Canada, Central America, the Caribbean, the South Pacific and Australia, there were no kids featured at all. I don't know if this was the author/photographer's fault or not -- perhaps there were budget or travel constraints -- but the lopsidedness was a definite drawback.
I'd still say the book was worth reading/looking at. I just wish they had covered more countries.
James Mollison wrote in the preface that he wrote this book for children 9-12. However, before deciding to get this and sharing with your children ( and I highly suggest you do) , please bear in mind that this is a book based on reality - about how different children live in different parts of the world and some children, like it or not, are not living their lives ideally.
The photos of the children profiled and their places of sleep (hence the title) are stark and vivid. It's a hyper-real book about the world we live in today. There are photos of children living in wealth, and there are happy. healthy middle-class children (by American standards) and then there are the images that haunt you after you close the book - the two that broke my heart and stayed with me long after I read it are the ones of a 14 year-old pregnant Brazilian girl who had been pregnant 3 times since she was 12; There is also the of the child in Asia whose home is a literal garbage dump, his bed a collection of old tires swarming with disease-ridden flies.
This is not a fairy-tale book, it is a sobering window, looking out to the world - a take that I think benefits not only children but all of us to take stock of our very own lucky lives and appreciate what we have.
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