Customer Reviews: Where Children Sleep
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on June 10, 2012
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. In the US, we meet a whopping 12 kids, but eight of them are from New York or New Jersey and three from Kentucky. While I can see the advantage of showing contrast within one area (such as poverty and prosperity in the same city) at times it seemed obvious that the author's access to children in other areas was limited.

-The photos seem to perpetuate stereotypes in a few cases. For example, the ONLY children in the US living outside New York and New Jersey are a camo-clad, gun-toting deer hunter, a make-up clad little pageant princess, and an child living in an Appalachian shack (all in Kentucky) and a young man at a rustic-looking boarding school for obese kids in North Carolina. While these may be honest depictions of these children's actual lives, readers in other countries could easily be lead to believe that extreme stereotypes of the American South are reality for all children living away from the east coast.

It made me wonder about generalizations my own children might form about other countries. Based on the extremes captured by the book, one might deduce that most Japanese children are coddled dolls, while most children in Great Britain are punks or antisocial misfits. The book is an eye-opener because of the extremes, but you found yourself wondering, "Are there any ordinary, average, healthy children anywhere?" Might younger readers answer that question with "Nowhere but here."? (Not the author's intent, I'm sure!)

-Some photos sometimes show children's belongings spread out across the floor and/or beds of their rooms. I understand the photographer's intent here, but think it could be confusing to young readers. For example, does the child who competes in karate really have a floor so crammed with trophies that she cannot reach her bed? If the book is to be a tool for learning about other cultures, I would have preferred the photos to be true captures of the child's room as it is, without much "artistic arrangement" from the photographer.

-Some photos are very dark - almost too dark to see. In a few cases, it represents a lack of natural or electric lighting - it really is dark in this child's room. In a few others, it just seems that someone opted not to turn on the lights. Why? The reader must strain to try to interpret details.

In summary, it is a fascinating and visually striking book that will leave readers changed. Glanced through or poured over, it will open eyes and raise questions.

It often benefits - and occassionally suffers - from the extremes depicted by the subject matter.
There are a breathtaking number of "sparks" for contemplation, discussion, research, and writing within these covers, and even the book's weaknesses can be used as strengths, such as encouraging children to research "forgotten" countries, or challenging children to debate about stereotypes.

This is a book that can grow with the reader. A nine-year-old may find herself pondering the fact that some children struggle to get enough to eat, while others never give thought to where their meals come from. A nineteen-year-old may find herself wondering what her own world view might be is she were the younger sister of a suicide bomber, as is one of the children from the West Bank.

Highly recommended for older kids, teens, and adults.
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on November 10, 2010
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.
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on July 25, 2013
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.
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on February 18, 2013
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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on March 21, 2014
After viewing this book, you will wonder how children ever make it to adulthood. Whether they are from wealthy families in the U.S., or from poor families (or no families) in Nepal, Brazil, or Africa, you will feel a deep-seated sadness. Some sleep in rooms that lack for nothing in material possessions, yet (for me) have no warmth or comfort. Some sleep in rooms that barely have a bed and may not keep out the cold or rain or dirt or insects that bring disease and discomfort. Some sleep in no rooms at all. Beautifully photographed and constructed, but heartbreaking.
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VINE VOICEon August 23, 2015
Perhaps one of the finest books I have ever seen.
James Mollison as photographer does an impressive work of capturing the life and livelihood of children all over the world. Dozens of countries are covered and while many countries are absent, and some are included five times (USA's New York, Nepal, Brazil, Palestine's West Bank), there is enough diversity as to be considered a definitive view into the lives of Children of the World.
Additionally, James Mollison the short essay writer makes no-nonsense descriptions of where he took his photographs and provides just enough background into the story of each photography and the children.
The hard cover is a beautifully soft cotton binding that makes this feel like a photo-album of personal heirlooms rather than a Save The Children foundation sponsored product. And by mentioning the endorsement I mean nothing but compliments for this work, as more than a commercial endeavor, it seeks to contribute to the solution of the problem, and while the decision to become actively involved in any endeavor is up to the reader, at least the images will have your mind feeling and your heart thinking about the world around us... and if you are a father like myself, you will immediately run to your children's bedroom and silently watch them in their little world, whether sleeping or awake, and hold them close and kiss them thanking that they sleep next to you.
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on April 14, 2014
The reason this book received four stars is solely and ONLY based on the raw beauty and honesty of the photography...stunning, life giving, thought-provoking portrayal of children. Bravo!

My biggest complaint, not really complaint, but what gave me pause were the stereotypical portrayals of American children. I could almost hear the sarcasm when speaking of the many tv's, rooms, trophies, expensive educations...we get it, James Mollison is not a big fan of America's excess. It made me cringe with each new depiction of waste and abundance....but, James, that isn't all of America. Is that really the taste we leave in the world's mouth?
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VINE VOICEon March 3, 2016
Bought this for my son's classroom, he is in second grade. Great book despite heavily weighted towards Manhattan area and Nepal for some reason. In any event, there are two pictures that made it not the best gift for the 8 year old students in his class. One had a child holding a gun, relating that he is in a gang, another showed a teen girl pregnant with third child. Gave it to the teacher with that caveat, left it to her discretion if she wanted to put it in the class library.
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on November 24, 2012
All kinds of children all over the world. This book gives a look into the bedrooms of children, but also makes you think about the rest of their world and how we're acting in the world today to make a child's bed be a mattress under the open sky or a room full of beauty pageant crowns
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on December 30, 2013
I bought this book to teach my son a lesson in being thankful. Far too often, people in general complain about what they don't have or wish they had and forget to be thankful for what they've already been given (no matter how big or small). As my son was reading this book, his demeanor changed. He saw how other children lived across the world and in wanting to do more to help them, he also realized that his living situation wasn't as bad as he thought. Mission accomplished! :)
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