5 Award-winning children's books on Bangladesh and West Bengal
Twenty Two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank
By Paula Yoo
Illustrated by Jamel Akib
Published by: Lee & Low Books, 2014
Growing up in Bangladesh, Muhammad Yunus witnessed extreme poverty around and was determined to eradicate it. In 1976, as an Economics professor, Muhammad met a young craftswoman in the village of Jobra who needed to borrow five taka (twenty-two cents) to buy materials. No bank would lend such a small amount to an uneducated woman, so she was forced to borrow from corrupt lenders who charged an unfair interest rate, and left her without enough profit to buy food. Muhammad realized that what stood in the way of her financial security was just a few cents.
Inspired, Muhammad founded Grameen Bank where people could borrow small amounts of money to start a job, and then pay back the bank without exorbitant interest charges. Over the next few years, Muhammad’s compassion and determination changed the lives of millions of people by loaning the equivalent of more than ten billion US dollars in micro-credit. This has also served to advocate and empower the poor, especially women, who often have limited options.
Twenty-two Cents is an inspiring story of economic innovation and a celebration of how one person—like one small loan—can make a positive difference in the lives of many.
By Mitali Perkins
Illustrated by Jamie Hogan
Published by Charlesbridge, 2007
Naima is a talented painter of traditional alpana patterns, which Bangladeshi women and girls paint on their houses for special celebrations. But Naima is not satisfied just painting alpana. She wants to help earn money for her family, like her best friend, Saleem, does for his family. When Naima's rash effort to help puts her family deeper in debt, she draws on her resourceful nature and her talents to bravely save the day.
Includes a glossary of Bangla words and an author's note about a changing Bangladesh and microfinance.
By Ann Malaspina
Illustrated by Doug Chayka
Published by Lee & Low Books, 2010
In the noisy streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh, another busy morning is beginning as Yasmin rides to work in her father’s rattling rickshaw. Yasmin longs to go to school so she can learn to read, but her family needs the money she and her sister earn at the brickyard to help keep the rice bag full and the roof repaired.
As she hammers away at bricks day after day, Yasmin dreams of a different life. If she could read, she could be anything she wants to be when she grows up. One night Yasmin has an idea—a secret plan that will bring her one step closer to making her dream a reality.
Compassionately told and inspired by contemporary news articles, Yasmin’s Hammer offers a fresh perspective on the value of education. Readers will admire Yasmin’s persistence in reaching for her goals and the enduring love of her hardworking family in this hopeful story of a bright young girl whose mind is set on changing her future.
Grandma and the Great Gourd
By Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Illustrated by Susy Pilgrim Waters
Published by Roaring Book Press, 2013
Once upon a time, in a little village in India, there lived an old woman. Everyone in the village called her Grandma. One day, Grandma received a letter from her daughter, who lived on the other side of the jungle. “Please come and visit me,” said the letter. “I haven’t seen you in so long. I miss you.” And so, Grandma begins a perilous journey to the far side of the jungle. Can she use her keen wit to escape the jungle animals and make it safely home?
Chitra Divakaruni’s sharp, rhythmic retelling of this Bengali folktale is complemented perfectly by Susy Pilgrim Waters’s brightly colored, captivating illustrations.
The Ghost Catcher
By Martha Hamilton & Mitch Weiss
Illustrated by Kristen Balouch
Published by August House Little Folk, 2008
A barber in Bengal is so generous to others that sometimes he has nothing left for his own family. When he comes home empty-handed once again, his wife, tired of going hungry, sends him packing until he finds a way to feed the family. As the barber rests under a banyan tree he is terrorized by a ghost. Through his cleverness, though, he turns the frightening encounter into a solution to his problems. When he returns home to his grateful wife, their money worries are over, and the barber can continue to share with those in need. In a hilarious turn of events, the barber discovers a way to scare the ghost into doing what he says. Kristen Balouch's crisp and colorful illustrations transport us to a world where the living bargain and bluff with the dead, where the communities gather under sprawling banyan trees, and where generosity prevails. This colorful, Bengali folktale will teach readers the importance of courage, resourcefulness and trustworthiness.
All five books have won at least one publishing award or notable mention, with the exception of “Twenty Two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank” and “Rickshaw Girl” that have won numerous prestigious literary awards.