Wednesday, April 11, 2018

"Neema's Reason to Smile" - a bookwrap

Going to school and learning is a gift!


"Neema's Reason to Smile" 

by Patricia Newman (Author)
Illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini

Ages: 6-10
Grade Levels: 1-5
Hardcover – May 1, 2018

Singing Praises for "Neema's Reason to Smile"

“Lyrical and lovely, Neema’s Reason to Smile reminds us that education is the greatest gift we can give a child, and that with enough love and determination, dreams sometimes do come true. Moving, important, and inspiring.”
—Katherine Applegate, Newbery Medal Winning Children’s Author

“You will never know the potential of any child, youth, and adult until that person is given an opportunity to acquire education. When you don’t educate the people, you’re crippling theml you are not giving them ways to fend for themselves. Neema’s Reason to Smile reinforces how education creates conscious awakening for peace to happen in ourselves and around us.”
—Emmanuel Jal, Peace activist, musician, former child soldier, actor, and entrepreneur

“With vivid, flowing prose and wonderfully vibrant characters, Neema’s Reason to Smile takes on a complicated topic—girls overcoming global obstacles to education—yet delivers a poignant example of how dreams can be realized through community. Although this tale is set in Kenya, it represents stories that unfold in real life in more than 50 countries around the world where school is not free.”
—Tanya Lee Stone, author of “Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time,” NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work—Youth/Teens; Golden Kite Award for Nonfiction

Unwrapping some great illustrations for you

About the book

Neema and her Mama, who live in Kenya, work very hard every single day just to survive.  Each morning her Mama balances a huge basket of fruit on Neema's head and off she goes treading mile after mile to sell oranges, mangoes and bananas to anyone she can.  Her kind, generous heart always responds to a poor toothless old beggar who daily sits on the side of road homeless and hungry.  Out of her dire poverty she offers him sustenance, a single orange from her basket, that he is so grateful for. 

He calls after her:

"The heart of a lion beats inside you, Neema."

Neema dreams of going to school and becoming a scientist, an inventor or a perhaps a doctor so she can escape her impoverished life.  Her Mama's dream is to buy a sewing machine so her intense needle work by day and by the light of fire at night will be much less burdensome.  She and her mother weave a dream basket where they deposit any meagre extra coins they gather from their hard day's labour.  These few coins fuel their dreams and fuel their hopes that perhaps their dreams can come true.   

The government school is free but Neema needs money to purchase a blue and white school uniform, paper and pencils to attend.  She can afford none of those. But still her longing to go continues. 

One day as she is doing her daily tasks a little girl about her age whisks by her wearing a red and white uniform.  Neema has never seen that uniform before and she wonders if there could be another school that she doesn't know about in the area?   

Neema spots the happy little girl once again days later and this time she follows after her as the girl weaves through the noisy street and then dances through an open red door and into a .... SCHOOL!!!!

 Neema is overjoyed at her find. Will Neema's dream become a reality?  Will she be able to finally go to school and be given the skills to have her dream fulfilled?  

This book is encouraging and truly inspirational. Neema is a wonderful role-model showing the reader that hard work and perseverance pay off.  The book has a glossary and information about the school it is modelled after and even instructions for kids to make their own dream baskets.  The illustrations are detailed, vibrantly coloured and I love all the patterns and textures that are portrayed giving you a wonderful feeling for the culture in which Neema lives.  I highly recommend this book. 

Storywraps rating- 5 HUGS!!!!!

Introducing the author

Patricia Newman writes for children curious about the fascinating, weird, and sometimes scary world around them. She is an award-winning author of several books and magazine articles, including PLASTIC, AHOY! INVESTIGATING THE GREAT PACIFIC GARBAGE PATCH, a Green Earth Book Award winner, a Junior Library Guild Selection and one of Bank Street College’s Best Books of the Year; EBOLA: FEARS AND FACTS, a Junior Library Guild Selection; NUGGET ON THE FLIGHT DECK, a California Reading Association Eureka Honor Book; and JINGLE THE BRASS, a Junior Library Guild Selection that celebrates railroading lingo popular during the age of steam. Newman is a frequent speaker at schools, libraries and conferences and shares her passion for reading, writing, research, and learning new things. She lives in Northern California where she writes with her dog under her feet. Visit her at

About the illustrator

Mehrdokht Amini has illustrated several books for children including Chicken in the Kitchen by Nnedi Okorafor, which won the 2016 Children’s Africana Best Book Award, and Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns by Hena Khan. She has illustrated books published in Iran, Poland, Korea, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Mehrdokht grew up in Iran and now lives in Surrey, England. Visit her website at

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