I work hard to earn the cents to show you the world beyond the mountains; it’s where your future begins.
Title: Ten Cents A Pound
Author: Nhung Tran-Davies
Illustrator: Josée Bisaillon
ISBN: 1772600563 Language: English
Themes: future, family, goals
What’s it about?
This book is a conversation of sorts between a mother and daughter. The mother works hard day in and out to earn money for her daughter so she can live the life ‘over the mountain’. At first the daughter is hesitant to go as she feels her place is beside her ailing mother but her mother perseveres with her goal of sending her daughter to learn.
The is not a high-text book but does contain some interesting vocabulary, particularly at the beginning. The book uses a lots of simple sentences to convey its message. The illustrations are fitting for the book and complement the text well with lively colours.
Nothing comes to mind.
The point behind this book is that each generation want something more for the next. I have no doubt that this story was at least partly inspired by the author’s own personal journey fleeing with her mother and siblings from Vietnam to Canada. With many countries in the world experiencing refugees settling into communities this book provides some insight in to just how different the life they had before is to what ‘normal’ Western standards perhaps are.
The mother in the story is very insistent. She doesn’t want her daughter working long, hard, back-breaking type days to earn (by Western standards) very little. In the story the mother wants her daughter go to school, to learn to read and write and discover the world that lies beyond the mountains. This particular book being set in Asia also opens up the possibility to link with the Australian curriculum.
I can see this book being used to look at lives outside of our own. To open up about discussions about children’s own goals. While I was reading it I was struck by the comparison to “Dole-Cyclers” in Australia – these are families who have received welfare for, in some cases, 6 generations. While many do break the cycle there seems to be a trend where many children fall into the same cycle – and this story made me wonder just how much they were encouraged to be something more. As teachers we certainly encourage students to set goals but as this story shows – it begins at home with parents believing in their children.
I would personally be using the book to launch into biographies or autobiographies. Finding stories of real people who used their education to create a ‘better’ life for themselves. To really show that it doesn’t matter if you are poor or rich – an education creates many pathways and if you work hard then you’ll get closer to your goals.
My only concern with the book is perhaps that as a teacher it would be important to reinforce that there is nothing wrong with the mother’s job. She picks berries for “ten cents a pound” and thus provides what her child needs and an education from those earning. As a teacher this requires some sensitivity to teach that a ‘better’ life is what we will each see through our own eyes but that there is no shame in earning a living in the way you know how.