Neema’s Reason to Smile: Book Review

Neema's Reason to Smile by Patricia Newman and illustrated by Mehrdokht. The story of a girl who had a go to school. Neema has a dream basket. In go the coins one at a time.
They are for a special dream.

Title: Neema’s Reason to Smile
Author: Patricia Newman
Illustrator: Mehrdokht Amini
ISBN: 9781682655849          Language: English with some keywords in Swahili

Classification: Fiction
Themes: future, goals, education

What’s it about?
Neema lives with her mother in Kenya. Every day, Neema leaves home to see the fruit in her basket – what she and her mother don’t need for essentials goes into Neema’s Dream Basket – a collection of coins they are saving so that Neema can go to school.

The text is engaging and includes several metaphors. There is a sprinkling of Swahili in the text and a handy glossary at the back of the book for both the Swahili and English words that may be unfamiliar to younger children.

I would have liked a bit more.

Neema's Reason to Smile by Patricia Newman and illustrated by Mehrdokht. The story of a girl who had a go to school.My Thoughts
At the heart of this story is the importance of education and the opportunities it gives to children. Neema’s mother and herself aren’t saving for a private school education – each coin they put aside is so she can go to a Government funded school where pencils, uniforms etc. still need to be paid for.

In this story she ends up following another girl to a school funded in part by what parents can pay and the other through donations. An important aspect to highlight with this book in the classroom would be the fact that despite Neema’s family having very little – and being asked to pay what they can towards the education – they give all their coins – not someall.

Having worked in education now for around 20 years I have seen just how children in this time have come to take having an education for granted here in Australia. There are many who truly don’t appreciate how fortunate they are to have access to the technology and resources we have. In fact, many don’t want to be at school at all – the fact we have an enforced attendance rate (which I don’t personally agree with anyway) shows the difference in culture and priorities.

Another note about this book is the fact that despite it showing that Neema had very little it didn’t stop her from being generous to those less fortunate than herself – such as when she gives the beggar the orange. It also builds upon the opportunity that an education will provide for Neema by showing how her mother could also benefit by them being able to buy a sewing machine – thus being able to do more work and earn more money.

Overall, this book would be a great companion to Ten Cents a Pound as they feature similar themes of the importance of education.

Patricia Newman website

 Mehrdokht Amini - illustrator website


What do you think?