Tag Archives: Katie Smith Milway

Mimi’s Village: And How Basic Health Care Transformed It by Katie Smith Milway, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes

When Mimi and her little sister Nakkissi go to fetch the family’s water from the stream one hot day, Mimi does something she knows she shouldn’t: she realizes that tired Nakkissi can’t walk all the way home without a drink, so she gives her “two handfuls of brownish water” from the stream – even knowing that the water must first be boiled before drinking. That evening, Nakkissi falls seriously ill with a sickness that too many village children don’t survive. Armed with a machete, hoe, and sticks to ward off any wild animals, the whole family walks in the middle of the night to the next village in search of help.

With simple, clean care at the health clinic, Nakkissi recovers quickly. Nurse Tela convinces the family to stay another night because the next day is vaccination day. Mimi watches and learns as Nurse Tela tends to pregnant women, babies, and many children more ill than Nakkissi. Inspired by what she sees, when they return home, Mimi shares her “big dream” with her father, who discusses it with the village elders … and three months later, that dream becomes a most welcome, necessary reality. What might have been a family tragedy proves to be healthy salvation for Mimi’s whole community.

Part of Canada’s Kids Can Press‘ compelling, informative, entertaining CitizenKid series – “books that inform children about the world and inspire them to be better global citizens” – Mimi’s Village is “based on a blend of real stories.” Author Katie Smith Milway (who also wrote CitizenKid’s uplifting, based-on-real-life The Good Garden) definitely inspires readers with a good story … and then fortifies her audience with informative context and opportunities to take action. She shares the experiences of real-life nurse Felina Maiya of Zambia, who has thus far brought saving treatment and hygienic prevention techniques to 61 households since 2006. Milway also provides the ‘why’ of the importance of simple health care (diarrhea causes one in five deaths; malaria kills a child in sub-Saharan Africa every 45 sections), and how readers can get involved (a 7-year-old Canadian boy raised the funding to build a well in Uganda!) and new ways to create change (an African superstar performs concerts that urge his fans to use bed nets to prevent malaria).

In this season of privileged plenty for so many of us lucky readers, resources like CitizenKid titles are priceless. Invest in a few (or all!) and encourage your kiddies to go global: with the help of CitizenKid, teach them now that actions speak louder than words.

Readers: Children, Middle Grade

Published: 2012


Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, ..Middle Grade Readers, .Fiction, African, Canadian, Nonethnic-specific

The Good Garden: How One Family Went from Hunger to Having Enough by Katie Smith Milway, illustrated by Sylvie Daigneault

María Luz’s family is in trouble. Their land in the hills of Honduras, which provides them with the corn and beans they need to live, has “lost its goodness.” In order for the family to survive, María Luz’s father must leave home and find work. He must make enough money to pay for next season’s seeds; otherwise, the family will be at the mercy of the coyote, the grain buyer who also makes exorbitant loans and then takes the land when poor farmers cannot make payments. While he is gone, Papa entrusts his daughter to “care for our land,” and plant the winter crops.

Three months have passed, and María Luz returns to school … and meets the new teacher. Don Pedro Morales knows quite a bit about the land, about how to “feed the soil and make it good again.” With his guidance, villagers learn  about composting to renew the soil, terracing to make flat surfaces that will keep plants from washing downhill, and planting marigolds – “the smiles of the soil” – as natural pest repellents.

By the time her father finally returns, María Luz’s garden is thriving. As her radishes grow, the coyotes come calling, offering too-low prices for her harvest. Again, Don Pedro intervenes, encouraging the villagers to go to the markets themselves to sell their bounty. Again, the families profit from their sales, but also save by buying their seeds directly from the merchants. With the help of one man’s vision, María Luz’s family and their fellow villagers break the cycle of abusive dependence on the coyotes.

Happy beginnings are that much more joyful when they turn out to be true stories. María Luz’s family is based on a real family that avoided a food crisis with the assistance of the real-life Don Pedro Morelos, a Honduran teacher named Don Elías Sanchez. For decades, Don Elías helped tens of thousands of families like María Luz’s to reclaim the land; he also taught poor farmers to invest in medicines and education for their children. Although he passed away in 2000, his legacy continues, led by Honduran agronomist Milton Flores.

Author Katie Smith Milway writes from personal experience, having coordinated community development programs in Latin American and Africa. Illustrator Sylvie Daigneault brings Milway’s vision to gorgeous life on overflowing full-page panels filled with uncertain fears, hopeful activity, and future promise.

The Good Garden is both visual testimony as well as a life-affirming story of humanity. Helping one family at a time can save a whole village and far beyond … that one action can and will multiply the bounty of the good garden again and again. And true stories like this prove that there’s hope yet for our human race …

Readers: Children, Middle Grade

Published: 2010


Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, ..Middle Grade Readers, .Nonfiction, Latin American