Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Twenty-two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank by Paula Yoo, illustrated by Jamel Akib

When Muhammad Yunus was a boy growing up in Chittagong, Bangladesh, he witnessed a lot of poverty in this bustling city, on the streets and even at home, where his mother often gave food to hungry people who came to her door.  But Muhammad was lucky, he lived in a two story house and was encouraged to go to school, and even join the Boy Scouts.

While still young, Muhammad began to notice that when people had just a few coins, it could feed a family for a week.  His father had always told him to learn from the world, and so, when he traveled to the United States on a Fulbright scholarship, he saw how young college students like him were effectively demonstrating to against the Vietnam war.

While still in the US as a teacher, Muhammad began to organize rallies, too, calling for peace between Bangladesh and Pakistan, where fighting had broken out when British rule ended.  When peace finally came, Muhammad went home.  Now he was the head of the Economics Department at Chittagong University.

By then, Muhammad has accomplished much, but he wasn't done.  He still saw poverty all around him. In 1976, he met a woman named Sufiya Begum.  She and her children were very poor but she had to borrow money at a high interest rate from a moneylender in order to buy bamboo to weave her beautiful baskets.  Paying back the loan left her with not enough money to feed her kids.  It was a terrible cycle of poverty she and so many other women were caught up in.

Muhammad decided something needed to be done, so despite obstacles, he opened a new kind of bank, a microbank, that lent small amounts of money to women at low interest.  The bank was called Grameen Bank, meaning village bank.  What was different was that the borrowers were divided into groups and it was the group that borrowed and the group that made sure everyone in to paid back their individual loan.  What a difference Muhammad's idea made in the lives of so many women and their children.  So much of a difference that Muhammad was given a Noble Prize in 2006 for it.  Not only that, but his banks were by now all over the world, helping other people like Sufiya.

What a wonderful job Paula Yoo has done writing not just the story of one man's life and how he helped change the lives of many other people, but also for bringing economic ideas to a level that young readers can understand without talking down to them.

Twenty-two Cents is a book every teacher or homeschooler will want to use to teach their students something about economics, about life in other countries and about how one person can make a difference.  I thought how inspiring for kids to read about one man, one idea and a whole of lot of change for the better.

The pastel chalk illustrations by Jamel Akib add so much to the story.  Done in a mixed palette of colors they at once reflect the richness of Bangladesh and the harshness of poverty.

Backmatter includes an Afterword, which should not be skipped, and a list of sources Yoo used for writing her excellent book.

Twenty-two Cents is a picture book for older readers you won't want to miss.

This book is recommended for readers age 8+
This book was sent to me by the publisher, Lee & Low

This is book 1 of my 2015 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy


  1. So fun. We both highlighted the same book this week. It's such a great book isn't it? I am looking forward to sharing it with staff and students.

  2. Sounds like a very important and powerful book. :)

  3. This is new to me, Alex, & sounds marvelous. I'll put it on my list. Thanks!

  4. Well, I know when I see a book on more than one blog that I need to find it. Thanks for sharing Alex.

  5. Thanks for the recommendation. It will be a great companion book with One Hen by Katie Smith Milway. I'll be looking for this one.
    Apples with Many Seeds

  6. I've been seeing this very striking cover and meaning to follow up on it - thank you for your review - I really must seek it out now! I agree with tammy about One Hen too... And I will link to your post from MWD, if that's okay with you?


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