Yasmin’s Hammer by Ann Malaspina, illustrated by Doug Chayka
Inspired by two real children in Dhaka whom Ann Malaspina met on her travels through South Asia, Yasmin’s Hammer is yet more proof for the need to educate girls throughout the world.
When a cyclone destroys their home village “by a lazy river,” two sisters – Mita and Yasmin, together with their parents – are forced to move to the big city of Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, in search of work. While their father tries to establish a rickshaw business and their mother works in other people’s homes, both sisters must help the family by working as brick chippers.
“‘We need your help now,’” Abba explains as gently as possible to his daughters, especially young Yasmin who wants nothing more than to go to school. Missing their extended family left behind in the home village, Yasmin and Mita work achingly long hours. Yasmin’s thoughts turn always to school: “If I could read … I would not break another brick / or wash a rich lady’s laundry like Amma / or pedal a rickshaw through crowded streets. / If I could read, I would be a shopkeeper / or maybe a teacher. I could be a doctor / or even the governor! / I could be anything at all.”
Yasmin’s hard work and ingenuity do indeed pay off … but for every success story like Yasmin’s, far too many young children will never get a similar chance to learn. At book’s end, Malaspina offers a child-friendly overview of the situation in Bangladesh, highlighting both the challenges and ongoing progress toward educating all young Bangladeshis. She also provides a welcome list of ways that readers – both the youngest and their parents – can help the children of Bangladesh … if you can read, you can also help.