BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Beatrice’s Dream by Karen Lynn Williams, photographs by Wendy Stone

Beatrice's DreamAt 13, Beatrice is sure of her dreams: ” … to pass my exams, go on to secondary school and study nursing. Then I will help people who are sick or on their own, like me.” In Beatrice’s world on the other side of the world in Kenya, what seem like achievable goals come with a whole different set of prodigious challenges.

Beatrice lost her father to a car accident and her mother to tuberculosis when she was just 9. “Since then I have always worried about being alone and wondered who will take care of me.” For now, she lives with the oldest of her brothers and his wife, behind his tiny shop. Enhanced with international photographer Wendy Stone’s outstanding, colorful photographs, Karen Lynn Williams uses Beatrice’s voice to guide young readers through Beatrice’s day – her half-hour walk to school through the mud and garbage that litter her path, the people who “move around everywhere like ants,” her day in the school building constructed of tin, her favorite subjects of English and Kiswahili (Kenya’s official language) in her Class Seven “small room crammed so full of desks that we can hardly squeeze past them to get to our seats.” Once school is finished, she returns home “before it gets dark” to help prepare the family’s meal, iron her clothes, and “if we have enough paraffin in our small lamp, I read.”

The place Beatrice calls home is Kibera, one of Africa’s largest slums, located in Kenya’s capital of Nairobi. It’s just 618 acres, and yet over half a million people live there, explains the book’s creators in the final pages. “There are no roads and few of the residents have modern toilets, clean drinking water or electricity. The crime rate is high and disease spreads rapidly.” Against such tremendous odds, just staying in school is an enormous accomplishment, and yet ” … most children see education as the best way to escape from the slum.”

Beatrice’s story continues in the book’s final pages – but no spoilers here! [Her story has definite echoes to Voice of a Dream by Ugandan author Glaydah Namukasa.] What so many children in other parts of the world take for granted proves to be an immense, difficult-to-achieve privilege in Kibera. Don’t wait until your youngsters whinge about having to go to school to share Beatrice’s inspiring narrative … read with them now: forewarned is forearmed!

Tidbit: Kibera was made temporarily famous in the West when parts of John le Carré’s novel, The Constant Gardener starring Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz, were filmed there. The cameras left, but the crew set up the Constant Gardener Trust in 2004 to thank and help the community, although no updates seem to be available since 2010.

Readers: Children

Published: 2011


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