Friday, January 15, 2010

Waiting for the Owl's Call by Gloria Whelan, reviewed by Fegan

I have read quite a bit about children in countries such as Afghanistan who are basically sold into slavery, forced to work long hours making rugs that they never see the profit from. The most commonly known name in this area is Iqbal Masih, the young Pakistani boy who escaped such slavery and spoke all over the world, only to be assassinated back in his home village. There are several fantastic books about him for varying age groups, and at the end I will include links to some organizations that try to help children like him, many doing it in his name.

I had not, however, thought about those who live with their families, but perform the same work day after day, slowly becoming crippled and never getting to go to school or to just be kids. They aren't beaten or purposely mistreated, they are with their families, doing what must be done to keep everyone together and alive.

That is the story told in "Waiting for the Owl's Call". Without the work of Zulviya and her sisters, her family would likely not get by. Even the arthritic grandmother does her part in preparing the rugs they sell. They are very proud of the work they do, and their life is not without joy - yet, whispering together as they eat their meals, they can't help dreaming about what it would be like to be able to stop weaving and go to school.

Giving up an education to support one's family while very young is not a new issue, and it is not one that is likely to go away any time in the near future. Whelan's book, beautifully illustrated by Pascal Milelli, gives parents or teachers a gentle way to introduce this problem to children for whom attending school is a given. It is part of the Tales of the World series from Sleeping Bear Press, which provided a copy for our review.

Some organizations to look into:
RugMark, "working to end illlegal child labor in the carpet industry and to offer educational opportunities to children in South Asia."

Heifer International - just something as seemingly insignificant as a flock of chickens ($20 donation) can make the difference in whether a family can afford to send its children to school or not. Offspring of animals provided by Heifer are to be passed on to other families nearby, making entire communities self-sufficient.

Free the Children"empowers children in North America to take action to improve the lives of fellow children overseas." They currently also have a special link set up to help the children of Haiti.


  1. I love that you've provided links for those who'd like to learn more and help in a concrete way. Sounds like a great book for revealing these issues to kids in a way that isn't heavy-handed or dry.

    I know I mentioned this before on the kidlit yahoo group, but I do love the blog name! :)

  2. This is a great post. I am a huge fan of Heifer International who is currently taking special donations for Haiti. They empower people to take care of their own families and help others in the community. :)


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