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Katie Smith Milway, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes,
One Hen
Kids Can Press, 2008.

Ages 7+

The 20 families in Kojo’s village in Ghana are poor, but they have a good idea.  Each family saves whatever they can spare; then they all pool their money so that one family can borrow it all to buy something that will help make them more money.  Once the borrowing family has paid back the loan, it will be another family’s turn.

When it is Kojo’s mother’s turn, she uses the money to buy a cart so she and Kojo can carry more firewood to sell at the market.  After buying the cart, a few coins are left over.  Kojo asks if he can borrow that money from his mother.  He has a good idea, too.

Kojo buys one hen, and he and his mother each have one egg to eat each week and three eggs to sell at market.  Once Kojo has paid his mother back and made some more money from the egg sales, he buys another hen…

Kojo’s poultry business grows and grows.  Eventually he can afford to return to school and ultimately earns an agriculture degree.  When Kojo gets a big loan from a bank, his chicken farm expands to provide employment and create industry in the village, where many other people have good ideas.  Kojo is always willing to lend them money so they can make their ideas a reality.

The miracle of microfinance is fabulously illustrated in this gorgeous and captivating book, one of the winners of the 2008 Skipping Stones Award in the "Multicultural and International Awareness" category. Kojo’s story is followed by a mini-biography of its real-life inspiration, Kwabena Darko, a Ghanaian chicken farmer who started out like Kojo and eventually founded Sinapi Aba (Mustard Seed) Trust to provide small loans for other small-business people. It also includes resources for how readers can get involved and a one-page glossary; and there is an accompanying website that teaches kids about microfinance.

The beautiful illustrations tell a story in themselves and a single sentence describes every picture, providing an accurate summary of the story and broadening the book’s appeal to a wider age-range. Children everywhere will be inspired by Kojo’s can-do story and the positive way he uses his success to help others. One Hen is simultaneously a wonderful story, a work of art, and a lesson in finance, business, and anthropology.

Abigail Sawyer
November, 2008



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