The Banana-Leaf Ball: How Play Can Change the World (CitizenKid)

by Katie Smith Milway (Author) Shane Evans (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade
Series: CitizenKid

Separated from his family when they were forced to flee their home, a young East African boy named Deo lives alone in the Lukole refugee camp in Tanzania. With scarce resources at the camp, bullies have formed gangs to steal what they can, and a leader named Remy has begun targeting Deo. Then one day a coach gathers all the children to play soccer. Though Deo loves soccer and has even made his own ball out of banana leaves, he's unsure at first about joining in when he sees Remy on the field.

But as Deo and the other boys get drawn into the game, everything begins to change. Their shared joy in playing provides the childrenincluding Remywith a sense of belonging. "Ball by ball, practice by practice, children who were once afraid of each other laugh together," the book explains, and "no one feels so alone anymore."

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Kirkus Reviews

This outside-looking-in depiction of the power of play to bridge new relationships in Burundi serves as a universal lesson that all readers can draw on.

School Library Journal

Gr 1-4--This title follows Deo Rukundo and his family as they flee their home in Burundi. Separated from his family, Deo travels alone until he makes his way to Lukole, a refugee camp in Tanzania. Supplies are scarce, and many children Deo's age join gangs to bully others and steal what they want and need. One of these bullies, Remy, becomes an opponent not only in Deo's daily life but also on their pickup soccer team. Deo's favorite toy from home, a soccer ball made from banana leaves, comes in handy in both practicing soccer and in forging relationships with other boys in the camp and driving home the lesson that they're all ultimately on the same team. Award-worthy mixed-media illustrations breathe life into the perhaps overlong story. With a simplistic plot that holds few stakes, the narrative does more to inform at a base level than to pique interest in the refugee crisis. Back matter with information about the real Lukole refugee camp and those who might live there, Internet resources, and suggestions of what can be done to aid those in crisis might be useful for those doing school projects or children genuinely interested in helping others. VERDICT This title will fill the gaps of any collection looking for more materials on the refugee crisis, and Burundi refugees in particular, and how the power of organized play can positively impact a dark time in any community.--Brittany Drehobl, Eisenhower Public Library District, IL

Copyright 2017 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Katie Smith Milway
Katie Smith Milway, a native of Vancouver, B.C., has coordinated community development programs in Africa and Latin America for Food for the Hungry; consulted on village banking in Senegal with World Vision and was a delegate to the 1992 Earth Summit. She has written books and articles on sustainable development and is currently a partner at nonprofit consultancy The Bridgespan Group, based in Boston, Massachusetts.

Shane W. Evans is the illustrator of many picture books for children, including The Way a Door Closes, a Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award winner; Underground, a Coretta Scott King Award winner; My Brother Charlie, a NAACP Image Award winner; We March and Lillian's Right to Vote, Jane Addams Award winners; as well as Chocolate Me! and Mixed Me! He has exhibited his art in West Africa and Paris, as well as in Chicago, New York, and other major U.S. cities. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where he runs Dream Studio, a community art space.

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Kids Can Press
Publication date
April 04, 2017
BISAC categories
JNF038010 - Juvenile Nonfiction | People & Places | Africa
Library of Congress categories

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