We had a bit of a sick week around here, there’s a bug going around. Staying home from school means lots of resting the first couple of days, but also lots of bouncing off walls when their temperatures are nearing normal again but I don’t yet want to send them into the petri dishes that are their classrooms (that are already half empty because of this bug). Forcing that rest often means putting on movies in the daytime. Sometimes several. Don’t judge. So today, while both our kids are back at school and I have the day off work and am kicking back in my bathrobe with a cup of coffee, I’m going to write about not only a book that I’ve mentioned several times over the years but never actually profiled, but I’m also going to recommend (da da DAAAAH) a movie.
Do you have Netflix Streaming? I’m not sure where else you can find this movie, or even if you can get it via DVD on Netflix. But we found it through the magical Netflix box in our TV that lets us watch movies from somewhere in the ether. I don’t know. Anyhow, the movie is called “On the Way to School.” It was made in 2013, and it’s a little over an hour long.
It’s a documentary about four children from all around the world and how they get to school. There are a brother and sister in Kenya who make a 2-hour trek each day (each way!) across the savannah constantly on the watch for elephants and lions in order to get to school. They have to dig for water and hand wash their school uniforms and carry the rest in old plastic jugs for drinking on the way. There’s a 12 year old girl in the mountains of Morocco who has a four-hour journey to boarding school (made each week); she meets up with two girlfriends halfway through but when one of the girls hurts her ankle, they struggle to find someone willing to help the girls get to school. There are a brother and sister in Argentina who travel by horseback for 11 miles over the rocky Patagonia plateau, and a 13 year old boy in southern India, confined to a makeshift heavily-corroded wheelchair, whose two brothers push and pull him each day through river beds, gravel, and soft sand to get him to school over an hour away.
The movie just follows each of them on their journey, there’s no commentary or historical reference to fill in. At the end of the movie, the kids talk about how much they love going to school and what they want to be when they grow up. They feel so fortunate to have a school they can go to, that they’re allowed to go to. And my kids were transfixed. We live 17 miles away from the kids’ Montessori school, and there’s no bus so we drive them each day in our warm, safe, comfortable car complete with radio and sometimes even downloaded books to listen to. It takes us about 25 minutes each way. But watching the movie, you could see the wheels turning in their heads. How long it might take them to walk, what difficulties they’d have especially in the snow. How incredibly fortunate we are in so many ways.
It made me think about the last post I wrote, where I was talking about how books are both mirrors and windows for kids, reflecting their own realities sometimes and sometimes showing a glimpse of something entirely different. And I talked about the book Children Just Like Me, A Unique Celebration of Children Around the World. And so after we watched the movie, we pulled out the book and read through.
The book profiles children in all sorts of living situations from each corner of the world. Each page gives us a glimpse into another child’s life, perhaps in the Amazon Rain Forest or in Moscow. We see what their houses look like, what their family looks like, the foods they eat, their favorite toy. Whoa, that Maasai girl lives in a hut, and has two mothers with enormous beaded necklaces! And she loves to play with modeling clay. HEY! I love playing with clay! This little Thai boy is studying to become a Buddhist monk and he likes to eat fish curry and meditate… and he has a kitty and loves soccer just like me! That girl lives in Budapest in a huge apartment building. She has a pet bird and plays the flute, and her favorite food is crepes with chocolate- mine too! We should go make those right now…
I absolutely love this book. In fact, we were in Cincinnati a couple of weeks ago and went to the museum at Union Terminal and in the kids’ section just as they were closing and we were funneling out, we saw an exhibit completely based upon this book! We’ll have to go back next time and devote more time to it because a) it’s totally fascinating learning how people’s day to day lives are both the same and different all over, and b) it’s so important to introduce the kids to different cultures and lands around the world.
Because then they’ll want to go see them. And that’s what I want too.
These aren’t book reviews, per se, but more profiles of the really, really good ones. Recommendations, really, for which I am not compensated. If you’re looking to buy any of them, click on the link in the book title and it will take you to my Amazon affiliate store. Or even better, walk on down to your local independent bookseller and support them. Or of course, your local library.
Also, I’m not sure what’s wrong with the spacing in this format. And I just don’t have it in me to spend all day figuring it out. It bugs me, too. Sorry about that.