Patkau (One Watermelon Seed) offers simple yet soulful digital collages that gracefully supplement Fullerton’s (Libertad) understated storytelling in this book set in a Ugandan village. Nature plays an uplifting role: the opening spread reveals a single sunny poppy at close range, “white in a sea of green”; the early morning sky is ablaze with color; and cows graze peacefully. Yet the shadows cast by war, never mentioned explicitly, are dark: two rifle-wielding soldiers guard fields, and one child has a prosthetic leg. Upon returning from the village well, a boy named Kato peers into an aid worker’s truck that is filled with brightly colored items—Kato knows what they are, but Patkau only gives readers a couple of clues. Kato clearly appreciates what he sees, and he plucks the white poppy to give to the aid worker, who distributes her cargo of new shoes to Kato and other ecstatic children. The double gesture of kindness—the good trade—projects a strong spirit of generosity and gratitude, traits as universal as the appeal of a gift of cool new sneakers. Ages 5–up. (Mar.)
Spirituality & Practice
"Fullerton has written this simple but eloquent account of how giving is a boon to both the giver and the recipient. A wise Chinese proverb says: "A lot of fragrance always clings to the hand of one that gives roses." That is certainly true of Kato. Hats off to Fullerton and illustrator Karen Patkau for this touching African tale about generosity and kindness!"
A Good Trade is an eloquently told, beautifully illustrated, and heartfelt story.
The images and text of A Good Trade complement one another to the point of poetic consistency. The text and the images are both complex and simple: concept easy, content load heavy. The prose is lyrical, playful and inviting to young listeners or readers . . . **Highly Recommended.**
Quill & Quire
There is much more to this gentle story than its obvious message about the hardships faced by others. The juxtaposition of happy children in a war-torn village, and the beautiful exchange between Kato and the aid worker, portray the endurance of childhood innocence, suggesting small joys can be found in imperfect places.
Canadian Children's Book News
The artwork is a perfect match for Fullerton's understated text. Together they provide an enriching insight into one boy's life in a distant country, and the preciousness of peace and goodwill. 'We Recommend'
The White Ravens 2013
"In this deceptively simple and positive story of a little boy's daily life in an African village, readers will discover subtle hints and overt references to the effects of civil war both in the quiet text and the brightly coloured digital illustrations. Thus the book will serve as a wonderful incentive to discuss this serious topic with younger and older children alike."
Sal's Fiction Addiction blog
"The author uses clear prose and descriptive language to make the reader aware of the life that Kato lives...Karen Patkau creates a setting that allows a glimpse at Kato's life and his village, the bright and happy colors that the children wear (including their new shoes) and the muted landscape he travels over daily. Each page captures our attention and begs for discussion...Lovely!"
Pickle Me This blog
"In gorgeous illustrations by Karen Patkau, readers follow Kato, a small boy on his morning route to get water for his family in his small village in Uganda."
Library Media Connection
[Starred review] "A wonderful way to teach children about other countries (in this case, Uganda), cultures and customs...This book will appeal to elementary students because of the vibrant illustrations and the simple story but also to middle school students because of the contrast of cultures...A superb yet, yet simple book."
White Ravens Choices
In this deceptively simple and positive story of a little boy's daily life in an African village, readers will discover subtle hints and overt references to the effects of civil war both in the quiet text and the brightly coloured digital illustrations. Thus the book will serve as a wonderful incentive to discuss this serious topic with younger and older children alike.
A good story to use when discussing life in rural Africa.
CBC Here and Now Recommendations for Children's Books
The message here is clear, but delivered with a soft touch, reminding young readers that not everyone is as fortunate as they are.
The beautiful pictures and the one-sentence-per-page provide great starting points for discussing life in Uganda, world help organizations, and inequity in general.
Children's Literature - Vicki Foote
Kato, a young boy in Uganda, awakes early to begin his daily trek to the village well to fill jerry cans with water. He leaves his village and walks barefoot over the trails past fields that are guarded by soldiers. He passes an aid worker's truck as he carries his cans of water back home. He delights in seeing a single white poppy in his garden. He gives it to the aid worker, who gives him and the other children brand new shoes. The illustration shows that one of the children has lost a leg in the war. The combination of sparse text with appropriate and beautiful illustrations provides a story that has feelings of hope and happiness amid the struggles of the people in this land. The two-page spread for each simple and colorful illustration enhances the dramatic effect. This is a book that an adult could read aloud to children while discussing the implications of the thought-provoking story. It also has additional educational value as it provides an insight into another culture. Reviewer: Vicki Foote
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
In Uganda every day young Kato wakes at dawn to carry two empty jerry cans along a trail to the faraway borehole. There he can fill them with the day's water and wash his dusty, tired feet. Passing the village square on his way home, he notes something special in an aid worker's truck. Back in his garden, he carefully picks a white poppy and takes it to trade at the truck for beautiful brand-new shoes. As he happily dances with his friends, he knows his trip to the borehole will be easier in the future. Horizontal double-page scenes employ color for emotional content. As Kato carries his full cans back on the jacket/cover, velvet smooth clouds ranging from purple to orange and blue are above and behind him; on the ground a variety of green plants, many with fronds, reach for the clouds. Inside, clothing and cans display brighter reds and yellows, some in active fabric patterns, or sparkling on young feet. Soldiers hint of wartime tensions in this simply told story of what a pair of new shoes can mean in a life like Kato's. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 1–3—Kato, a young Ugandan boy, serves his family by filling jerry cans with a day's worth of water each morning. His journey to the borehole takes him down hills, past cattle fields, and by soldiers standing guard. On this particular day, he pauses on his way back into town to peek inside an aid worker's truck and sees that it is filled with shoes. While finishing his chores, he finds a white poppy in the field and picks it for the aid worker who gives the village children new shoes, the "good trade" of the title. The illustrations are bright and geometric, computer-generated but quite textural, appearing almost mixed media. The large images are full of subtle details that show the lifestyle and daily activities common in the small, lush village. The text is spare and poetic and the pictures capture the tone and supply the bulk of the information. Young readers will enjoy this sweet day-in-the-life snapshot.—Jennifer Miskec, Longwood University, Farmville, VA
On his trek to get water for the day, a Ugandan boy sees a treasure in an aid truck, and he finds just the right gift to trade for it. This moving story is so understated that readers and listeners in this country may need some help to understand Kato's situation. For a barefoot boy from a small village in a struggling country, brightly colored new sneakers are a treasure. For an aid worker in a war-torn world, a single flower can give joy. The illustrations, apparently digital collage, spread across two pages, showing the tiny village in a vast countryside. The round houses have conical, thatched roofs; chickens peck in the courtyards. Armed soldiers stand guard at fenced-in cattle pastures. Kato carries his water from a faraway pump, one heavy jerrycan expertly balanced on his head, another hanging from his hand. At the end, he and his friends dance, though one wears his new shoe on the end of a wooden leg. On each spread, a few lines of spare text carry the story in a predictable pattern, a pleasure to read aloud. Page by page, verbs describe Kato's experience as he wakes, skips, races, treks, fills, hauls, dawdles, hurries, runs, kneels, weaves, gives and dances. Expertly crafted, Fullerton's first picture book reminds readers of the pleasure of small things. (Picture book. 5-9)