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The Carpet Boy's Gift

The Carpet Boy's Gift

by Pegi Deitz Shea

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly
This picture book focuses attention on the plight of young carpet workers in Pakistan, while shedding light on the worldwide issue of child labor. Nadeem and his cousin, Amina, toil in a carpet-weaving factory to pay off family debts, though they long to escape their harsh environment and attend school. The author builds a tale around Iqbal Masih, who is already free by the time Nadeem meets him. Although Shea's prose is more colorful and her characters more fully developed in her Tangled Threads: A Hmong Girl's Story (Children's Forecasts, Sept. 22), the author knowledgeably introduces Nadeem's quandary, outlining the obstacles he faces and the horrible conditions in the factories (e.g., cuts healed with boiling oil, workers coughing up blood and "children, hunched over like barley sacks" at their looms). Inspired by Masih, Nadeem twice organizes fellow child workers to rise up against the unlawful bondage system. He is shackled to his loom after his first attempt, but word of Iqbal's murder inspires a second, this time successful attempt. In an effectively unsettling juxtaposition, Morin (Shy Mama's Halloween) creates a border around watercolor portraits of the children's hopeful faces in their grim setting, with intricate floral and geometric carpet designs. The final scene of the children walking towards their freedom appropriately breaks out of the borders into a full-bleed spread. Endnotes list resources where more can be learned about illegal child labor and how readers can help. Ages 8-11. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
The protagonist of Shea's The Whispering Cloth, a picture book, is Nadeem, a young boy trapped in bonded labor in a carpet factory in contemporary Pakistan. This fictional work pays homage to the life, and untimely death, of a real young hero in the movement against child labor, Iqbal Masih. Following Masih's example, Nadeem gains the courage to lead his cousin Amina and the other children out of the shadow of "Master's" servitude and into the sunlight of freedom. Backmatter includes information on Iqbal Masih's life, the United Nations official list of Rights of the Child, and numerous electronic and print resources for those "who wonder what they can do about child labor." The borders around many of the images reflect the pietra dura stonework seen on mosques and monuments of the region, although in all, given the vividness of color typical of most parts of South Asia, Morin's palette does seem a little pale. There remains as well a nagging concern of whether this is too vast a problem to address within the 32-page confines of a picture book. The story raises many questions, yet the format and the age range it targets allow no room to explore the complexity of possible answers. The scene where Nadeem meets Iqbal, for instance, is both effective and shocking in the tension it creates. It's a remarkable scene, and yet it seems nullified by the obligatory turn of the page. There is always the danger that without a deeper, more textured vivification of context and setting, it might be easy to interpret this book as offering a message about how dreadful things are for kids-in other places. Still, this is a story that deserves to be told, and The Carpet Boy's Gift ought to finda place in curricula concerned with social justice. 2003, Tilbury House, Ages 7 to 10.
—Uma Krishnaswami
Library Journal - Library Journal
Gr 2-5-Inspired by the true story of Iqbal Masih, a boy from Pakistan who fought for the rights of child laborers, this tale follows Nadeem, a youngster who has been forced to work in a carpet factory under inhumane conditions to repay a "loan" made to his parents. His life is changed forever after he meets Iqbal, who informs him of a new law that will enable all children to stop working and attend school. Nadeem eventually gathers the courage to leave the factory along with the other youngsters; tragically, the real Iqbal was shot and killed at age 12 after working to free hundreds of boys and girls like Nadeem. This serious subject matter is handled with intelligence and care, giving young readers enough information to form their own opinions. Lovely, expressive watercolor illustrations, each bordered with a different design typical of woven rugs, perfectly complement the text. Four pages of additional information are appended, including a short biography of Iqbal and numerous references to print and online resources about child labor, the United Nations, and UNICEF.-Sue Morgan, Tom Kitayama Elementary School, Union City, CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
This fictionalized tale featuring a real-life hero addresses the contemporary nightmare of child slavery in the second treatment based on the same subject this year (Iqbal, p. 1310). Nadeem toils in a carpet factory, knotting threads on a loom, to pay back a debt incurred by his desperately poor parents. One day, legendary 12-year-old Iqbal Masih marches past the factory urging the child workers to break away from their illegal bondage. Nadeem tries, but his boss shackles him to the loom-probably for years. Only news of Iqbal's murder inspires Nadeem to try again. He leads the children outside, and an exhilarating illustration shows them in the spacious fresh air. This ending is hopeful, though not fully explained-wouldn't the boss simply bring them back? Watercolor illustrations focus on figures and faces, emphasizing humanity but giving little sense of the actual factory setup and working conditions. Use alongside other materials to flesh out details. (author's note, extensive resources) (Picture book. 8-11)

Product Details

Tilbury House Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
8.90(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.10(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

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