Selavi, That Is Life: A Haitian Story of Hope

Overview

“Not so long ago and not so far away, people with guns could take a family, burn a house and disappear, leaving a small child alone in the world.” So begins the true story of Selavi, a small boy who finds himself on the streets of Haiti. Selavi finds other street children who share their food and a place to sleep with him. Together they proclaim a message of hope through murals and radio programs.

Youme is an artist and activist who has worked with communities in Kenya, Japan, Haiti and Cuba to make art which ...

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Overview

“Not so long ago and not so far away, people with guns could take a family, burn a house and disappear, leaving a small child alone in the world.” So begins the true story of Selavi, a small boy who finds himself on the streets of Haiti. Selavi finds other street children who share their food and a place to sleep with him. Together they proclaim a message of hope through murals and radio programs.

Youme is an artist and activist who has worked with communities in Kenya, Japan, Haiti and Cuba to make art which honors personal and cultural wisdom. Edwidge Danticat, Haitian author, adds an essay to Selavi.

A homeless boy on the streets of Haiti joins other street children, and together they build a home and a radio station where they can care for themselves and for other homeless children. Includes sections with factual information about Haiti.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Beautiful illustrations using watercolor, photographs, collage, and techniques like batik make vivid Sélavi’s life…A strong message of caring for the children and for each other rings through the kinds of sorrows too many children face in the world." —Kirkus Reviews

"This is a true tale of children who face some of life's cruelest obstacles. It is both moving and engaging…This is an excellent choice not only for the intended audience, but also for anyone who cares about others."—Children's Literature

"The book’s animating belief that people can come together as 'a mighty river' of change and caring is genuinely inspiring. Photographs from the actual orphanage and an essay by Haitian author Edwidge Danticat make for a compelling closing statement. "—Publishers Weekly

"A mix of full spreads and small, carefully sequenced illustrations that are varied in scale and tone helps tell the story. Photographs and lengthy endnotes from Landowne and Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat provide valuable background information…Useful in communities that serve Haitian-Americans, and libraries in which children are exploring issues of social justice." —School Library Journal

"Through the story of one Haitian child, this stirring picture book puts a human face on news images and tells of young people caught up in the terror of war at home." —Booklist

"In view of recent events, this story of the struggle of Haitian ‘street’ children is especially timely and poignant…This relevant story of hope is not to be missed and is an excellent addition to any youth collection." —Baker and Taylor's Cats Meow

"A true story with a positive message that vividly presents the poignant difficulties street children face in daily life." —Midwest Book Review

Publishers Weekly
Youme, an artist and activist, makes a powerful debut with this true story of Port-au-Prince's street children. As one of many orphaned or homeless boys and girls in war-torn Haiti, Selavi (so named for a Kreyol expression he uses, meaning "that's life"), ekes out an existence searching for scraps, doing odd jobs and avoiding the military police. Youme's experience as a community muralist informs every picture-her work emits a streetwise sense of lyricism and urgency. The palette darkens with acts of violence, and lightens to reflect images of hope. In one spread, the police stare out at readers while scenes of murder and destruction are reflected in their black sunglasses; a motif that incorporates tanks and broken hearts frames the image. Ultimately, Selavi succeeds in rallying a group of adults to build an orphanage and, later, a radio station, from which the boy and his compatriots advocate for their welfare ("We will write our messages in the air where they cannot be painted out"). The book lays out the realities, however, explaining that the children are plagued by political callousness even as "they continue to struggle." But the book's animating belief that people can come together as "a mighty river" of change and caring is genuinely inspiring. Photographs from the actual orphanage and an essay by Haitian author Edwidge Danticat make for a compelling closing statement. Ages 5-up. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
This is a true tale of children who face some of life's cruelest obstacles. It is both moving and engaging. The story of a little boy and other homeless children living on the streets in Haiti is told without pretense or flowery words. Violence, death, or poverty has left each child with no one to care. Without any family, Sélavi lives with children like himself until angry men in uniforms run them off. He flees to a church where he hears a man speaking to the people. "Alone we may be a single drop of water, but together we can be a mighty river." The truism becomes the theme for this story. Through the charity of the church people and by working together, the children eventually have a home and begin a radio station. Today the station is still staffed and operated by children and used to tell others of their plight. They have, indeed, become a mighty river. The author displays colorful illustrations and black and white photographs of young ones who continue to benefit from the courage of the first orphans. She rounds out the picture by incorporating a concise history of the beautiful, but tumultuous Haiti. An essay by a young woman who has risen above her own humble beginnings to become a published author adds substance to the Haitian story. This is an excellent choice not only for the intended audience, but also for anyone who cares about others. 2004, Cinco Puntos Press, Ages 4 to 8.
—Francine Thomas
School Library Journal
Gr 1-4-Landowne uses softly rendered, uncluttered pictures and simple text to tell the story of a homeless boy and his friends. The book opens with S lavi's evocative words, "Not so long ago and not so far away, people with guns could take a family, burn a house and disappear, leaving a small child alone in the world." He joins other children living on the streets of Port-au-Prince and helping one another survive until repressive authorities force them to seek protection at a church meeting. Even the orphanage set up to help them proves unsafe when their murals are destroyed and their new home is burned down. Despite all the difficulties, the children continue to speak out about their needs, eventually establishing a radio station in a rebuilt orphanage. The book deals with complex issues over an extended period of time, so some story transitions are short on details. What does come through are the feelings of fear, anger, and solidarity that bind the youngsters together. A mix of full spreads and small, carefully sequenced illustrations that are varied in scale and tone helps tell the story. Photographs and lengthy endnotes from Landowne and Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat provide valuable background information. S lavi offers a realistic view of children whose lives are sometimes disconcerting and sometimes hopeful. It will be useful in communities that serve Haitian-Americans, and libraries in which children are exploring issues of social justice.-Barbara S. Wysocki, Cora J. Belden Library, Rocky Hill, CT Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The street children of Haiti-abandoned because their families were killed, their homes destroyed, or simply because there were too many in their households-found each other on the streets of Port-au-Prince. Through the story of a boy named Selavi, readers learn of a shelter for such children, built and destroyed and then built again, of murals to spread the word, of a children's radio station, Radyo Timoun, where, "We will write our messages in the air where they cannot be painted out." Beautiful illustrations using watercolor, photographs, collage, and techniques like batik make vivid Selavi's life. He and others are real, as Danticat's essay indicates, and their home and the radio station may now be abandoned as Haiti surrenders to unrest. A strong message of caring for the children and for each other rings through the kinds of sorrows too many children face in the world. (Picture book/nonfiction. 6-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780938317845
  • Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press
  • Publication date: 4/15/2004
  • Pages: 40
  • Age range: 6 - 9 Years
  • Lexile: AD660L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.30 (w) x 10.30 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author


Mali Under the Night Sky is Youme's third book. Her first book--Selavi, A Haitian Story of Hope--won the Jane Adams Peace Award in 2005. The American Library Association chose her next book--a graphic novel called Pitch Black--as a Top Ten Graphic Novel for Teens in 2009. Mali Under the Night Sky is Youme's third book. Her first book--Selavi, A Haitian Story of Hope--won the Jane Adams Peace Award in 2005. The American Library Association chose her next book--a graphic novel called Pitch Black--as a Top Ten Graphic Novel for Teens in 2009.
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2005

    Personal and deep

    This book is wonderful! From the look of the cover, I wasn't sure what to expect, except perhaps some pointless children's story with talking animals, but instead, I was greeted with an understatement. 'Sélavi' is a truly inspirational story. Briefly, Youme described the crimes of the government against the repressed peoples of Haiti, leaving out the gruesome details, keeping the story clean for children. Though vague in writing, the illustrations make up with vibrant colors and images that arouse feelings deep within oneself. The story of Sélavi is very sad, and really makes the reader ponder his own actions, and his own gratefulness for what he has. I've never looked at the world the same way again.

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