Allison's Book Bag

Twenty-Two Cents by Paula Yoo

Posted on: January 21, 2015

Twenty-Two Cents by Paula Yoo is a literary and visual experience. As an adult, I enjoyed reading this biography of Muhammad Yunus who established the first microbank. In considering whether or not to recommend Twenty-Two Cents for its target audience of children, I also thought a lot about the wide variety of picture books that exist, including those which are intended to be read aloud.

In being a literary and visual experience, Twenty-Two Cents is the perfect example of a mentor text or a good example of writing for students. The narrative is thorough. It starts at Yunus’s childhood when he first noticed the terrible conditions in which the poor lived, covers his college years when he first met the women who were unable to break out of poverty, and finishes with his senior years when he became known as the Banker to the Poor. Yoo’s prose is both inviting and detailed, as seen even from the initial paragraph: “Muhammad’s stomach growled as he and his brothers and sisters watched their mother mix rice flour, sugar, and coconut to create….” As for the pastel chalk illustrations by Jamel Akib, in reflecting both the richness of Bangladesh and the harshness of poverty, they also enhance this unique story.

As an adult, I enjoyed being introduced to an individual whose accomplishments led to him being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Yoo invokes admiration within me for Muhammad Yunus who from a young age felt compassion for those in need. The list of how Yunus provided help is extensive: As a Boy Scout, he raised money for the poor; As a young adult, he studied economics so he could teach people to manage their money; As a college professor, he moved his classes outside to learn how poor villagers managed to survive. Yoo does not skimp on the details of Yunus’s life. If anything, there are times when I’d have appreciated even more anecdotes.

With some reservations, I think that young people will equally enjoy Twenty-Two Cents. As I noted above, reading Yoo’s book inspired me to reflect on what exactly a picture book is. Picture books are most often aimed at young children, but can also be suited for youth and adults. When aimed at young children, the text is often designed to help develop reading skills. The text might be easy enough for independent reading or it might be sophisticated enough that adults will need to read it aloud. The text-heavy pages and challenging vocabulary of Twenty-Two Cents will require adult guidance. Discussions might also ensue about heroes, banks, and other thought-provoking topics.

Twenty-Two Cents provides an engaging look at a relatively unknown hero from Bangladesh who helped change the world. The afterword includes additional information about poverty and the role of microbanks in alleviating it. Several author sources are also provided. This is a text which could inspire adults and students alike to become activists.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

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