April 13, 2017

The Banana-Leaf Ball

Written by Katie Smith Milway
Illustrated by Shane W. Evans
Kids Can Press
978-1-77138-331-8
32 pp.
Ages 8-12
April 2017

Most picture books are thirty-two pages in length but packing a story that includes escape from war, near starvation, separation from family, life in a refugee camp, and troubles with gangs into those few pages is an accomplishment.  The Banana-Leaf Ball’s story has all of that and even reconciliation and hope for the future.
From The Banana-Leaf Ball 
by Katie Smith Milway 
illus. by Shane W. Evans
When Deo Rukundo and his family are driven from their farm by war in Burundi, the child becomes separated from them.  Rescued by a fisherman, Deo is taken to Lukole, a refugee camp in Tanzania.  The camp which is not dissimilar from a village with a marketplace and school also has limited resources like water and food and the presence of gangs.  Deo tries to avoid Remy, a gang leader, who steals and bullies but especially after Remy  steals some of Deo’s carefully worked banana twine for the banana-leaf ball he makes and hides away.  When a man arrives with a coveted leather soccer ball and puts the teams into Shirts and Skins to encourage a game,  Deo is made a captain and Remy is on his team.  With a little teamwork and a lot of encouragement, all the boys, Deo and Remy included, are able to put away their differences and learn a bit about playing soccer, making banana-leaf balls, and becoming friends.
From The Banana-Leaf Ball 
by Katie Smith Milway 
illus. by Shane W. Evans
The Banana-Leaf Ball is Kid Can Press’ newest addition to its CitizenKid series of books and Katie Smith Milway’s fourth book in the series. Like its predecessors, it’s a story of empowerment that comes from dire circumstances but told in terms of the children who rise above.  Though most young readers will have no first-hand knowledge of being driven out of their homes by war and separated from family, as well as living in a refugee camp, many will understand the conflict with a peer that pervades daily existence.  The message that play and sport can override that conflict and provide the basis for inclusiveness is a positive one that children the world over need to know.  To further that message, The Banana-Leaf Ball includes notes about the real Deo and an amazing section called “How Kids are Learning to Trust and Include Others” which includes links to relevant organizations and descriptions of games to foster working together.
From The Banana-Leaf Ball 
by Katie Smith Milway
 illus. by Shane W. Evans
Award-winning American illustrator Shane W. Evans (Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom, We March, and The Way a Door Closes) who primarily works in pen and ink and oils with computer lends a simple power to the story.  The illustrations are weighty but energetic with the strife of escape and bustle of life in a refugee camp.  Colour and shape and even size help convey Deo’s situation, dark and shadowy when escaping and isolated, while bright and larger, coming to life when playing soccer.

Through words and art, The Banana-Leaf Ball continues to fulfil CitizenKid’s mandate of inspiring global citizenship but, by basing it on a true story, it also demonstrates the potential for good to come from bad and the importance of empathy, teamwork and resilience to further that good.


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Check out Kids Can Press' book trailer for this new book:

The Banana-Leaf Ball - A New CitizenKid Book
Uploaded to YouTube by KidsCanPressMovies on March 28, 2017.

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