Wednesday, June 15, 2022

The Cedarville Shop and the Wheelbarrow Swap

Krone, Bridget. The Cedarville Shop and the Wheelbarrow Swap
June 14th 2022 by Catalyst Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Boipelo lives in Cedarville, a small village in South Africa. Since the local cheese factory shut down, it's hard for people to find work. His father often travels long distances to take jobs in order to support him and his grandmother. Boi is lucky enough to go to school with his best friend, Potso. The two aren't fond of their homes, which are two room structures built in the 1990s by the government. When reading foreign magazines to his grandmother, who struggles with vision issues, Boi gets a glimpse of what like is like in other places, and learns about Kyle McDonald, a Canadian who managed to trade a paperclip for other items that eventually ended up with a new house for him in 20006. Boi wants to try this, but he and Potso have little to thei names. Boi makes a clay cow from river clay and trades it for a two liter bottle of soda at the local store. His trades are sometimes hampered by his desire to help people, and don't always go as well as he would like. When he tries to trade a chicken for a DVD set, his attempts at cooking it fail, so he doesn't have either the chicken or the DVDs to trade. Luckily, he has gotten some media coverage for his attempts to change his circumstances, and while he is working odd jobs to make money to replace the chicken and start trading again, he gets some news that improves life not only for him but for many people in his village. 
Strengths: The details of every day life in a village in South Africa are fascinating. Boi talks very matter-of-factly about the sorts of things he eats (porridge with sour milk), the kinds of activities he and Potso do, and what life is like for the other people in Cedarville. There is a young mother who has to travel long distances to work and has to leave her young daughter at day care, several elderly locals who struggle with health issues, and local business owners who are struggling to hold on. The reasons behind his attempts to trade his cow for various items so he can get a new home are realistically protrayed, and the fact that things didn't quite go to plan but ended up fairly well was heartwarming. There are funny parts to the story, a bit of romance with Boi's crush, Sesi, and a lot of examples of people working together for the good of their community, which was good to see. Even though some of the circumstances seem dire to a Western mindset, they are all portrayed in a neutral light-- this is just the way things are. It's hard to describe; some books paint dire circumstances as overly rosy, and point out that people can persevere even when things are terrible, and others paint them as just endlessly bad, but this lays out the realities of Boi's life, shows how he copes with them, and details his attempts to try to change them. There are no saviors, but there are people who help him along the way, and there are some small steps to imporved living conditions because of Boi's efforts. 
Weaknesses: Ms. Krone is not Black, and it would be great to see stories written by and about Black South Africans. We are starting to see a few such stories coming to the US, like Nwaubani's Nigerian Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree, Ochieng's Kenyan Playing a Dangerous Game and Ghanaian writer Beatie's Crossing the Stream, but there are still not enough. It's difficult to get titles from other parts of the world, so while we are waiting for more Black African writers to be represented, I think that Krone's work is well done and researched. One of our 7th grade language arts teachers does a study of Noah's Born a Crime, so Small Mercies has been a popular title with her students, in order to see more examples of life in South Africa. 
What I really think: This is an interesting look at everyday life in South Africa that will be relevatory to my suburban US readers who often don't know what life is like in other parts of the world. Definitely purchasing, and checking to see if this publisher has other titles I need to know about. 
 Ms. Yingling

No comments:

Post a Comment