I am officially the last person in the country to read Three Cups of Tea. It's not because I wasn't intrigued by the story of Greg Mortenson and his foundation that builds schools for children in mountainous Central Asia, it's just that I never got around to it. There it was, on everyone's reading list, in stacks at my local bookstores, and it looked so Good for Me. By the time I got serious about tackling the book, I felt like I had already read it. Thankfully, two new adaptations for young readers and listeners arrived, and I got my chance to learn the whole story. I'm sorry it took me so long.
In case you are not one of the two million readers who have purchased the original book, Three Cups of Tea is the inspiring story of a mountaineer who was rescued by the people of Korphe, a small village in Pakistan, and the vow he made to bring a school to them. Mortenson's deeply affecting account, co-written with David Oliver Relin, takes the reader from the fundraising efforts to the actual building of the school in Korphe, and eventually to 57 more schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan through his Central Asia Institute and Pennies for Peace.
Two editions of the story have just been released for young readers—a picture book, Listen to the Wind: The Story of Dr. Greg & Three Cups of Tea, and a version for middle-grade readers, Three Cups of Tea: The Young Reader's Edition, adapted by Sarah Thomson. While the longer book, with its excellent glossary and color pictures, will be of interest to older students, especially those who are interested in organizing penny drives at their schools and churches, it's the picture book that wowed me.
Susan L. Roth teams up with Mortenson to create a stunning picture book. Made of fabric, cut paper and found objects, her collages are both childlike and complicated. I have long been a fan of her work, which is the perfect medium for Mortenson's story of a school built with the ingenuity and energy of the mothers, fathers and even the children in Korphe. The first full-page spread shows the villagers smiling out at the readers, eager to read and eager to learn inside a school, not outside using sticks. When the physical work of building the school begins, Roth switches her collages to a different scale: six small panes showing the mothers carrying water to mix the cement, the fathers laying the stones, and the children wedging little stones into the cement. Children, who love to create collages, will be amazed that such complicated pictures can come from just scissors, paper and glue. Photographs of Korphe follow in a four-page scrapbook that will answer the question many kids ask—"is this a true story?" The picture of the Korphe men carrying two-by-fours on their backs for 18 miles and the triumphant flag blowing in the wind in front of the new school will inspire even the most cynical.
Every school looking for a community service project—and every parent who wants to convey the message that one person can change the world—should buy this affecting book. Children love stories about other children, and this one will help American kids understand a part of the world that they know largely through news reports of war and destruction.
Robin Smith cuts paper and fabric with her second-grade
students in Nashville. Copyright 2009 BookPage Reviews.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2008 December #3
In 1993, while climbing one of the world's most difficult peaks, Mortenson became lost and ill, and eventually found aid in the tiny Pakistani village of Korphe. He vowed to repay his generous hosts by building a school; his efforts have grown into the Central Asia Institute, which has since provided education for 25,000 children. Retold for middle readers, the story remains inspirational and compelling. Solid pacing and the authors' skill at giving very personal identities to people of a different country, religion and culture help Mortenson deliver his message without sounding preachy; he encourages readers to put aside prejudice and politics, and to remember that the majority of people are good. An interview with Mortenson's 12-year-old daughter, who has traveled with her father to Pakistan, offers another accessible window onto this far-away and underlines Mortenson's sacrifice and courage. Illustrated throughout with b&w photos, it also contains two eight-page insets of color photos.
The picture book, while close in content to the longer books, is written in the voice of Korphe's children rather than providing Mortenson's view, making it easier for American kids to enter the story. Roth (Leon's Story) pairs the words with her signature mixed-media collage work, this time using scraps of cloth along with a variety of papers. Her work has a welcoming, tactile dimension--readers would want to touch the fabric headscarves, for example. A detailed scrapbook featuring photos from Three Cups of Tea and an artist's note firmly ground the book in fact. A portion of the authors' royalties will benefit the Central Asia Institute. (Jan.)[Page 54]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Gr 6-8--Hiking in the mountains of Pakistan in 1993, Mortenson got lost. He found his way to a small village where the locals helped him recover from his ordeal. While there, he noticed that the students had no building and did all of their schooling out of doors. Motivated to repay the kindness he had received, he vowed to return to the village and help build a school. Thus began his real life's journey. Mortenson's story recounts the troubles he faced in the U.S. trying to raise the money and then in Pakistan, trying to get the actual supplies to a remote mountain location. His eventual success led to another, and yet another, until he established a foundation and built a string of schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Mortenson manages to give the story an insider's feel despite being an outsider himself. His love of the region and the people is evident throughout and his dedication to them stalwart. The writing is lively, if simplistic, and for the most part the story moves along at a fairly quick clip. In this specially adapted edition for young people, new photographs and an interview with Mortenson's young daughter, who often travels with him, have been added.--Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA[Page 123]. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.