________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 10. . . .January 9, 2009


Mother Teresa's Alms Bowl. (Stories of Great People).

Anita Ganeri. Illustrated by Leighton Noyes & Karen Radford.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2008.
40 pp., pbk. & hc., $11.95 (pbk.), $21.56 (RLB.).
ISBN 978-0-7787-3712-4 (pbk.), ISBN 978-7787-3689-9 (RLB.).

Subject Headings:
Teresa, Mother, 1910-1997-Juvenile fiction.
Missionaries of Charity-Biography-Juvenile fiction.
Nuns-India-Calcutta-Biography-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.

Review by Janice Foster.

***½ /4



"She decided to start her work in the Motijhal slum, which she knew because it was next to her old school of St. Mary's."

"What did she do there?" asked Digby.

"She opened a school for the children," said Mr. Rummage. "Many of them had never been to school before. Often they had to work instead in order to help their families."

"That's terrible," said Hannah, quietly. What was the school like?"


Although the biography genre is a favourite of many adult readers, children will often bypass this genre unless it is assigned in school. This situation poses a challenge for authors of biographies for younger readers as authors must interest and engage readers though a personal connection with the subject of the biography. The "Stories of Great People" series addresses this challenge by incorporating a narrative story line with factual information about the life and times of the subject. The setting is Knicknack Market where Mr. Rummage's "Antiques" stall acquaints Digby, a 10-year-old collector, and his older sister, Hannah, with objects with a story to tell. In Mother Teresa's Alms Bowl, Digby and Hannah discover that a battered bowl is an Indian alms bowl that once belonged to Mother Teresa. With the children's not knowing who Mother Teresa was or the significance of the bowl, the narration of the life of this famous nun begins. Her story is told by both Mr. Rummage and Saffron, a young Indian vendor from the market. The narration, written in a conversational style, is entertaining and should appeal to young readers. This dialogue provides authentic information and helps reveal the inner person of Mother Teresa, together with her thoughts and challenges. The young reader gains further insight into this celebrated woman through the factual information pages and sidebars. The latter, presented in a contrasting format, will captivate the reader while providing historical details that complement the narration. Both the easy-to-read narration and the concise information text allow the reader to understand Mother Teresa as a person and as a historical figure who impacted the lives of others.

      Mother Teresa's Alms Bowl is cleverly formatted so that the narrative is clearly differentiated from the factual information. Author Anita Ganeri's narrative text merges a fictionalized narrative setting with factual dialogue. It is presented against a white background with cartoon style drawings by Leighton Noyes and Karen Radford, drawings which depict the characters of the narration. The factual information is displayed on a coloured patterned background accompanied by photographs, maps and sketches of real objects. A glossary and index are included. Although by no means a definitive biography of Mother Teresa, Mother Teresa's Alms Bowl provides the young reader with a novel style to this genre. The mixture of narration and factual information is motivating and enables the audience to emotionally connect with this person who impacted history. It also provides historical background and cultural information. This book might easily lead the reader to explore further information on this famous individual or to read other books in this genre.

Highly Recommended.

Janice Foster, a freshly retired teacher-librarian, lives in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364
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