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2010 Nominee
Voted 9 out of 20

One Hen

By By Katie Smith Milway . Published in 2008 by Kids Can Press

One Hen is the inspiring story Kojo, a young boy from Ghana, Africa. Kojo and his widowed mother collect firewood to sell. They live:

in a mud-walled house with an open fire for cooking. Beside it is a garden where they grow their own food. They never have much money or much to eat.

The families in Kojo’s village come up with an idea. Each family contributes a small amount of savings so that one family at a time can borrow the money to buy “something important.” Kojo’s mother uses the loan to buy a cart with which to carry firewood to the marketplace as well as rent out to those who need to transport items. His mother allows Kojo to have the “few coins left over” to buy something also. He decides to buy one hen and sell the eggs at the market.

Slowly, slowly, Kojo’s egg money grows. After two months he saves enough to pay his mother back. In four months he has enough to buy another hen. Now Kojo can sell five eggs a week . . .

One year later, Kojo has twenty-five hens. He is able to save enough money to return to school. Eventually he wins a scholarship to an agricultural college where he learns about farming. After college, Kojo starts a poultry farm. Over the years the farm grows—eventually employing villagers.

In an afterword, readers learn that the real Kojo—and inspiration for the story—is Kwabena Darko. Kwabena, like Kojo, lost his father at an early age. With the help of a scholarship, he attended college and later started a poultry business.

As he became successful, he never forgot how important it was to make loans available to people who wanted to start their own businesses, and he knew that banks were nervous about such loans. So he decided to start Sinapi Aba (Mustard Seed) Trust to give out loans. The loans were small, only about $200 each, but they made a big difference. In 2006, Sinapi Aba provided loans to more than 50,000 Ghanaians, mostly for small businesses such as selling fruit or firewood, sewing clothes, baking snacks, transporting goods or raising small livestock, like the hen that Kojo bought . . .Today, Sinapi Aba is part of the global microfinance nonprofit organization Opportunity International.

Milway does an outstanding job taking an adult topic—microlending—and weaving it into a child-friendly tale. The illustrations are equally inspiring. Fernandes’s exuberant, acrylic paintings, done in a rich, colorful pallet, burst off the page. Both text and artwork combine to paint a vivid, moving story of courage, cooperation, and community.

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