'Three Cups of Tea' author shares his story with young readers
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 readersa 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 projectand every parent who wants to convey the message that one person can change the worldshould 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.