Thursday, February 25, 2021

Review - Where Children Sleep

Where Children Sleep

by James Mollison
Date: 2010
Publisher: Chris Boot
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book non-fiction
Pages: 116
Format: hardcover
Source: library

“Where Children Sleep” presents English-born photographer James Mollison’s large-format photographs of children’s bedrooms around the world—from the U.S.A., Mexico, Brazil, England, Italy, Israel and the West Bank, Kenya, Senegal, Lesotho, Nepal, China and India—alongside portraits of the children themselves. Each pair of photographs is accompanied by an extended caption that tells the story of each child: Kaya in Tokyo, whose proud mother spends $1,000 a month on her dresses; Bilal the Bedouin shepherd boy, who sleeps outdoors with his father’s herd of goats; the Nepali girl Indira, who has worked in a granite quarry since she was three; and Ankhohxet, the Kraho boy who sleeps on the floor of a hut deep in the Amazon jungle.

Photographed over two years with the support of Save the Children (Italy), “Where Children Sleep” is both a serious photo-essay for an adult audience, and also an educational book that engages children themselves in the lives of other children around the world. Its cover features a child’s mobile printed in glow-in-the-dark ink.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

After I read and reviewed Gregg Segal's Daily Bread: What Kids Eat Around the World, this book was recommended to me by a Goodreads friend. While I can't say that I liked Where Children Sleep as much, I'm not sorry I read it (though I doubt I'd ever pick it up again).

Unfortunately, this is a very depressing children's book. Focussing on the extreme ends of the economic spectrum, the book shows us children either living in squalor or residing in privileged (or spoiled) excess. There's not a lot in between, and I—having grown up squarely in the middle class—found it difficult to relate to any of the children. The photos don't help. I'm not sure if it's the lighting or a particular filter that was used, but there's a distinct post-apocalyptic feel to the photographs that I do not like. Even the mansion bedrooms look dark and dingy, and I wouldn't be surprised to open the curtains and see something out of a nightmare.

As an adult, I found this to be a fascinating—if sometimes horrifying—read. This book is supposedly aimed at children, but I would definitely suggest parental guidance as there are some disturbing images and text (though, thankfully, not always together). I'm thinking mainly of the children in Kenya who must go through circumcision as teenagers (without crying out, so as to not bring shame on their families), the little girl who works in a quarry, and the girl who sleeps in an attic prison in her employer's home (the sleeping space even has bars). These things could be confusing and frightening for an eight-year-old (which is where the recommended reading age begins).

I do appreciate the fact that more ground was covered in Where Children Sleep than in Daily Bread. However, the offerings were still pretty sparse and an opportunity was missed to show children of different levels of privilege in more familiar places. Where are all the aboriginal children? Entries from places such as Canada and Australia wouldn't have been that difficult to create, and would have provided some good information to children who live in those countries but might not know that much about how their neighbours live. Unfortunately, I've yet to see a book in this genre that has a really diverse selection of children.

The premise is good. The information (and the writing it's presented with) is decent. I'm not a fan of the photographic style, but your mileage may vary. This is an important book that highlights the living conditions of some children in our world... but I'd be hesitant to give it to actual children unless a parent is going to sit down and read/discuss it with them.

Premise: 4/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 2/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.83 out of 5

No comments:

Post a Comment