Wednesday, December 10, 2014

BLOG TOUR & GIVEAWAY: Twenty-two Cents by Paula Yoo


From a young age, Muhammad Yunus was drawn to helping those in need.  As a Boy Scout, he raised money for the poor.  As a young man, he studied economics so he could teach people to manage their money.  As a university professor in Bangladesh, he moved his classes outside to learn how poor villagers managed to survive.  It was there that Yunus met a young craftswoman who needed just twenty-two cents to buy materials and feed her family.  Ignored by local banks and in debt to moneylenders, she existed in a cycle of poverty.

With a dream of a world in which no one goes hungry, Yunus launched Grameen Bank in 1977.  The bank was based on the idea of microcredit, which allows people to borrow very small amounts of money at low interest rates and eventually lift themselves out of poverty.  Ever since, Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Banks around the globe have been changing the lives of millions of people for the better.

Twenty-two Cents is an inspiring story of economic innovation and a celebration of how one visionary person--like one small loan--can make a positive difference in the lives of many.


Paula Yoo is an author and a screenwriter whose books for young readers have been recognized by the International Reading Association, the American Library Association, the Texas Library Association, and the National Council for the Social Studies, among many others.  Yoo has also been a television writer for The West Wing and Tru Calling, as well as a professional violinist and a violin teacher for underprivileged children.

Yoo's latest book, Twenty-Two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank was released in September 2014 from Lee & Low Books.  This nonfiction  picture book introduces young readers to Nobel Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus, who founded the Grameen Bank and developed the innovative concept of microcredit to help the world's poorest citizens break out of the cycle of poverty.  "I felt children should know that peace can be achieved in many different ways, including financial responsibility and self-reliance," Yoo says.

School Library Journal says, "[The] story of a true hero of the modern world will resonate with students," and Publishers Weekly says, "Yoo makes the significance of Yunus's contributions understandable, relevant, and immediate."

Yoo's other books include the IRA Notable nonfiction picture book biographies Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story, which won the Lee & Low New Voices Award, and Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story, which also won the 2010 Carter G. Woodson Award from the National Council for the Social Studies.

Yoo is currently a producer for the Amazon show Mozart in the Jungle.  She and her husband live in Los Angeles, California with their three cats.


Jamel Akib is the illustrator of several picture books, including Lee & Low's Bringing Asha Home and Tan to Tamarind.  He began working for the London Observer newspaper while still a student at art school.  Since then his award-winning artwork has also appeared in numerous museum and gallery shows in England, including several Best of British Illustration exhibitions.

Akib's latest book, Twenty-two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank, was released in September 2014 from Lee & Low Books.  This book is an inspiring story of economic innovation and a celebration of how one person--like--one small oan--can make a positive difference in the lives of many.  Akib calls Muhammad Yunus an "inspirational man," and felt that "[Yunus's] colorful character, as well as the colors of Bangladesh would make wonderful images."

Publishers Weekly says "Akib's grainy, jewel-toned chalk pastels contrast a sense of scarcity and deprivation with one of warmth and humanity," and Kirkus Reviews calls Akib's artwork "unforgiving and exhilarating."

Akib lives with his family in Salisbury, England.  You can learn more about him at


I was really excited when I heard about this book.  I'd heard about microlending before, but didn't know the whole story.  I felt truly inspired after reading this book, inspired by a man who used the opportunities that he'd had in his life to help others.  What I especially love about the whole concept of lending small amounts to the poor is that it helps where help is the most needed, and it helps the poor pull themselves out of poverty rather than creating a system of dependence.  Paula Yoo does a fabulous job in telling the story of Muhammad Yunus, giving the reader a brief overview of his life and explaining what lead him to do what he did.  She truly shows the reader the experiences that touched Yunus's life rather than simply telling, and the illustrations wonderfully compliment those stories.  I also loved the emphasis on how one person can make a difference in someone's life, even with a contribution as seemingly small as twenty-two cents. A very valuable book and one I think everyone should read.

by Paula Yoo

Recently, there’s been a lot of talk about the need for improved diversity in children’s literature. As there should be. Why?

The statistics say it loud and clear: “From 1994 to 2012, only 10 percent of children’s books in the past 18 years contained multicultural content. And yet 37% of the U.S. population are people of color.” (From “The Diversity Gap in Children’s Books” report by Lee & Low Books.)

Social media says it loud and clear: Just look at the thousands of viral hashtag posts on Twitter for the social media campaign of #WeNeedDiverseBooks (

Controversy says it loud and clear: An unfortunate and racist “watermelon joke” made by Lemony Snicket author Daniel Handler about Jacqueline Woodson marred what was supposed to be a joyous occasion at the 2014 National Book Awards ceremony honoring her award-winning book, BROWN GIRL DREAMING. Handler quickly owned up to his mistake and donated money to the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. Woodson wrote a powerful essay on the incident in the New York Times:

But on a personal level, I wanted to share with you the long-term and nuanced effects that the lack of diversity in children’s literature can have on our children. 

When I was a child, I was your classic bookworm. I DEVOURED books. I read all the time. I read so much that I developed near-sightedness and had to get glasses by the third grade. My favorite books included such classics as E.B. White’s CHARLOTTE’S WEB and Louisa May Alcott’s LITTLE WOMEN (to this day, two of my all-time favorite books). And as a child of the ‘70s, I was also obsessed with the books AND TV series of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE books. To this day, I still treasure all the books I read as a child.

However… I did not read many books that featured a diverse child character. Every main child character was white. As for an Asian American main character? Nope. Never saw one when I was a child.

How did this affect me as a child? I have some visual proof.

Below are some photographs I took on my iPhone of drawings I drew when I was I in kindergarten. The drawings start off depicting me as a princess with my Korean black hair. There’s even a drawing of me playing my violin for my friends. There are also pictures of my parents with black hair. This was how I identified myself. As a child who was American but with a Korean heritage.

But once I started to read voraciously, here is what happened to the drawings I drew as a child.

I no longer wanted black hair. I no longer wanted to be Korean American.

I wanted to be white.

I started drawing pictures of myself as a blonde-haired princess. That was how I wanted to see myself. I wanted to look like the characters I was reading about. Because no one in these worlds looked like me. Which meant I didn’t belong. And I wanted to belong.

The change in how I viewed myself is heartbreaking. I had no idea how to identify with my racial and ethnic heritage because the only role models I saw were non-diverse characters. THIS is the real effect behind the lack of diversity in children’s literature.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I think this last drawing says it loud and clear. WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS.


1 print copy of the book (Thanks to the publisher!)
US Only

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this blog post! I love Paula Yoo! She is one of my favorite people and a fantastic writer! Can we shout it any louder? #weneeddiversebooks!!!!


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