Saturday, 23 August 2014

Listen to the Wind: Collage and Life Lessons!

A Review By: Amelia

I’m a very empathetic soul. I am, in fact, so empathetic that sometimes all it takes for me to get all choked up and teary eyed is a touching commercial. Now, you’d think someone stuffed full of as much empathy as me would avoid sappy things like the plague, but you’d be wrong. Sometimes I actively seek out things that I know will tug on my heart strings. It’s how I found the kid’s book Listen to the Wind. It’s the story of how one man changed the lives of thousands of kids and if that’s not enough to make you teary-eyed just thinking about it, I don’t know what is!

Greg Mortenson stumbled, lost and delirious, into a remote Himalayan village after a failed climb up K2. The villagers saved his life, and he vowed to return and build them a school. The story of Listen to the Wind is about how he kept his promise. It’s told in the voice of the village children, and illuminates the humanity and culture of a relevant and distant part of the world.

Greg Mortenson is the co-founder of non-profit Central Asia Institute, Pennies For Peace, and co-author of New York Times bestseller ‘Three Cups of Tea’ which has been published in 39 countries, and a New York Times bestseller for three years since its January 2007 release. Of course, there has been some drama concerning the man’s charities. Mortenson got into some trouble a few years back about misspending his charities’ money and, although no criminal misuse (fraud) was found and he was cleared of all charges, he had to make one million dollars of restitutions for bad book-keeping and step down from being involved with CAI (Central Asia Institute). All that doesn’t necessarily make him a bad man, but it is information that should be known before you decide to check out this book!

The illustrator and co-author of the piece is Susan L. Roth and she’s been involved with young peoples’ literature for most of her career with forty books under her belt. Roth’s primary artistic medium is collage.

The whole point of this little story is about how one person really can make a difference and that communities working together can create a lot of good. Whether or not you admire Mortenson (or had admired him before his book-keeping scandal) it’s still a great story to tell kids as its lessons of charity and the importance of education are universal no matter who you are. A story like this will help kids feel closer to children in other parts of the world, and will help them develop into a more empathetic soul.

The artwork in Listen to the Wind is mixed media, collage style art which Roth is primarily known for. Roth
used a variety of materials to create the colourful collages on each page. An artist's note in the back explains that Roth was inspired by actual artifacts from the region, in which nothing ever goes to waste. A woman's hat was “…like a sculpture of cloth fragments, bright colored yarn and metal accents.” It’s a beautiful and very striking style and the materials used for the mixed media collages make you feel like you can actually feel the soft clothes of the clothing or rough texture of the terrain.

My final thoughts on Listen to the Wind are that it’s a cute little book. Both Mortenson and Roth are respectful of the culture and Roth’s collage art is beautiful. The story will help kids become more world aware and maybe give them a little spark for charity. Don’t focus on Mortenson’s bad business decisions if you ever stumble upon this book, there are many good things still to be found in Listen to the Wind besides that! 

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