Saturday, January 17, 2015

My Name is Blessing by Eric Walters

"We are each given more of some things and less of others."

My Name Is Blessing is based on the true story of a little boy, Baraka who lives in the Mbooni Region of Kenya in East Africa. In the picture book, a little boy named Muthini, which means suffering, lives with his Nyanya or grandmother and her eight other grandchildren. In Kenya, the name given to a person has important meaning and sadly Muthini's name means suffering. He was given his name by his mother because Muthini was born without fingers on his left hand and only two fingers on his right hand. While his grandmother doesn't seem to notice, Muthini bears the taunts and whispers of children and adults alike. When he questions his grandmother about his missing fingers she tells him that he has other qualities that make up for his lack of fingers. He is smart and she tells Muthini he has a big heart.

Sadly Muthini's grandmother is very poor and feeding and caring for nine grandchildren is difficult at best. So one day she comes to Muthini's school and tells him that they are going on a long walk. During that walk Mumo tells Muthini that she cannot care for him, that she loves him but that she is taking him to another home. That home turns out to be with a man named Gabriel. But Gabriel will only take Muthini on one condition. That condition will mean a huge change in how Muthini thinks about himself and his disability and will influence how others think about him too.

The real Baraka also lives in Kenya at a residential school run by The Creation of Hope an organization which works to meet the needs of the many orphans in the Mbooni District. The Creation of Hope was founded by Canadian author, Eric Walters and the Kyatha family and continues to offer assistance to many young people in Kenya, providing them with housing, the necessities of life and most importantly, an education. Readers can also learn more about The Creation of Hope and Baraka from the note at the back of the picture book titled "Baraka's World" There are plenty of wonderful photographs showing Baraka living at the Rolling Hills Residence.

My Name Is Blessing has colourful illustrations done in acrylic on paper by Eugenie Fernandes which bring to life this touching story about how a name can influence how we see ourselves and how others view us. More importantly My Name Is Blessing is a story about the importance of family and how sometimes love is best shown in hard sacrifices made by those who love us.

Book Details:
My Name Is Blessing by Eric Walters
Toronto: Tundra Books       2013

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