Smile! by Geraldine McCaughrean
Published by Oxford University
Flash, a professional photographer, is rescued from the wreckage
of his plane by brother and sister, Olu and Sutira. They bring
him back to their remote desert village where he soon discovers
that their people have never seen a photograph. He has managed
to salvage a polaroid camera from the crash with ten shots left
and decides to share the “great magic” of photography
with the villagers but which ten shots to take?
Flash finds he enjoys playing the magic maker of
pictures and snaps the village cow, a group of young warriors,
village beauty, who to Flash’s western eyes is anything but,
a dying child and other scenes of village life. As he takes these
photographs, making his fair share of funny mistakes on the way,
his cultural prejudices begin to fall away.
All too soon just one shot remains and Flash is surprised to find
himself sad at the thought of leaving the village and its people.
He is touched when the village elder requests that the last shot
be a picture of Flash himself, but just as he is about to take
his final photograph, a dog grabs the camera and Flash, giving
chase, is lead back to the crash site where his rescuers are waiting
for him. They tell him that he must have imagined the village as
there is nothing but desert and landmines in that area.
This book is suitable for 9-12 year olds, although the black and
white renderings of the ten photographs make it accessible to even
younger readers, as does the simple language and the short length
of the book. And such is the engaging story that its important
themes of tolerance, common humanity and cultural appreciation
are not forced in any way.
A “thoughtful and luminous tale of cultural differences” The
Geraldine McCaughrean is one of twenty authors
featured in the Clare County Library Children’s Summer
Reading Challenge 2005. Ask in your local branch library for
Children's Book of the Month
Children's Books of the Month