Title: Armando and the Blue Tarp School
Author: Edith Hope Fine and Judith Pinkerton Josephson
Illustrator: Hernan Sosa
Publisher: Lee & Low Books
Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level: 4.9
Concepts: poverty, scarcity, human resources, child schooling, child work
Review: Based on the true story of a former special education teacher who started a school for child trash-pickers in the Tijuana city dump in Mexico, this moving and informative book teaches a number of valuable economics lessons related to poverty, child labor, opportunity cost, and education. The authors do an excellent job communicating the difficult living conditions of the most vulnerable of the poor–children who work rather than go to school and live in shacks alongside the dump. They support their families by picking through trash looking for bottles, cans, clothes, and toys to sell and to use. Not only are the immediate conditions miserable, with the foul smell, heat, noise, and flies, but the longer term prospects of growing up without an education are bleak as well.
Armando, the main character is this book, is one of these children. Yet hope for a different kind of future marches into his life when his parents give him permission to attend a school at the dump that was recently started by Señor David. Armando understands that the decision is not an easy one for his parents, who depend on his income from picking trash. The school consists of little more than a blue tarp spread on the ground and a chalkboard, but it has a teacher and a group of students eager to learn how to read, write, draw, and do math. Armando’s talents with drawing later help to turn new adversity into good fortune for his school.
This book makes a tremendous addition to any collection of children’s literature that focuses on high quality content. With its developing country setting and the story of the real Señor David Lynch at the back, the book is as realistic as it is inspiring.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children