Review: Bonyo Bonyo: The True Story of a Brave Boy from Kenya
By Tina Vasquez, for The Children’s Book Review
Published: February 7, 2011
By Vanita Oelschlager (Author), Kristin Blackwood and Mike Blanc (Illustrators)
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Paperback: 42 pages
Publisher: Vanita Books (April 1, 2010)
Bonyo Bonyo: The True Story of a Brave Boy from Kenya is a must-read for every American child. In the land of plenty, it’s vital to remind yourself and your children of how lucky they are to live in a country where education is considered a human right. Bonyo Bonyo is the moving story of real life Dr. Bonyo and his dream of becoming a doctor, as told by Bonyo himself to author Vanita Oelschlager.
Despite overcoming extraordinary circumstances and unbelievable hardships, Bonyo’s story is relayed in a way not intended to illicit sympathy. The young boy’s experiences are related rather matter-of-factly, giving the impression that it went without question that Bonyo would do whatever necessary to obtain an education.
Growing up in Western Kenya in a family of struggling farmers, Bonyo enjoyed the simple things in life and was a happy child, but it was the death of his sister when Bonyo was nine that forever changed the path his life would take. Akinyi, Bonyo’s sister, died because his village did not have access to clean water or medical care. From that day forward Bonyo swore that he would grow up to put a hospital in his village to help other children like Akinyi.
The problem was that Bonyo’s family could not afford the dollar it would cost to send him to school that year, but a chance encounter with the principal of a school sends Bonyo on an amazing lifelong journey. Eventually, he would find himself at medical school in Texas with a blanket and $11 in his pocket and years later, he would fulfill his lifelong dream.
Bonyo’s emotional journey is only made more beautiful by the illustrations of Kristin Blackwood and Mike Blanc, whose striking artwork will take your breath away. Portions of the book are in vivid, bold colors, while other portions only feature daring black and white silhouettes— though all of it is amazing.
Vanita Oelschlager’s book dedication is the perfect summation of Bonyo’s story and a reminder of the millions like him “whose dreams brought them to America with the promise they might be fulfilled.”
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