In a Cloud of Dust is a picture book that explores realities of life and school in Tanzania from a child’s perspective. Anna is very focused on school. She tries to complete her school work during lunch time because it will be too dark to finish it once she returns home. Because of this focus, she misses going outside when her teacher calls the students to go out. A man has arrived with a truck that says “Bicycle Library.” Students who are outside when the truck arrives receive bicycles but, by the time Anna gets there, the bikes are all gone. Anna hides her disappointment and helps her friends learn how to ride their bikes. One of Anna’s friends, Mohammad, gives her a ride home on his new bicycle. When they arrive at Mohammad’s house, he is kind enough to tell Anna to continue her journey using the bicycle, and to pick him up in the morning on her way to school. This allows Anna a chance to raise her own cloud of dust.
Fullerton notes that in Tanzania and other parts of Africa, there are still millions of people who cannot afford transportation. In these ‘stranded’ communities, children have to walk several hours to and from school because their families cannot afford bicycles.
Some NGOs donate bicycles and open bicycle libraries where children can sign out a bicycle. In a Cloud of Dust lists organizations in North America that donate bicycles to Africa. I was excited to see that Bicycles for Humanity Canada has a branch in my own community. Learning more about these organizations and doing fundraising in your classroom could be great book extensions for intermediate students.
In a Cloud of Dust demonstrates kindness and the idea of paying it forward. The message in the book is terrific and can be embedded throughout the curriculum, specifically focusing on equality, citizenship and social justice. This book would be appropriate for junior and intermediate levels.
Lindsay Freedman is a member of the Peel Teacher Local.