The true story of a six year old who built a well halfway around the world and his life-changing friendship with a Ugandan boy.
Shoveller's (Ryan's great-uncle) text-heavy narrative relays the inspiring story of a Canadian boy's efforts to build a well in a Ugandan village and how that campaign spawned additional successful ventures (see Children's Bookshelf, Oct. 19). In 1998, Ryan learned from his first-grade teacher about the lack of safe drinking water in many parts of the world and performed chores to raise the $70 that his teacher told him would finance a well to supply an African village with clean water. When the people at WaterCan (who help provide safe water in poor countries), however, told Ryan that his $70 would only purchase a hand pump for a well, the determined boy stepped up his efforts and inspired an entire community to help raise the full $2,000 necessary. Soon thereafter, Ryan's teacher matched up her students with pen pals in Uganda. Here, the narrative shifts to Jimmy, Ryan's pen pal from the village where Ryan's well would be built. Ryan and Jimmy eventually met in 2000, when Ryan and his parents traveled to Uganda for the well's ceremonial opening. The overwrought, workmanlike text may be off-putting to some readers ("There's an interesting picture of this day in school in which Ryan's blond head pops up in the middle of a sea of studious black faces," reads a passage near the aforementioned photo). Yet the book's triumphant can-do message will keep most turning the pages. Ages 8-12.