One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference by Katie Smith Milway

This is a good selection for African American History month.  This picture book is based on the real life of Kwabena Darko, of Ghana, who like the character in the book, Kojo, got a loan and started a small business.  Mr. Darko started Sinapi Aba Trust, which means “mustard seed” trust, to loan small amounts to people like himself.

One Hen celebrates the accomplishment of reaching a goal, reaching out to others, and giving back to one’s community.  There are text-to-text connections with Lawn Boy by Gary Paulsen, and Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen in that both of these books feature kids starting a small business.

There is a true section about the subject of the book and also a section that talks about microloans with examples of families that have profitted from them.  A glossary is also included.  Each page sums up the story with a phrase similar to the nursery rhyme This is the House that Jack Built.

Cause and Effect:  What is the effect of Kojo starting his poultry farm?  Because Kojo bought the hen and worked so hard, the effect was that he became a productive member of his community and provided 120 jobs for people that helped the village to prosper.  Because Kojo worked so hard and studied, the effect is that his business became a success.

Predicting: Can you make a prediction about what Adika will do if her grain mill is successful and she is able to earn more money than she needs for her basic needs?  I am predicting that she will try to learn more about her business by going to a trade school or college.

Inference:  What can we infer about the way the villagers feel about one another since they want to pay the loans back so another family can borrow it?  I am inferring that they care about each other.

Drawing Conclusions: What evidence from the story supports the conclusion that because Kojo worked hard, he became a successful productive contributing member of his society?  He bought the hen, picked up scraps of fruit and grain from the ground after market days to feed it, did not eat all of the eggs so he could sell some, saved his money, bought more hens, bought uniform and books so he could go to school, went to trade school to learn more, continued to build his business by borrowing more money to make his farm larger, hired people from his village to work for him.

Drawing Conclusions: Kojo goes by Lumo’s house last on his way home because he enjoys being there. Evidence which supports this is that Lumo knew his father, Kojo likes to hear Lumo’s stories about his father, Kojo likes Lumusi’s food, and Kojo likes to hear Lumusi’s stories about her students.

Internal Consistency: Knowing what we know of Kojo, do you think Kojo would ever refuse to pay his workers or be mean to them?

See the author’s comments below 🙂


One thought on “One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference by Katie Smith Milway

  1. Katie Smith Milway, author

    I am really thrilled that you see the connections between One Hen and African American history month. We have Kojos in our midst in America, and Kojos abroad that, with the proceeds of a good day at our lemonade stands, we can help. (did you know a chicken in Ghana costs just $2?) If our kids can develop an entrepreneurial, financially literate vision for their lives alongside a spirit of giving back, we have much to hope for.

    I did want to correct just two impressions, though.
    1) Darko (the real Kojo) did not found Opportunity International. He founded a Ghanain nonprofit – Sinapi Aba, which later became a local branch of Opportunity International, which is a global microfinance nonprofit based in Chicago. Today Darko is on the board of Opportunity.
    2) Elementary school attendance in Ghana is free, just like in the US, but because the schools have very few resources compared to ours, children need to pay for their own books and uniforms (almost all public schools require uniforms). This cost alone prevents many, poor children from attending.

    Thanks teachers, for all you do to help kids hatch their dreams,
    Katie Smith Milway, author, One Hen

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