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Children's Fiction Africa

A Good Trade

by (author) Alma Fullerton

illustrated by Karen Patkau

Pajama Press Inc.
Initial publish date
Apr 2020
Africa, Homelessness & Poverty, Values & Virtues
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2020
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2020
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2012
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 4 to 8
  • Grade: k to 3


When an aid worker brings a life-changing gift to Kato's Ugandan village, he finds something beautiful to give her in return

In a small Ugandan village, Kato wakes early to start the long, barefoot trek beyond his village and along fields dotted with cattle and guarded by soldiers. His destination is the village well, where he will pump a day's supply of water into two jerry cans. Like every day, Kato lets the water splash over his hot tired feet before carrying his heavy load back home, where his chores await him. But this is no ordinary day. The aid worker's truck has come to the village square, and in the back is a gift so special, the little boy rushes home to look for something to repay the aid worker.

Alma Fullerton's spare, lilting prose tells a deceptively simple story of one day in a little boy’s life. But in a place ravaged by a generation of civil war and drought, a village well brings life, a gift of shoes is a cause for celebration, and a simple flower becomes an eloquent symbol of peace and gratitude.

About the authors

Alma Fullerton was born in Ottawa Ontario, as one of seven children. Her dad was in the military so they moved when his postings changed, first to Trenton when she was two, then to Comox when she was twelve. Being dyslexic, she couldn’t read until grade four and didn’t enjoy reading at all until grade nine, when she discovered books that she really loved. Now that she is as an award-winning author, Alma visits schools to teach children that they, too, can overcome any obstacle.Her first three books are: In the Garage (2006); Walking on Glass (2007), which was named to the 2008 YALSA Quick Pick list; and Libertad (2008), which has won and been nominated for many awards, including the 2008 Governor General’s Literary Award for Children’s Literature (finalist), the 2009 TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award (finalist), the 2009 Ruth & Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Award (winner), the 2009 CLA Children’s Book of the Year Honor Book, the 2009 Golden Oak Award (winner), the 2009 Once Upon a World Children’s Book Award (winner), and the 2010 Silver Birch Award (shortlist).

Alma Fullerton's profile page

KAREN PATKAU has been writing and illustrating picture books, with a focus on nature and non-fiction, for more than thirty years. She won the Ezra Jack Keats Memorial Medal for her first book, Don’t Eat Spiders by Robert Heidbreder, and since then her titles have appeared on lists including Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Books, Children’s Literature Roundtables of Canada Information Book Award finalists, Green Book Festival Award finalists, Ontario Library Association Best Bets and White Ravens selections. Karen has also illustrated Forest: A See to Learn Book. She lives in Toronto.


Karen Patkau's profile page


  • Short-listed, Kentucky Blue Grass Awards
  • Short-listed, Blue Spruce Award, Ontario Library Association
  • Short-listed, Bank Street Best Books of the Year for Children and Young Adults
  • Short-listed, White Raven Selection
  • Short-listed, Children's Literature Roundtables of Canada Information Book Award
  • Short-listed, Canadian Children's Book Centre Best Books for Kids & Teens
  • Short-listed, Ontario Library Association Best Bets Selection

Editorial Reviews

About A Good Trade

2014 OLA Blue Spruce Award finalist

2014 White Ravens selection

2015 Kentucky Blue Grass Awards shortlist

2013 Children's Literature Roundtables of Canada Information Book Award finalist

2014 Bank Street Best Books of the Year for Children and Young Adults selection

2013 OLA Best Bets selection

2013 Canadian Children's Book Centre Best Books for Kids & Teens selection

STARRED REVIEW "A pleasure to read aloud...Expertly crafted, Fullerton's first picture book reminds readers of the pleasure of small things."—Kirkus Reviews Starred Review

"The double gesture of kindness - the good trade - projects a strong spirit of generosity and gratitude, traits as universal as the appeal of a gift of cool new sneakers."—Publishers Weekly

"The large images are full of subtle details...The text is spare and poetic...Young readers will enjoy this sweet day-in-the-life snapshot."—School Library Journal

"In this deceptively simple and positive story of a little boy's daily life in an African village, readers will discover subtle hints and overt references to the effects of civil war both in the quiet text and the brightly coloured digital illustrations. Thus the book will serve as a wonderful incentive to discuss this serious topic with younger and older children alike."—The White Ravens 2013 Catalogue

"The images and text of A Good Trade complement one another to the point of poetic consistency. The text and the images are both complex and simple: concept easy, content load heavy. The prose is lyrical, playful and inviting to young listeners or readers...Highly Recommended."—CM Magazine

"A Good Trade is an eloquently told, beautifully illustrated, and heartfelt story."—Resource Links Magazine

"There is much more to this gentle story than its obvious message about the hardships faced by others. The juxtaposition of happy children in a war-torn village, and the beautiful exchange between Kato and the aid worker, portray the endurance of childhood innocence, suggesting small joys can be found in imperfect places."—Quill & Quire

"The artwork is a perfect match for Fullerton's understated text. Together they provide an enriching insight into one boy's life in a distant country, and the preciousness of peace and goodwill. 'We Recommend'"—Canadian Children's Book News

"A good story to use when discussing life in rural Africa."—The International Educator

"The message here is clear, but delivered with a soft touch, reminding young readers that not everyone is as fortunate as they are."—CBC Here and Now Recommendations for Children's Books

"The beautiful pictures and the one-sentence-per-page provide great starting points for discussing life in Uganda, world help organizations, and inequity in general."—49th Shelf

"Overall, I liked A Good Trade, and believe that it can be used to launch a discussion about gratitude and what it's like to live in a third world country."—Musings of a YA Reader

"Alma Fullerton's text is rich, spare and beautifully crafted. Her narrative is strong and lyrical as she shares Kato's daily trip to get drinking water for his family....It addresses tough issues in a hopeful and age-appropriate manner and is an excellent read-aloud for the classroom....Karen Patkau's digitally rendered illustrations are colorful and lush. They work beautifully with the text and illuminate the message in the story."—Children's Books Heal


Librarian Reviews

A Good Trade

Every day Kato trudges barefoot past fields and soldiers on the long, hot road to his Ugandan village well. When an aid worker brings a life-changing gift of shoes for all the village children, Kato finds something to give her in return: one small piece of beauty in a war-torn land.

Though sparse in text, this is a strong read aloud picture book for students of different ages. A Good Trade is noteworthy for its poetic language, its unique vocabulary, and for its heartwarming story about kindness and gratitude. This book is excellent for helping students make inferences. What may seem a simple story that depicts a day in the life of a boy in a country ravaged by civil war and drought, works on another level by exploring the themes of perseverance, responsibility and integrity.

Author available for class visits @AlmaFullerton

Source: Association of Canadian Publishers. Top Grade Selection 2016.

Other titles by Alma Fullerton

Other titles by Karen Patkau